Charlize Theron on adopting: ‘I think babies pick us as much as we pick them’


ELLE Women in Hollywood 2018

Charlize Theron is the mother of two adopted children, Jackson and August, whom she identifies as her “daughters” in interviews. Jackson and August are both African-American, and there’s always been some conversation about Charlize, a white woman from South African, adopting two black children on her own. In an interview with Sunday Life magazine (via the DM), Charlize talked (again) about being an adoptive mom and the misunderstandings about adoption.

On parenting: “Ultimately, I know that I’m a great mum when I’m in a good place. But there is such a stigma around the idea of [asking for] help, or not being able to do it all yourself, or do it perfectly. We have to destigmatize it and say there’s no shame in that game.”

On adoption, Charlize feels, is still misunderstood. She bristles, for instance, at the notion of adopters being seen as doing something “good”, as “saving” children, and at the idea that not looking like your child is somehow problematic. “I think babies pick us as much as we pick them, so the idea that those packages are going to look exactly like you is such a myth. I believe that. The children ultimately find you.”

A story about taking Jackson to a grocery store. As a multiracial family, Charlize and her children come in for some, at times, uncomfortable attention. “Someone was touching my kid’s hair in the supermarket. I mean, stop! You can’t do that. How would you feel if I walked up to you and did that? People have good intentions, but they say the worst things. It’s ignorance, a lack of knowledge. We have to start talking about it properly.”

Staying fit, she says, is a pleasure. “I’ve never been a couch potato – I love to do yoga for an hour and a half. Not moving is not good for my head. I dealt with depression for the whole shoot and afterwards, until my body kind of equalised itself.”

[From The Daily Mail]

“I think babies pick us as much as we pick them…” I’ve heard other adoptive mothers say similar things, but I don’t know how much I believe that. It goes to the debate of nature vs. nurture and fate and what is “meant to be.” I don’t think babies are fated to be with a certain parent, just as I don’t believe babies are these clean slates whose personalities are entirely shaped by nurturing and environment. It’s a combination of everything, but I completely understand how Charlize feels like her kids were “meant to be” with her. As for people coming up to touch her kids’ hair… what is wrong with people? For the love of God.

Charlize Theron out with barefooted son Jackson

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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40 Responses to “Charlize Theron on adopting: ‘I think babies pick us as much as we pick them’”

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  1. Minkapop says:

    “Her daughters”. I thought she adopted one boy & one girl?

      • Grey says:

        Oh no. I thought Charlize was more progressive than thinking little boys can’t wear skirts, have long hair, and idolise Elsa. HE’S A BOY.

    • Notanotherpostcard says:

      I wanted to be a boy so badly when I was little, I hated being a girl. For years I was “tomboy”, but eventually I embraced and loved being a female. Significant studies have shown statistically most children who feel like the opposite sex outgrow it.

      I don’t mind kids dressing up any way they want or playing with any types of toys, but I don’t think young children are capable of deciding they are a different sex. I just hope she isn’t starting that little boy on puberty-suppressors anytime soon. There is no real data on whether that is safe or what long-term negative effects it can have physically/mentally on these children.

      I am honestly shocked there are doctors that mess with minors hormones this way without enough studies to prove it is safe!

      • Bettyrose says:

        Notanother,

        I don’t know your age, but when I was growing up in the 80s it was super common for girls to identify as tomboys, largely because everything was gendered back then. If you liked playing outdoors you were basically labeled a tomboy. It had nothing to do with gender identity and everything to do with absurdly limiting assumptions about gender roles.

      • Originaltessa says:

        I tend to agree with this. Sure, let him dress how he wants and play with whatever he wants, but call a six year old male child your daughter? Six?? I wanted to be a show pony when I was six… I outgrew that

      • JoJo says:

        Some children as young as 2 or 3 can verbalize their gender.I watch a reality show called “I am Jazz”.I have seen videos of Jazz much younger than Charlize’s child saying she was a girl not that she wanted to be a girl but she was a girl.I’m pretty Charlize has consulted with experts in that field and will accordingly to make sure her daughter receives support.
        In 2016 I attended the funeral of a teenage trans girl who took her life.A friend of mine works with homeless teens most of them are LGBTQ.This girl was bullied,abused,rejected by peers and her family.I wish she had parents who accepted her , maybe she would still be alive today.

