I will never forget the day my oldest son and I went to our local paint store to pick up some paint for the new room in our basement. When we stepped up to the counter to pay for our paint, the employee asked my son if he already had an account with the store. I quickly responded with, “That is my SON, NOT my hired painter!” I was horrified and the employee was obviously embarrassed. I know that the employee didn’t mean to hurt my son’s feelings or cause him to question his place in our family. However, those “innocent” comments and questions can stir up deep emotion for an adopted child.
My first few children were adopted domestically and have blonde hair and blue eyes. Although, I did receive some interesting comments from friends and family about adoption, I wasn’t prepared for what would happen when we added children of color into our family. Here is a sampling of things I have experienced over the years:
- Walking up and speaking to my son in Spanish. Yes, he was born in Guatemala, but he doesn’t even speak Spanish.
- Walking up to my bi-racial daughter and asking me how much I paid for her.
- Walking up to me and asking me how long it took to adopt my children.
- Stopping me in the grocery store line to tell me about a birthmother “giving up” her child for adoption.
- Approaching me and asking me what happened to my children’s “real” mother?
- Assuming that only my brown children are adopted.
- Asking me why I did not adopt domestically when there are so many waiting children in the US.
- Asking me how much money I make to be able to afford to adopt.
- Assuming my adult, adopted son is my boyfriend. Can you say COUGAR?
- Refusing to speak to my daughter because she is bi-racial.
- Asking me which ones are my “real” children.
- Assuming my son from Guatemala only eats Mexican food. In fact, Chinese food is his favorite.
I could go on and on. Honestly, I have been shocked and appalled at some of the things strangers (and some friends) have said to me, to us. Most of the time, I try and be gracious when approached about my children. I am pro-adoption and love helping families go through the process. However, it is hard and exhausting to constantly be bombarded with these types of comments and questions in public. More importantly, it can cause confusion and doubt in our children’s hearts and minds.
I have created a quick list of things to consider before asking “innocent” questions of any adoptive family, especially those made up of diverse ethnicities.
- DON’T assume anything.
- DON’T approach parents and begin firing off questions in front of their children.
- DON’T make random comments about adoption.
- DON’T give your opinion about birthparents.
- DON’T tell the parents what a saint they are or how lucky the children are. All children are a blessing and all parents are saints. Parenting is HARD.
- DON’T ask the children about being adopted, their birth country, birth family, or anything else related to adoption.
- DO pray for these families. Adoption is a tough calling.
- DO hand your name and phone number to an adoptive mom if you have a genuine question about adoption. Most adoptive moms are more than willing to answer your questions in private.
- DO smile and say hello.
- DO consider getting involved in the lives of an adoptive family. Offer to take them a meal, run errands, or provide respite care.
You can read more about my diverse family here.
- “Families don’t have to match. You don’t have to look like someone else to love them.” -Leigh Anne Tuohy”