I don't take offense and I try not to get upset when strangers, or even friends, ask blunt questions about adoption. I consider myself an advocate for adoption and I like to shine light on certain aspects of this life choice that most people don't get to see up close. But I also think it's important I remind people that, sometimes, it's not appropriate to ask the first thing that comes to your mind. Make no mistake, there are questions adoptive moms are so damn tired of hearing, and while we usually understand why you're curious, we're still exhausted by it all.
I actually love talking about adoption. In fact, the thing that I find most surprising about adoption is that I can almost never stop thinking about it, in part because strangers ask very blunt questions when I least expect it. My children are young enough that they don't know what the questions are or what they mean, but that won't be the case for much longer. My children aren't exhibit A and B for you, and pretty soon they will know when they're being examined by complete strangers as though they were in a zoo. Likewise, soon enough, they'll be aware when you start asking about why their birth mom gave them up or whether she might be able to get them back one day.
I don't want it to seem like you can't ask questions about adoption, but many questions I receive aren't actually about adoption. They're about the gruesome particulars of how I came to parent these children. Many inquisitive people simply want to know details they wouldn't ever bother to ask a biologically family. If you want to ask about adoption, that's wonderful, but please keep in mind that that's not the defining detail of my family. So stay curious, but please think before you ask any of the following:
"When Did You Them?"
A clerk in a store came up to me and asked me this question point blank a few months ago. I was shopping with my daughter and I spent the rest of the day kicking myself for not responding with "when I pushed her out." I wish I had thought of that more quickly! Instead, I think I said, "At birth," but that didn't convey how silly it was to ask such an intrusive question of a complete stranger.
"Are You Able To Bond?"
I think this is a fair question unless you know someone very, very well. But I hope that if you truly feel comfortable asking an adoptive mom how she's bonding with her baby, it's a question you would ask someone who had given birth to a baby, too.
"What Are They?"
A toddler? A child? A human? What you mean is what ethnicity is my adopted daughter, and if you mean that you may as well say it. But please know that that can be a loaded, complicated question. You don't always know the medical history or complete family background of a child you're adopting. Plus, my daughter doesn't need to hear this question when she's old enough to understand it.
"Are Your Kids Related?"
Well, they are now. And they will be for the rest of their lives, too. If you're wondering whether my children are biologically related, fair enough. But again, I'd love to remind you that the differences you see between them aren't what define them or my family.
"Is That Your Actual Son?"
Oh, nope. This is just a baby I borrow on weekends, because we all know how much fun it is to go shopping with a newborn in tow.
If you saw a mom pushing a stroller with a baby in it that looked just like her, you would not ask that question. You would assume she was the baby's mom. Simply because I don't look like my child doesn't mean I'm not my child's mother.
"Where Are They From?"
Just because my daughter's adopted and her skin isn't white doesn't mean she came from some far away land. She was born in the same city where we're standing, Houston, Texas, which just so happens to be the most diverse city in the United States.
"Are They Brother And Sister?"
Again, just because they don't look like carbon copies of each other doesn't mean they aren't from the same family. I know you're curious when you see families that are mixed, but I'd love to encourage you to simply remind yourself that families come in different packages.
"Why Did Their Mom Give Them Up?"
More than a few people have asked me how someone could possibly give a baby up for adoption, and their inquiries are always coated in a thin layer of judgment. Now, I try to be understanding. I mean, they're looking at my adorable son and wondering out loud how anyone could walk away from someone so cute and cozy. So my standard answer is that his birth mom was not in a position to parent. That's what every single mom who makes the excruciating decision to place their child for adoption has realized, and that realization doesn't make them bad people.
And honestly, I don't need to tell you if it's because she was addicted to drugs or she was homeless or she had a mental illness that meant she wouldn't be able to create a stable environment for her child. You shouldn't need the "juicy details" to open the flood gates of compassion. Incredulous or judgmental should not be your reaction; heartbreak for a woman who has made the most difficult decision, and compassion for the loss both she and my son will feel forever, is where your reaction should start.
"What If The Birth Mom Wants Them Back?"
Do you think that's something I want you to bring up? Something I want to ponder, out loud, with a stranger or family member? It would be almost impossible for that to happen for either of my children after we legally adopted them and their birth parents' signed relinquishment of their rights. Is there a sliver of a chance of that happening? Maybe, but it's sort of the same risk of you getting hit by lightning right this minute. Are you worried about that? Good, because that would be a waste of your time.
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