This is How One Mom Turned Hateful Words Said To Her Adopted Daughters Into a Powerful Message of Compassion

Illustrator and photographer Kim Kelley-Wagner of Words Written in Crayon adopted two daughters from China, and noticed that people sometimes say certain things to her daughters.

Kelly-Wagner tried to explain to her daughters that "people do not say these things to be mean, they say them out of ignorance." So she decided to embark on a photography project "Things said to or about my adopted daughters" to show how words can hurt. As Kelly-Wagner said, "Words are powerful, they can become tools or weapons, choose to use them wisely."

View the rest over at Kelly-Wagner's Facebook page or blog.


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Yeah, as a parent my every instinct is to protect my son from horrible stuff other people, even well meaning ones, might say about him. In making this photo series, the mother had to do exactly the opposite. Can't say I can really support that.
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On adoptee forums, it has been noted that most of the comments are more about the adoptive parents being such saints for adopting than about the adoptees themselves. Even making these children stand there like misbehaving dogs with whiteboards and the photos being publicly displayed is putting the parents' feelings ahead of the children's.

These kids will grow up. They will have a much more complicated understanding of what they went through than what is exhibited here, but these photos will always be findable. It's not really about what is best for them, at all.
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I’ve commented on this on other forums, where so many of the comments say they shouldn’t be offended, because the people who say these things don’t mean any harm. When will people ever learn to think before speaking and choose their words better? Of course, for each person who says such things, it’s just an isolated incident, but when you are on the receiving end, it never stops.

If the recipient just puts up with it, nothing will ever change. At the same time, getting offended at every stupid comment is not good for your own mental health. Over the years, my daughters and I have discussed how clueless people can be, and tried to figure out together in which instances it would be right to 1. laugh it off, 2. say something appropriately short and clever, or 3. start a conversation about feelings and intentions and what would be more appropriate to say. It’s a long and involved process, but by now my kids are pretty good at judging those situations on their own.

On the one hand, children in this situation should be armed with the proper responses, but on the other hand, it’s not a child’s responsibility to change the world at the expense of her own well-being. For young children, how the parent responds is more important for the child’s security than anything a stranger (or even a friend) says.

One good thing is that the people who make thoughtless comments serve as a bad example. This sort of thing was a way to teach my children how words have an effect on those you say them to, and thinking before you speak is a big step in growing up.
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