We often have The Today Show on in the morning as my children and I get ready for our day. During the school year we get news stories during the 7 am hour, and during the summer we get features during the 8 or 9 am hours. Often, we are simply served interesting things to talk about — pop culture (“Mommy, why isn’t Miley Cyrus wearing pants?”), history (“The Queen was once the mother-in-law to the fairest princess in the land, but the prince preferred the lady he’s married to now”) and issues (“Yes, Big Gulp-sized sodas are not healthy for people. Do you think we should pass laws banning them? Or not?”).
Yesterday, The Today Show had its panel of experts taking questions from the audience. The panel consists of Star Jones, an attorney, Donny Deutsch, an advertising executive, and Nancy Snyderman, a physician. Al Roker plucked people behind the barriers on Rockefeller Plaza to ask questions like: why do men earn more than women, what is an appropriate age difference in dating, what is the best method for long-term birth control, and — double-take, did I hear that right?? — which is better, open or closed adoption?
Let’s pause for a moment to ask ourselves why we would ask experts in law and medicine and advertising about income inequality, relationship advice and our sexual health (granted, Dr Snyderman gets a pass on the last one, but the other two panelists don’t). Are we so divorced from our own inner guidance that we must ask strangers with no better information than we have how to best conduct our lives? Melissa addressed this recently (and brilliantly) in the realm of parenting.
Delving into the details of this segment: Someone asked a 54 year-old advertising executive who has a 5 year-old daughter by a former girlfriend to tell us about the proper dating spread. Another asked a woman who came in 5th place on Celebrity Apprentice to weigh in on socio-politicial issues. A third asked a head and neck surgeon how The Pill compares to an IUD. All three panelists were asked all three questions, but only the last pairing could claim any matchability between the topic and a panelist’s area of expertise.
I’m not saying that these media personalities shouldn’t have their opinions; I’m just asking what makes them expert enough on these particular questions to give advice.*
Here’s what happened when the question on open vs closed adoption was posed.
Star “has been considering adoption.” Donny “might adopt someday, even as a single dad.” Nancy, who IS an adoptive mom, says, “the biologic mother does not know my identity; I have preferred it that way for 26 years.”
So out of three people being asked a question about open adoption, none have any experience with open adoption and only one has even been in the adoption arena at all. The advice each has to offer?
- Star: I do not want to have to have continuous interaction with a birth parent.
- Donny: I wouldn’t want to have to manage that. I would want it closed. As a parent, I would want to keep — “control” is not the right word — structure in your kid’s life as much as possible.
- Nancy: My daughter has sought out her birth mother. She absolutely has my blessing. But I warned her, it’s Pandora’s Box. You never know what that’s gonna be.
The Open Adoption question comes at 2:15; you can scroll rightward to it after the 26-second commercial.
My son was watching the show with me, idly playing while I was idly working (hey, you work your way, I’ll work mine). Our ears perked up at the start of the conversation. Later when my daughter joined us, we told her about the segment and then I asked each of my children what THEY had to say.
- Reed, age 9: They don’t really know what it’s like to not look like your mom and dad, do they? If they knew that, they wouldn’t think that way. They would know that having birth parents around is a GOOD thing for the kid, and not a BAD thing for the parent. I think their advice was dumb.
- Tessa, age 11: If they really wanted to know what open adoption feels like, why didn’t they ask someone who lives in one — like especially, THE KID??
More salient points from a Facebook discussion that involved people actually acquainted with open adoption:
- Monika: Star Jones will HAVE continuous contact with the birth parent whether she initiates direct contact or not in the form of the adopted child or children. You can’t erase biology with a legal form and ceremony.
- Danielle: This sort of conversation only further perpetuates the idea that birth families should be hidden because they are to be ashamed of, or are bad.
- Harriet: Closed is simply not an option anymore. People will find each other whether parents or lawmakers or so-called experts like it or not. It’s called social media and it’s not going away.
- Cassi: Not one of the so-called “experts” spoke from any concern for the adoptees. They spoke out of their own selfish beliefs.
- Kat: Should children not have visits from aunts, grandparents, or cousins because they need “structure?” Open adoption is important to the children as they grow and form their identity and self concept.
If only you’d asked the right experts, Today Show.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a yoga teacher to change my spark plugs.
* Tip of the hat to Danielle for making the point so eloquently.