Ask any adoptive family and you'll find it can happen anywhere. Most recently, it happened to us during one of our frequent trips to a nearby superstore. A new cashier was working the register, one we hadn't met before and after idly chatting while she rang up our groceries, she turned to the boys and said:
"Well, either Mommy's been busy with lots of boyfriends or you two are adopted."
Obviously, adopted or not, making a joke to a 2 year old and a 3 year old regarding their mother's potential bedroom activities is clearly inappropriate. It is also 1 of only 3 truly offensive comments I have heard regarding our family in the 3 years since we adopted Buddy. However, it got me thinking, once again, about my stance on strangers commenting on and/or asking questions about how we became a family.
I love talking about my family and sharing our adoption stories - I mean, obviously I do, I've devoted an entire blog to it. And I understand that 99% of the people who approach us are well-meaning people who are curious about our situation or just trying to be friendly. They may phrase questions in ways I wish they wouldn't (using terms such as "real" mom) or ask questions I feel are too personal (how much did it cost? why couldn't the birth mom parent?), but I know these aren't the words of mean-spirited people attempting to offend us. They are simply poorly-worded or unintentionally invasive statements from people who aren't as familiar with adoption as we are. Even the cashier's comment, though wildly inappropriate, was a clumsy attempt to get to know us.
Knowing that the vast majority of commenters are well-intentioned, I'm happy to talk about our family if you approach me when I'm alone or my kids are out of ear shot. I may gently correct a person's terminology or politely deflect questions about topics I feel are private, but for the most part I'm happy to have a conversation about our experience.
The problem I have is when people approach me in front of my kids. I understand these are the types of situations my children need to be prepared to face. I understand it's a good opportunity for me to model appropriate responses to these questions and for my children to hear me discuss with pride how they joined our family. I also understand that as the parent of internationally adopted children, I signed up for this - I knew we'd look different from everybody else, I knew we'd face curiosity and occasionally racism. I knew this and willingly agreed to it...but my kids did not.
For that reason, it does bother me when strangers in the park or the grocery store feel the need to make comments or ask questions while the kids and I are just trying to go about our day. Especially now that they are older and understand that people are identifying us as "different" from everybody else. It's sad when a moment on the swings ends with Buddy asking me why someone thought Buster wasn't his "real brother" or Buster needs to ask "Why that silly lady think you not my mama?". I understand we knowingly brought them into a situation where they'd be labeled different or unique and that these are the types of issues we need to prepare them to face all their lives...but I still wish, for their sake, they could just be kids in the park, no need to feel different than anybody else.