      • Who ARE These People? says:

        Bettyrose, I grew up in the 60s and agree, “tomboy” was a common word for girls who showed any kind of athleticism, who liked to wear pants, or otherwise went outside the narrow strictures of what was considered “feminine.” We got to be either “tomboys” or “girly girls.” People – more often men people- were still trying in the 70s to figure out how I could be smart, competitive, and *gasp* still always wear the perfect pair of earrings.

      • notthisagain says:

        @BettyRose
        Those antiquated sexist stereotypes i.e girls must only like pink , dolls or dresses etc or they are not girls whilst boys who like these thing are not really boys is coming back only now labelled as progressive

      • Haapa says:

        Stop. Being a “tomboy” and being transgender are not the same. Let children explore their identity. If it turns out to be a phase, so what? Guess what? Some people are neither man or woman, boy or girl. Some people are gender fluid, some are nonbinary and this can be a journey to discover.

      • LadyT says:

        My son enjoyed black shiny Mary Jane shoes, hair bows and nail polish for a time when he was little. Totally cool with us. But I didn’t call him daughter. That’s a LOT. Just rolling with the child’s wishes over time seems healthier, without boxing him into either gender, at that extremely young age. Openly accepting however it plays out over time is what’s important.

    • Meowuirose says:

      I was adopted by a single white woman. I am Latin with medium skin and curly hair. I can 100% say I didn’t pick my mother lol but I’m very bonded to her and love her a lot. My life literally could have gone in 100 different directions right off the bat. Kinda trippy to think about. I dont think my mom “saved” me or anything silly like that. I was very ambivalent about my adoption for a very long time and only recently have I been more interested in poking into my past.

      • Penguen says:

        I’m adopted, too. I totally get what you’re saying. My mom and I are very close. I think family is chosen through action, not just blood. Love is a performative thing. (Not to say that it’s not the same for non-adoptive families, this is my experience.) Good luck on your search, if you choose to look into it.

        Re: uncomfortable attention: My family and I are both white, but we look nothing alike. I’ve had so many people notice this and CONFRONT us about it. Convenience store clerks. Friends’ parents. The effing RABBI. Some people are just incredibly entitled, feeling they are owed satisfaction to their curiosity.

        I’m always happy to answer friends’ questions about my adoption experience, when the subject is treated with respect. When it’s someone I don’t know trying to get all up in my personal business, I answer as obtusely as possible. (“Do I know who my ‘real’ mom is? Yeah, I lived in her house for 18 years,”)

    • Kanye’s Blonde Hair says:

      She looks evil.

  2. RBC says:

    I don’t understand how someone can go up to a child and touch their hair? That is just plain creepy. That person might end up missing a limb if they did that to my child

    • Eleonor says:

      A lot of people do that, I remember people doing this to me, as a child, and I HATED IT. Lately a friend of mine, after she became a mum, told me how a lot of strangers feel entitled to stop her to see her daughter, to talk with her, to touch her baby, probably they mean it like being nice, but it is driving her crazy. I saw it first hand: MASSIVE EYEROLL don’t stop them, and if you try to say something you are the rude one. Seriously.

      • Justwastingtime says:

        I can’t with the touching hair. It happened a few times when she was a toddler by strangers in the playground of the nice community we lived in. I literally yelled at them to stop and asked them where their kid was so I could go touch them. I wanted my daughter to know how wrong it was. (White mom with black kid here and do fully realize it’s easier for white women to yell at clueless white women )

        She is now in 4th grade and still has to tell classmates not to touch! Grrrrrr.

