Monday, October 11, 2010

Inevitable Post of an Adoptive Mom

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.


  1. I had a friend over a few days ago, and when she saw my neighbor across the street with her two boys (one is adopted and is African American) she said loudly "Are those both hers?" The way she said it made me feel like she was referring to...I don't know, a pet or something. I know she didn't mean to be offensive, but yes those boys are BOTH my neighbors CHILDREN, and they may be different from each other but they are the truest brothers any two brothers could be.

    I'm sorry the cashier was insensitive. I wish people would think before they speak, and realize that yes, the kids are in fact listening.

  2. Wow--that one actually crosses the line from inappropriate adoption comment to downright FOUL comment. I am offended and grossed out on your behalf!

  3. Yikes. That comment was so inappropriate on so many levels. I'm sure she thought she was being funny, but come on! In front of the kids? Uck.
    I'm with you - I wish that sometimes we could just be the family we are without having to be ambassadors of international adoption. And there are times we are just that... a family. But MOST of the time in public, if we don't get comments or questions, we get stares. Or the occasional just-barely-can-hear-it "oh they're so cute!" I guess it's the price we pay for such stinkin' adorable kids! :)

  4. Wow! That is so inappropriate, especially in front of your children!!! Wow!

    I haven't yet experienced this from your end. I'm on the end of wanting to ask if a child is adopted because I want to connected with another adoptive parent, but knowing that often people are offended or sick of being asked. Usually if the info isn't offered I don't bring it up. But if their child is older, I don't bring it up because I don't know how their children are dealing with it and whether it's a hot topic in their family or a safe one. Sorry you had to deal with this.

  5. are you serious?! OH my gosh! unbelieveable! i think this might be THE most inappropriate comment i've ever heard...WOW. i'm pretty sure i would have lost it, so kudos on holding yourself together...

  6. The comments that get my blood boiling are the "oh, I want one of those too" comments. I think I may come unglued after the next time I hear it!

  7. I'm glad that 99% of the remarks have been ok because that one was downright awful. It's totally inappropriate for her to say things like that and to do so in front of your children makes me cringe.

    I'm sorry you had that experience.

  8. Oh my goodness! That is so awful! Some people have no filter.

  9. What a terrible comment! You sure have faced some rough ones...It's a good thing you are such a great mother, because I'm sure you handled it with grace and dignity. But I'm so sorry you, and Buddy and Buster had to hear that!

  10. I guess we can only draw on our own experiences, so I feel a bit sorry for that cashier if that's the well she's drawing from. Completely inappropriate, though, regardless.

    So, I wonder, though, because I am mostly tactless (and thus burn with curiosity because I have to keep my mouth shut or risk offending people)...what is the best question to ask? Or do you even want to be asked any questions? Would you prefer that people just make assumptions? What is the proper response?

    (Here from the Roundup)

  11. Wow. That comment wins a prize, and not a good one. I've gotten some pretty rude comments and questions myself, but nothing like that. (I have twin boys and a daughter all conceived through IVF).

    One of my twins is very big w dark hair, the other very small with light hair. My daughter is 2 1/2 years younger. One day out shopping the cashier said "Boy, you sure have been busy. You should learn how to say 'No' honey". I was pretty shocked. I know that it looks like I popped out 3 kids in 3 years with different dads but nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes all you can do is shake your head and move on :)

  12. What a horrible thing for that woman to say!

    Our son is adopted and is African-American/Filipino, while I am white and my husband is Middle Eastern/Asian, so we definitely don't all match. We honestly haven't gotten as many comments as we thought we would. I do think it's weird though that almost everyone, when they learn he's adopted, asks "Where'd you get him?" I know most people are more familiar with international adoption and that's what they're asking about, but the phrasing is just so annoying! I amuse myself by saying "here," "California," or the name of a suburb 20 minutes from our house. People are always really surprised. They also frequently ask "how old was he when you got him?" They're surprised again when I say "newborn" or "about two minutes old."

    Like you said, it's just because they aren't familiar with adoption, and I do think this makes it all the more important for us to share our adoption stories and help (gently) educate the people we share them with. But it can be very frustrating, and I do worry about what it will be like for our son as he gets older (he's just 17 months now). I'll be looking for advice from you since your boys are older!

  13. Ewww. That's the kind of comment that sticks at the front of your mind for days. :( Thank God your boys will grow up to be people that don't think that way. There's hope for the world!

  14. Good grief. I'm pretty darn sure I would have written a letter or something. I know it's hard, when you know people don't mean harm, but honestly! I know one day we'll have to deal with that, right now, our little boy is too young to understand.

  15. I can remember being in a grocery store with my mom. I must have been six or seven. My two younger sisters were in the cart. An older woman approached us to ohh and ahh over my littlest sister who was still quite young. I can so clearly remember the woman commenting on how different the three of us looked and asking my mother if we had the same father. The question confused me, but my mom explained to the lady that we all shared the same daddy. I remember so clearly that the lady was so nice and even now I don't think that she intended any harm by her question.

    My mom was so matter of fact in her response, and so confident in her and my dads love for each of us, so proud of our differences. That was the first time I remember that question being asked, but most certainly not the last.

    It is a totally inappropriate comment to make, regardless of the family circumstances. (In our case my sisters and I do share genetics from both our mother and father, but are very different from each other.) But people are curious and will ask questions, inappropriate or not. It is how we respond to and educate people about situations that they don't understand that really matters. It may not be a duty we signed up for, but it is necessary. I can only hope that others will offer me the same education when I say or do things that might be hurtful or inappropriate.

    As my husband and I embark on building our family with the assistance of DS, I am thinking alot about how we will deal with the future questions and situations that are waiting for us.

    Great post - i'm glad that Mel sent me over.
    xoxo - Foxy

  16. Oh good lord! I am dying to know how you handled it.

  17. Ick! Sooooo inappropriate! I have a 10 month old through embryo donation who doesn't look like me. I recently posted about some inappropriate comments. Of course, now she doesn't understand, but I just hate the thought of her being hurt by someone's stupidity.

    A friend of mine who is the adoptive mom of a 5 month old told me about the worst comment I've heard yet. Someone got in her infant's face and said, "You are so precious. How could someone give you up?" Unfuckingbelievable! My friend told me she heard of a great comeback for certain comments/questions: "Wow! Did you mean to say that out loud?" Putting that in my back pocket.

  18. WOW - my mouth hit the floor. I don't know what I would say if a cashier said that to me. Wow...I'm speechless. I guess I need to better prepare.

  19. Came from Foxy's blog. How did you respond to this? I am curious how you handle situations like these. My DH and I are currently in our 2ww using donor sperm.
    I honestly think that is horrible what she said- what if you DID sleep around? What if they were adopted and you weren't going to tell them? What if you were a victim of rape and didn't abort? I have a hard time accepting the innocence implied with people ask these questions. I would love to pop off with "either your parents were exposed to chemicals during their pregnancy, or you just don't have any sense"
    but then, I get a little snarky sometimes. LOL

  20. Wow....people actually say stuff like that? The world would be a happier place if people would stop to think before they speak.
    Here from ICLW and Mel's blog. Its heartwarming to hear about a happy family like yours :)