We adopted our daughter almost two years ago through American Adoptions. As my husband and I have quite a wide array of nationalities in our extended family, we felt quite comfortable adopting a mixed race child. To this day, our girl is still the best thing that has ever entered our life. This is why some of the “innocent questions” posed to us have started to really concern us.
Our little bubble of joy tends to draw loads of attention where ever we go. She loves to offer smiles, blow kisses and frequently says hi to anyone who will look her way. We love this about her, yet with all her flirtation, strangers tend to stop us and ask, “Where did you get her?” We like to reply something generic like “the cutest baby store” or “heaven,” but then they tend to only pursue the conversation with, “So where was she born?,” “What nationality is she?,” “Are you her mother?,” etc. One woman even went so far as to say, “Really now, where did you get her, I mean look at the two of you she’s obviously not, you know…I mean, look at you.“
At the start, we used to just stare at the people, shocked and almost forced into revealing more information than we wanted with a complete stranger. But now we are concerned that she will grow up hearing more than her fair share of stupid comments like, “So do you know her real mother?” and “Where did you get her?” And we fear that constant bombarding of adoption questions will cause her to have a lopsided identity or for her adoption to be made a bigger issue than it is. We knew that it did not matter if our daughter looked like us, but now, we worry that she will grow feeling like she is not our child because that is how she is frequently singled out.
How do we deal with the constant comments about her not looking like us and with our fears that this will skew her self-image and draw up false insecurity? And how do we protect her right to just be a kid out and about with her parents, not having to deal with constant questions? Is it just something we need to get use to? Is it just another part of our unique story as a family?
People are often curious about those who have experienced any side of the adoption triad. Whether you are a birth parent, adoptive family or adoptee, the reality is there are many individuals you will come across you who just don’t get it. They have not had the education to learn the truth about adoption, that it’s a very loving decision for birth parents to make and a wonderful way many couples can and do build their families.
In many cases, questions you receive are based more on ignorance than a wish to inappropriately probe or offend. Let’s face it. There is no way you could educate each and every person you meet who asks these types of questions. As an adoptive family, your focus likely lies more on how to appropriately prepare your child and yourself for answering these types of questions so that you can be both truthful and comfortable in the presence of your child’s ears.
Truth be told, it’s not fair that others feel they have a right to ask you these questions just because your family might have been created differently than their own. Since you can’t control other’s responses, focusing on what you can control (your own response), is a good place to focus your attention. The more natural and less irritated you seem, in your child’s presence, the better for your child. As they grow, they will likely receive similar questions from classmates and others when you are not around. They will be watching you and learning how to respond to the world in general, but also about the topic of their adoption.
If you respond in a negative or irritated way, this is likely how they’ll respond in the future too. If you respond with confidence and with a smile, it’s very likely your child will do so as well. It’s certainly ok, when age-appropriate, to discuss with your child your wish that people would not pry so often. This is an honest explanation of your feelings. While it’s important to share happy times with your child, it’s also important not to ignore the uncomfortable feelings you both might have. After all, you do not want to send the message to your child that they should ignore their own less-than-desirable emotions. It’s important they have a healthy outlet to discuss happy and sad feelings so that they are comfortable discussing their feelings about adoption. Likely they’ll have ups and downs on this topic in the future, especially in the teen years. Sending a message that adoption can be a safe topic of discussion is essential. This is the healthiest environment you can create for your child.
Each family will come up with answers that work for them. It’s important to be on the same page with your spouse on what you two believe is appropriate. Below are examples of questions some of our families have received and ways some have chosen to respond. We hope these are helpful or that they prompt discussion between you, your spouse and your child(ren). Remember, you are not obligated to tell your story to anyone and often short, general answers are quite enough to remain polite, yet discrete.
Is this your foster child or grandchild? Or are you babysitting. No, this is our son John. (sweet, simple and true)
Where did your son get his blue eyes? From God, we think our son’s eyes are so beautiful too. Or if you met the birth parents and are comfortable responding in this way you could say: Our son got his beautiful eyes from his birth father/mother.
Do you know her real mother? I am her real mother just as she is my real daughter, and I find that question offensive. You could also correct them if you’d like by saying: If you mean do I know my daughter’s birth mother, we know she is a very loving woman who blessed us with our daughter.
How could her birth mother have given her away like that? Our daughter’s birth mother is a very loving person who made a very difficult, but loving choice to allow us to become her parents. We admire her very much. Or: I’m sure it was a very hard choice for our daughter’s birth mother, but we love her very much for her strength and courage to allow us to be John’s parents.
Your daughter must get her looks from her daddy? (This question like this can come when one parent is not present.) You can simply smile and say: Thank you, our son John is a beautiful boy. Or: Actually, our daughter gets her looks from both of her parents. (It’s not necessary to specify birth parents here necessarily).
Is this your child from a previous marriage? No, this is our beautiful daughter Hannah. (again, sweet, simple and true)
Where was your daughter born? Our daughter was born in the US, just like the rest of us.
What nationality is she? Well, our daughter is an American, but if you mean what is her ethnicity, she is Hispanic and Asian. (short and sweet)
I admire you for having adopted. I don’t know if I could ever do that? We feel like we are the luckiest people in the world to be Ryan’s parents. We love him more than words could explain and couldn’t imagine our lives without him.
Of course, to any of these questions you could also simply state while you appreciate their interest, you don’t discuss private family matters with those who you do not know.