the fascination with adoption

I see them at the grocery store or restaurant, and I’m fairly certain they’ve adopted because they are Caucasian and they have Asian children or African children. I want to invite them to our adoption group, but I’m afraid to say anything for fear of offending. Do I ask if they adopted? Of course they did, it’s obvious. But what if the children aren’t theirs? Embarrassing.

It’s all this talk about what people shouldn’t say to adoptive parents that gets me nervous.

A few months ago I read an article that listed all the things people shouldn’t say to adoptive parents. The writer also said, “We don’t adopt because we want to provide an opportunity for someone to have a better life. We adopt because we want to make a family, just like other people.” My husband and I come from a completely different place. We adopted because we wanted to help children. We had a home and we wanted to welcome and love them. We chose to grow our family through adoption. For us, adoption was our first choice. Maybe it’s because of this that I feel differently about others asking me questions.

I welcome them.

I WANT people to ask me questions about adoption and foster care. Just ask some friends we talked to a couple weeks ago. They were interested in adoption and I talked, and talked, and talked. You would think I use up all my words on this blog, but I don’t. I LOVE adoption, and I’m full of information for post-adoption support. I relate to what my daughter said when she was two. She was asked to be quiet, and she said, “But I have lots of words.” Yep, sweetie, me too.

“Are you her real mom?” “Are they siblings?” “How in the world do you handle her hair?” (speaking of an African child). As adoptive parents, we get some really offensive comments. For the most part, I’ve been fairly fortunate in that I haven’t been blasted with idiocy from others. I have received the question, “Are they siblings?” and I just looked at them in complete seriousness and said, “They are now.”

In the adoption community there is so much indignation against people asking questions, especially ignorant or prying ones, that some parents want all questions to end. They want their life to stay private.

But when society as a whole is told over and over what not to say, I think they wonder what they CAN say.

They’re probably in fear of even opening their mouths. That bothers me because I’m an advocate for adoption. I want others to do the same thing we did. Adopt. How will they find out what adoption is about it if they can’t ask us adoptive or foster parents questions or say anything because they risk offending us?

When someone is being really offensive, there is no problem with letting them know that it isn’t okay to talk to an adoptive parent in such a way, but I think we need to have more grace.

For the person that asked me if my children were siblings, they needed information, and I don’t think they knew how to ask. I don’t mind people being inquisitive, because I am the Queen of asking questions. This person just didn’t know how to phrase it correctly. We can educate others on how to ask questions in a way that doesn’t offend, but frankly we will never reach the billions of people in the world, nor will we teach those without manners how to be polite.

The majority of people we encounter think it’s neat what we have done, or they know someone else who’s adopted or fostered and they want to share a story. Those occasional people who are rude and blunt can be responded to with a curt answer (or even avoiding the question, if it alludes to you not being able to conceive a child), but not everyone who asks us questions is prying, some people are curious and helping them understand is okay.

Please hear that I do not think it’s appropriate for people to be inappropriate or uncivil. In those cases I agree that a firm approach is often necessary and sometimes just walking away is best. I’m aware that there are people who can’t phrase a question without being offensive (I see it every day). I’m also familiar with people who have a negative perception of adoption, namely Joyce from Mother Jones. But as I stated earlier, there are many people who ask questions because they are curious.

Before we adopted from foster care, we were in the process (beginning stages) of adopting from China, and someone asked why we didn’t adopt from the US, they added that there were so many kids here that needed homes. The question didn’t feel nice, but I calmed down and shared my reasons for adopting Internationally, and left it at that. She was curious, and had strong feelings that if people adopt, they should do so within their country. She was entitled to her opinion, and I shared mine.

Someone once asked me if I had gone to the doctor (regarding my child bearing capabilities). I was shocked, and the inquisitive person could tell. They added that their friends ask them about it. Okay. Well, you can tell your friends that we chose to build our family through adoption. I was offended, but this was one instance. I know that most people assume that we cannot have biological children, and that’s something I have to live with. Everyone assumes at one time or another and there’s not much I can do, but tell those who will listen. Until then, I will welcome most questions. If you have a private life and don’t want to answer, I respect that decision too.

Have you been asked fatuous questions about your adopted kids? How do you handle these questions?

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4 responses to “the fascination with adoption

  1. Another aspect to “open adoption” is being open in our discussion of the topic with people we meet. How can we be an advocate of adoption if we don’t discuss it? Even though we may have started our adoption journey because of infertility, we continue to foster/adopt because we have the ability to meet children’s needs. Every child needs an adult parent(s), but every adult does not “need” a child in the same way.

  2. I agree with so much of what you’ve said. We have two children that we’ve adopted through international adoption, I welcome questions because I was once at the place of wanting to know more about adoption. But I have friends that feel that it’s an invasion of privacy for any one to ask them a question and can respond pretty nasty and aggressively to anyone who asks a questions. Seeing their reactions to people has really sent me into caution mode, wondering how to properly phrase a comment or question to someone I don’t know.
    I can respect people’s need for privacy about their adoption and I have experienced people who don’t know the politically correct adoptionese but that still doesn’t excuse replying to them in such a hostile rude way. After all we have all been at the place of wondering about adoption, we’ve all had questions and for many of us having someone who was friendly and willing to answer our questions is what led us to adoption ourselves.

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