Usually when I am out and about with my youngest daughter, who is adopted, I don’t get a lot of questions about our family, especially if it just her and I. But if I am out with my entire family, people can’t help but stare in wonder.
I don’t blame them for their curiosity. When I see other families like ours, I wonder too (although I try really hard not to stare!), “Is she adopted?” “Foster Care?” “Domestic or International?” “Open or Closed Adoption?” I can almost hear their questions racing through their minds. Questions that they are afraid to ask.
I love their abundant curiosity and their never ending thirst for knowledge. They aren’t afraid to ask questions, and I embrace them wholeheartedly.
Just the other day at my children’s school, I got asked by a student if I was my daughter’s babysitter. She then asked where we adopted her from. How long we’ve had her for. And where is her real mama now. Didn’t she want her? When I am asked these types of questions, two things are going through my mind:
- My daughter is listening to my response. (And even though she is too young to understand my words now, one day she will.) Her adoption isn’t something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Answering appropriate questions is another opportunity to affirm not only our love for her, but her birth mama’s love for her as well.
- Talking about adoption removes the stigmas that often surround it, education will only serve to benefit my daughter and other adoptees.
While answering questions I am honest, but also very protective of Selah’s and her birth mama’s story. If one day our daughter chooses to share more, that is her choice.
So my common narrative sounds something like this, “Yes, she is adopted. We were so thankful to have met her at the hospital in Florida when she was only a few minutes old. Her birth mama loves her so very much, and we are thankful that she entrusted us to care for her because she wasn’t able to in the ways she wanted to.”
Chosen. Loved. Adopted.
With children, that is enough information to satisfy their questions, and the conversation moves onto other topics like where their family is going on vacation this summer or how many teeth they still have to lose. Kids are easy.
Adults? Not so much. I get why some people are afraid to ask questions in the first place. Sometimes when a window in conversation surrounding our daughter’s adoption is open, the questions can get a little intrusive and inappropriate. To help those who are wondering what is ok to ask and what is not, I have compiled a short list of what is never ok to ask an adoptive mama.
- Can’t you have your OWN children? Just no. It is never ok to: A. Imply that an adoptive child is not their own child. I personally have thick skin, but I never, ever want my daughter to hear the message that she isn’t our own. B. To inquire about another couple’s fertility. If that information isn’t volunteered then assume that it’s not wanting to be shared.
- Personal questions about birth parents. Examples are: Age. Education. Employment status. Marital status. Children. Religion. Lifestyle choices. Nail polish choice. Favorite breakfast food. You get the idea. My daughter’s birthparent’s life is no one’s business. I understand the curiosity but it’s just not appropriate.
- How much the adoption cost. I just find this question extremely tacky and always am shocked when I am asked (unless they are pursuing adoption themselves and genuinely would like accurate information). I won’t tell you how much our mortgage is, or how much our car cost, or how much debt we have, and chances are you wouldn’t ask either, simply because it’s rude. Same rules apply here.
- Why didn’t you foster instead of adopt? Isn’t it cheaper? There are many huge factors that go into one’s decision to foster or adopt, and I can personally say that cost isn’t one of those factors. During our adoption process this was one question I was asked constantly, and not only did I find it intrusive and rude, but I constantly felt that I had to defend our decision in the way we wanted to grow our family. If you know someone adopting or fostering, choose to be supportive.
Along this line of questioning, it’s also important to be aware of the little ears and hearts listening. Please don’t tell me in the presence of my daughter every. single. horror adoption story you have ever heard. I will shut down that conversation if my daughter is listening because it is my job to protect her. Don’t project your fears and ideas onto her. Just don’t.
Also, please avoid assumptions and generalizations. You will be amazed with what people automatically assume about my daughter’s adoption, my fertility, and my daughter’s birth parents.
I often encounter blatant disbelief about the respectful and loving way I talk about our daughter’s birth mama. She is amazing. We love her. And I am not about to give anyone any room to say or think otherwise, especially in the presence of my daughter. Her birth mama entrusted us with her heart. She gave our daughter life. She is in every way Selah’s mama, worthy of respect. I am not afraid to make that clear in conversation.
Questions are absolutely ok to ask. I love adoption and I love talking about adoption. It is forever a part of our lives, a beautiful part. We just have to make sure that what we are asking is appropriate and not going to offend, hurt or plant fear.
Thinking before we speak is always a good starting point. With children and with adults.
You are all very lucky to have found one another. God bless, and thank you for sharing
The same goes for questions one should never ask people who have been adopted! Why don’t you want a relationship with your birth parents? Do you know why they gave you up? Ugh.
Thank you! I’m an adoptive mom and what you said is spot on. I’m very open with my child’s adoption and am willing to answer questions, but sometimes strangers take it too far. We are in an open adoption and I respect her birth parents, so questions regarding their status is offensive.
As a same sex couple adoptee with a 20 year spread between us, 3 adopted & 2 foster you can only imagine the questions. Just think of the kids when asking questions . . . if it doesn’t seem appropriate in the slightest in your own mind, don’t ask!! Your questions spawn more questions from them. Great article, thank you for taking the time to write.