    • Rapunzel says:

      I had a cousin who got furious when a guest at my sister’s baby shower KISSED her one-year old. Sure, it was a friend of my sis, but she didn’t know my cousin. It was very weird. Some people have no boundaries!

    • jessamine says:

      FWIW my mother has hair down to her knees — it was always long and when she was pregnant with me 30+ years ago it spontaneously grew another 14 inches and she hasn’t done more than occasionally trim it since… When she wears it down random people come up and touch her hair without even saying hello or excuse me *all the time* and it freaks her out to the point where mostly she wears it in a bun to go shopping. People are gross and have no effing boundaries.

  3. Piper says:

    She did. Jackson is about 6 or so but I don’t know if it’s a formal conversion or transformation but fully dresses as a girl and Charlize refers to him as her daughter. That pic above is old from when Jackson was approx 3 or so.

  4. CharliePenn says:

    I can’t with this sentiment of children picking their parents… I have heard that from other people also. Does the baby born to a neglectful drug addict count? Do the children who suffer sexual abuse at the hands of their parents count? Sorry it just seems like a silly thing to say because it only applies to sunshine and rainbow situations.

    To me it’s similar to “god has a plan” or “everything happens for a reason”. Stop. When we live in a world with so much atrocity, even atrocity towards children (sandy hook, child molestation, border separation, children being bombed in Syria and other unstable areas, you name it) saying “everything happens for a reason” ends up sounding just gross to me.

    But people like to have fairy tales and religion. Lots of people like to think like that. I just don’t get it, personally.

    • Rapunzel says:

      And what about folks who can’t/don’t have kids? Does that mean they are unworthy? I agree it’s an odd, somewhat offensive notion. But it might comfort an adopted child who feels bad about a parent giving them away. So I excuse it.

    • Snowflake says:

      I think it makes them feel better, gives them comfort when bad things happen, thinking there’s a reason why it happened or it was God’s will.

    • insertpunhere says:

      Yeah, the meant to be narrative really bothers me. There’s a phenomenal book on evangelical Christianity and adoption called “The Child Catchers” by Kathryn Joyce, and there’s a wonderful explanation with why that statement is problematic that essentially boils down to this: in order for your child to be fated to be with you, what you are saying is that fate intended something bad to happen to your child and their first parents.

      I work in foster care adoption, and I fully believe that adoption can be a beautiful and fulfilling way to build a family. I also understand that adoption can be the best available option for first parents who are unable or do not desire to be a parent to a new child at that time, children who do not have parents who can actively care for them, and people who are looking to have children. Having said that, the best explanation I ever read about this came from an adult adoptee who explained that people need to understand that all adoption comes from loss and tragedy because all adoption starts with a child who doesn’t have parents who can care for them; the child loses their first family, and the first parents lose their child. Even in cases where people are not adopting due to not being able to have a child through traditional means, the other two parts of the adoption triad frequently experience feelings of grief and loss which should be recognized and respected.

      Sorry for the what is likely a wall of text; I just have very strong opinions on this and the modern adoption industry in general. Although I’m sure this makes people feel better, and I can admit that I’ve seen families come together in ways that seem magical, I cannot believe that the horrors that the children I work with have experienced is part of some divine plan because that’s just too messed up. I won’t believe in a God that decides in order for a little kid to end up with the parents they intended, the child first has to be sold for crack to a pedophile.

  5. Betty Whoo says:

    I just want to kno what she calls the boy her daughter?
    Why was she feminizing the boy at a very young age?

    (i dont mean playing with dolls)

    Someone TOLD me: All THOSE feminized black boys, or less scary. Right!
    I cant get This sentence out of my mind.

