Thank you, Al Trautwig: Feeling grateful for an Olympics announcer’s lack of understanding of adoption

Dear Mr. Trautwig,
By now I think you get it. When Simone Biles was adopted, the people who adopted her became her parents. You don’t need to call them her grandfather and his wife, or her mom and dad, or even her “adoptive parents.”
They are her parents. Plain and simple and forever.
Maybe you’re too busy working the Olympics to realize it, but you’re getting virtually beaten down on social media. I don’t blame the people who are angry with you for saying, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” I was pretty upset the first time I read that, too.
But I’ve been thinking about you and what you said, and I decided I’m not angry with you. In fact, I’m actually grateful.
You may not have known it, but when you spoke so dismissively about Simone’s parents, you opened up a powerful conversation. So many people don’t know how to speak about adoption. They want to use the right words. They don’t want to offend people—especially families formed through adoption. They want to understand and to know how to acknowledge the loving relationships in families appropriately, but they don’t always know what the right vocabulary is.
But you! On an international stage, in a broadcast that millions of people were watching, you opened the door for a lesson in appropriate adoption language. Your tweet, brash and dismissive as it seemed, was countered with an outpouring of voices calling for deeper understanding of adoption, of family, of love.
So thank you. I know you didn’t do it on purpose. I imagine you might still be sitting there, stunned by the anger you encountered with your words. But where you dropped the equivalent of a smoldering cigarette, people who cared sprang into action—and a whole garden has bloomed.
Maybe you’ll go home from the Olympics a little wiser. Simone will go home with the gold.
And maybe more than a few people have been reminded that parents are parents, and family is family, and adoption is for real and forever.
Sincerely,

A Mother of Two


Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.