How many kids in your family?

Kids. Children. Offspring?

Nothing to differentiate between adult or non adult. How many kids in your family? How many kids do you have? What year was your child born? How many kids does your sister have? Is so-and-so your oldest child? I'm a middle child, are you the youngest child? He's an only child. There are three of us kids in our family.

If one were to insert grown or adult, as in "how many adult kids does your sister have?" it would suggest the sister has some non adult kids. Nobody ever says, "Is so-and-so your oldest adult/grown child?" or "I'm the middle adult child, are you the youngest grown child?".

People use the words kids and children all the time when referencing people's offspring or siblings. It's not meant to infantilize and as far as I can tell, normally doesn't.

Am I missing something? Is this subject a source of angst (Angst as in the English, German, Danish, Norwegian and Dutch word for fear, or anxiety) for everyone but me?


  1. I still refer to my self as a "foster kid" or a "group home girl". "I still have trust issues - I am a foster kid you know.". "I don't think you want to go there with me, I'm a group home girl. We can hold our own.". I think most intelligent people realize that at 40 something I am not currently residing in a group home or in foster care. There are times when I use "former foster kid". Or "foster care alumni" for the sake of clarity.

    I personally am ok being called either. I would say that it does not define me, but it actually does. Being a foster child will be something that does define me, who I am and how I see the world for the rest of my life.

  2. I personally rarely call people's adult offspring "children." I usually refer to people as someone's "son," "daughter," or descendant.

    When I talk about how people refer to adoptees, I'm not talking about the gen pop changing how they speak in general, casual conversation. I'm suggesting people use more appropriate terms when referring to a marginalized community. In the context of adoption where Adult Adoptees are treated as children, I think it's especially appropriate to acknowledge their adulthood. If our laws allowed us to grow up and did not bind us to agreements designed for children, seemingly infantilizing language would not be so ironic. But alas, it is. Angst, per it's actual definition, is a fine word, but not when it's used to be dismissive.

    In my state, usually no less than 8,000 bills are submitted in each session and legislators do not have time to become experts on issues before voting. I do quite a lot of legislative advocacy and using "child" constantly to refer to an adoptee risks misinforming legislators that we're talking about issues involving minors. We have had to find other words to use than "child." And honestly, it's never felt good to be in a room full of people pleading our cause and I and adoptees twice my age are the only ones in the room being called "children."

  3. Ditto. There are six of us kids and I'm the youngest kid . . . however, as my only kid will tell you, I'm too old to know anything. "How many kids in your family?" Typical question. Nothing infantilizing meant by it.

  4. I don't know about you Jess, but "I'm the baby", and will always be "The Baby".

    I do see your point Amanda, like I said, I do use Former or Alumni when I think clarification is needed.

  5. I think it important to say "adopted adults" when talking to legislators for the reasons Amanda mentions, that they do not think access to birth certificates is for children. That is one place where it matters what word is used.

    In informal conversation, use what works. My children are my children, I don't specify that they are adults now unless that needs clarifying. I do not think it productive to take anything as an insult or as "dismissive" unless it is clearly meant that way.

    The original "angsty" comment made it clear by the context and by further apology that while it may have been a poor choice of word, no harm was meant, and those objecting to it on various blogs have blown it all out or proportion in attacking everything about the commenter. Clearly the "crime" did not merit the punishment.

    I do not see the point in looking for insult, infantilization, and dismissal where none is meant. Seems paranoid and pugnacious to me, but if one is always looking for a reason to fight and demonize anyone who disagrees, it is not hard to find,

  6. Totally, Sunday, I was the "baby" or the "some baby," as my mother would eyeball-roll once I was 17 or so.

    I agree, in certain contexts, especially in the legislative arena, you have to keep reminding people that it's about adult adoptees, not children.

    I challenge anyone, however, to show that referring to people's "kids" or "children" no matter how old they are is exclusively an adoptee problem and that staying stuff like "I've got 5 descendents" when you really mean "I've got 5 kids" wouldn't get some major looks. In any neighbourhood.


  7. Personally I prefer "progeny".
    Progs for short.

  8. The words we use are important. Adult adoptees are so often treated as if they are children as well as being second class because most have no rights to their birth information including birth certificates, real names and names of parents.In some areas of life it does show some understanding and respect if we get the right words, no those that will offend, belittle or disempower.
    I prefer words that are truthful and am comfortable with being a bastard, an adult adoptee or a senior adoptee.

  9. My senior friends refer to their "children" as children even though they're in their 30s and 40s. They say things like, "My children are coming over for dinner tomorrow."

    As for me, I'm one of five and in the middle. All five of us children were quite different in looks, interests etc. My mother thought that this was a plus and remarked that it was our differences that made us all so unique!


  10. "Descendant" just does not work for living family members. I am the descendant of great-grandparents I know virtually nothing about except one picture of one set, and the unknown people who came before them. "Offspring" or "progeny" are not words one would ever use in conversation:-) Would you ever ask someone how their descendants are?

    My kids are my kids. Anyone who knows me knows I am old enough that they are not minors. Except when addressing legislators or the public on adoption reform issues, the whole thing should be no big deal.


Feel free to flag your comment PRIVATE. I realize commenting can be intimidating so if you have something to say to me you'd rather not have published you're welcome to do so, just make sure you let me know it's private. If you want a reply, leave your email address.

I'm also completely fine with good anonymous comments. I've seen some great ones!