The last time someone asked me about adoption might have been the straw that broke the camel's back. I was strolling along with my 2-year-old adopted daughter, and a clerk came up and asked, "When did you get her?" There's something about adoption that seems to make strangers think they can ask anything without so much as saying "hi" first. So rather than be mad about getting those kinds of questions, maybe it's more productive to think about what questions adoptive moms wish you would ask instead. Because spoiler alert: asking "where" we "got" our children isn't the way to go.
I know adoption is an interesting topic for a lot of people, and I am actually usually really impressed with the conversations that result from people so brazenly asking me about my children's adoptions and my family's experiences. But adoption does take a little extra sensitivity in the approach, so I hope these suggestions help you if you're interested in asking about adoption, but aren't sure how to ask the first question or broach the subject (with someone you know or a relative stranger).
The more conversations that happen about adoption, the more awareness there will be about the process and the less fear there will be about adoptive parents, children, or the entire situation. But keep in mind, sometimes I just want to go to Target without having to be the spokesperson for adoption, especially when I haven't even showered and my kid is having a total meltdown. Adoptive parents (or at least this one) are usually more than happy to educate the masses, but that is not our job. We don't owe anyone, especially strangers, explanations. So yes, feel free to ask the following questions, but know your audience, folks.
"What's The Best Thing About Adoption?"
I know that adoption is unusual and intriguing to many people, but if you want to talk about adoption, let's start with the positives. Ask me what I love about adoption and I will tell you that adoption gave me the two biggest gifts I've ever been given — gifts I will never, ever stop being grateful for. I'll tell you adoption opened my eyes to a process that is equal parts joy and heartbreak, too, and forces me to live on the line between those two emotions on a daily basis.
Anything About My Other Kids
I don't have kids who aren't adopted, but I know many families whose adopted child looks different from their biological kids or is obviously the "different" kid in the family. Ask those moms something about their other kids, rather than constantly singling out the one kid who looks different.
"What Is Your Kid's Ethnicity?"
There's something really grating about asking, "Where did you get her?" when you notice my daughter's skin color is different than my own. So, instead, ask me what her ethnicity is. Ask me about her heritage and what we're doing to celebrate that part of her.
"What Was It Like To Meet Your Baby?"
When someone asks me "When did you get him?" in reference to my adoptive son, it makes me think they want to know the details of an assumed train wreck, rather than the beauty in a very difficult thing.
I don't have biological children, but I think meeting my adopted children must be just like meeting your biological children for the first time (minus the childbirth pains). It was surreal and perfect and it is seared in my memory forever, and adoptive parents want to talk about that moment just as often as biological parents.
"Are Your Children Adopted?"
If you want to know, start there. Ask whether they are adopted before asking questions that assume you already know the answer. Technically, if you can't see my husband, you can't know for sure that my daughter isn't biologically related to me, so please check first before asking another more assumptive question.
"Do You Think It's Going To Rain?"
That sounds ridiculous, but sometimes I'd prefer to at least begin an interaction with a little small talk rather than diving straight into a deep conversation about adoption. This is especially true when I'm just out enjoying myself at Target or the popsicle store.
"Do You Know What The Birth Mom Was Like?"
Not, "Why did her birth mom give her up?" or, "What was wrong with that woman?" or any other shaming question that judges the mother. Ask me what the woman who gave birth to the most precious gift of my life was like. I may not know much and I may not be comfortable telling you anything, but that is a kinder question to start with.
"Can I Ask You About Your Adoption Agency?"
Please, only ask this if you have already ascertained that I'm an adoptive mom. But I love to talk about our experience with both our adoption agencies, and I think that is important information to share with other people because it's so rarely shared publicly.
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