  6. manda says:

    I love Charlize Theron. I just think she’s gorgeous and smart and talented and strong. I’m sure she would be way too cool for me, or if not, I would still be very intimidated. After hearing about how mean she was to that woman at the gym, I would never approach her

  7. Chocolate Princess says:

    I think adoption is a noble thing that anyone could do. However, I think Charlize’s response is kind of off in a way because children don’t get to choose their parents or asked to be born, but I do think she is coming from the right place but wrong answer. Though, I think she’s a good Mom, protect your child’s hair from strangers is the right thing to do. I am black and I don’t let strangers touch my hair.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      If I could, I’d like to convert “noble” to “normal.” People adopt generally for the same reasons people build families through conception and pregnancy – because they want to be parents.

      I’m a parent by adoption and I know for a fact I did nothing noble. I did undertake something that’s fairly typical however – motherhood. What’s hard is being held sometimes to a higher standard as a parent because it’s by adoption.

  8. Babs says:

    Funny how white babies never seem to pick black families…

    • onerous says:

      That’s ignorant. It happens.

      And in MANY adoption situations, the birth mother/father select the families the children will be adopted by.

      • Bettyrose says:

        Onerus,

        Are you saying that when white birth parents are given the choice, they’re just as likely to choose black adoptive families? A quick Google search tells me that in the extremely rare cases of black families adopting white children, it’s nearly always out of foster care. Thus, it would seem Babs observation is correct.

    • WTF says:

      Babs – Say it again for the cheap seats in the back!

    • Katie Keen says:

      What on Earth is the point of this comment? Wow…

  9. Krista says:

    I’m an adoptive mom and this concept of children ‘choosing’ their parents has always bothered me. Did my kids ‘choose’ to be abandoned by their bio parents? It ignores what may be the greatest pain they may face in their lives and converts it into a happy story celebrating the adoptive family. Why not just say that we, as adoptive parents, are the fortunate ones and leave it at that?

  10. Canadian says:

    I’m an adoptive mom of a black boy. I don’t think he picked me, but I sure am the luckiest mom in the world.

    Best wishes to the adoptee commenters on their searches. I searched for my son’s family and we are going to visit them this summer in his home country. He is 8 and I’m happy he’s ready to figure out his story and reconnect.

    • WTF says:

      Good for you! I’m an adoptive mom of a black boy (I mean, I’m black too, but I just like the way that sounds!) and I’ve gone to great lengths to maintain contact with his birth family. It’s been kind of hard, but I just feel in my heart it’s the right thing to do.

  11. lucy2 says:

    It sounds to me like she just believes it was fate. I don’t know if I agree with it, but she’s not alone in that thinking.

  12. DesertReal says:

    So.
    I believe her adopted people choose us stance.
    For reasons private and personal.
    However, people touching people’s hair of a different background or race- is very much a thing. I’m a 33 year old black woman and many, MANY, older white people have touched my head, hair, or face (in the last 2 years alone) at my job, in a curious, condescending, otherizing way.
    It’s sadly very prevalent, and I’m just happy that she sees what’s so effed up about it, and reacts accordingly.

  13. Dizzy says:

    I agree with Notanother. I wanted to be a boy so bad when I was 11-15. I never talked about it but in my head I was obsessed with that idea. I fantasied all the time about being a boy. Then I grew up and realized I was very heretero girl.

  14. Lola says:

    “ I don’t think babies are fated to be with a certain parent, just as I don’t believe babies are these clean slates whose personalities are entirely shaped by nurturing and environment.”

    If you believe in fate and have recently adopted, it seems like fate. In the majority of jurisdictions adoption is a long trying process.

    In the instances that I have had to work with I’ve seen adoptions fall through because of changes in legislation where the list to adopt gets jumbled up and long term awaiting parents go back to the bottom of the pile; cases where maternal mom retracts sometimes after the time frame and minor after living with potental adoptive parents for some time get placed with biological mom; children that are in between the ages of 10-16 are the hardest ones to place, specially if biological parents keep insisting they will get clean and do not, that’s a roller coster within itself; adoptive parents realizing that minor is known in their circle and fearing that later on they will have to go through some legal issues, bribery and false mistreatment accusations are the most common.

    I could go on.

    She is right though, people need to get educated on how it works.