As an adoptive parent, I’ve heard all the questions.
We get it– you don’t mean to offend, but the questions are still rather off-putting and sometimes downright dehumanizing.
“She’s not your real kid, is she?”
“Wow, she must have been expensive”
I’ve heard them all. I usually take the opportunity to re-educate the person asking the question and explain why their wording might come across as offensive to adoptive families like mine. I’ve also been known to come up with some snarky and equally rude replies- but I’m not proud of those moments even though I do admit, they were usually quite funny.
FINALLY, someone (Jesse Butterworth, actually) has done the work for me and produced a PSA that I think everyone should see. Please pass along to anyone who might come in contact with an adoptive family so we can finally get the world to realize that if you wouldn’t say it about a boob job, you probably shouldn’t say it about adoption.
Here is the hilarious, and very practical PSA to help folks everywhere:
Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally,
it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting
videos to your blog when you could be giving us something informative to read?
Fine way of telling, and good paragraph to get facts regarding my presentation subject matter, which i
am going to present in institution of higher education.
As an adoptive parent of children with special needs, I’ve received many of the awkward questions that we are familiar with. I’ve never been bothered by any of them, let alone felt dehumanized. In most cases people just lack familiarity with the language that those who adopt possess and bumble through it.
99.9% of the time the people are genuinely curious and respectful. I’ve also found that the majority of the time it is children are the ones asking these questions. Many parents are afraid to ask, but their kids? No so much. I’d rather people ask the awkward questions than stay silent.
My favorite is when they ask if my two same-age daughters are sisters and I tell them “Yes, they are 3 weeks apart.” Some people don’t appreciate the implications, which is quite amusing.
I love getting the question “Did you get to pick her out?” It’s really a wonderful time to explain how adoption works and to promote it. And people *should* be asking “how much does it cost?” Again, the costs (and adoption credit) are critical information needed to promote adoption. It’s not like this information is confidential anyway, but it can be confusing for an outsider.
I try to treat the questioners, especially the rude ones, the same as I would treat unbelievers: They need a loving presentation of Christ and there is no room for offense. I do struggle some when I am judged for choosing to have a large family, but in light of real suffering, I try to let it go. And I teach my kids to do the same.
Two of my siblings are adopted (cross racial) and I have gotten variations on those questions myself. The one that upsets me the most is if I have spoken about my sister, then people meet her and say things like, “Oh, I thought you were talking about your real sister.”
The video is wonderful.
My sister and her husband adopted two wonderful children. My co-worker and her wife did the same. Because the kids in question don’t look like their parents, (multi-racial families) they get rude questions all the time. People, really. Do you think adoptive parents are not really parents? Do you think they don’t love, worry about, take care of and get exasperated by their kids?
I was raised with a basic rule regarding personal questions aimed at friends and acquaintances: When in doubt, don’t ask. (If you don’t have any doubts about asking friends and acquaintances personal questions, you should have.)
This is great! But now someone needs to make a PSA from the perspective of the adoptive kids. Here are some of my favourite questions/comments:
1. “Did your parents try to have kids of their own?” Have we collectively forgotten what “try” is a euphemism for? I get this question all the time, and it makes me want to stab my eyes out with a fork. Related questions like, “couldn’t your parents have kids?” are equally awkward.
2. Upon seeing my white sister, “Oh that’s so nice; your parents had one of their own.” Actually, she’s also adopted. This really throws people. I have been asked more than once why my parents didn’t want their kids to match. Yes, they really used the word, “match”.
3. “Your parents must be saints!” No one laughs harder at this one than my parents. But make no mistake, we all laugh.
4. “Well, you turned out so well.” I know people are well-meaning, but this is patronizing (especially since it feels as if the bar is set pretty low — hey, you’re literate! Bravo!). Comments like this are commonly accompanied by stories of troubled and wayward adoptees, as if to tell you that you’re the exception, but that this is still not the ideal family situation.
I’m not particularly sensitive about my adoption, so while I find these questions a little invasive (especially since they usually come from people I have just met), they certainly don’t wound me. Most of the time they are a source of amusement for my family and me, so I’m glad to see someone else addressing this with humour.
Wow, people can be so rude. This astonishes me. Especially the ‘matching children’ line. I believe you, however. No one could make up something so foolish.
I was adopted, too, and my “favorite” was when people would say, “It’s a shame your parents couldn’t have children of their own.” (Like what was I, chopped liver?) My response? “I know, but isn’t it wonderful you can get one so cheap on the black market?”
Tea. Out of my nose.
Then that would make the second keyboard potentially destroyed because of this blog, no? #goingforthehattrick
Yep.. the only one that actually makes me angry is when someone asks in front of my daughter if we’re ever going to have “real” children.
The worst can come from your own relatives. When my father was terminally ill with cancer, his brother asked him, “Are you going to give the mantel clock to [me], or are you going to keep it in the family?” It feels good to have outlived most of that side of my family.
How awful! I hope the other side of your family was kinder to you.
People are curious and ask questions. Usually they aren’t trying to be impertinent, they just want to know the answers. If you’re not equipped to answer a few questions and politely ignore a few others, then perhaps you shouldn’t adopt a child who will arouse people’s curiosity.
You yourself said it, Ben, you know they don’t mean to offend. So maybe you should stop taking offense.
yeah ben, quit taking offense at offensive people! everyone knows it’s the offended that are to blame for being offended.
Taking offense is a voluntary action. Nobody can force someone to take offense at something.
Good point. I know people who don’t mean to offend when they call a child with an intellectual disability “retarded”, so I guess the parents should just stop getting offended and let people call their child whatever they want.
Oh, was that what this article was about??? Because it looked to me like it was about adoptive parents being offended at the natural curiosity of others, which is apples and oranges away from verbal abuse of children.
So your name – Gaelic for whiny jerk, I take it?
Actually, that’s not true. Imagine someone calling you an insensitive boor to your face, and picture how you would feel. You have a choice about how you respond, but not about how you feel. Actions are voluntary. Feelings are not
Why do you think people’s ‘natural curiosity’ and desire to ‘know the answers’ to personal questions trumps Ben’s right to not discuss his family’s personal business? I was taught that unwelcome personal questions are rude, and, if I wasn’t sure of how the question would be received, I shouldn’t ask it, especially of casual acquaintances. Were you taught differently?
If someone were to call me an insensitive boor to my face I would ignore them. Completely. I don’t waste time with people who call other people names. That’s something you should have outgrown by ten-years-old. If you haven’t, then I have no interest in anything you have to say to me.
I never said that someone else’s curiosity trumps Ben’s right not to discuss his family’s personal business. We’re all perfectly free to tell a nosy person that it is none of their business or ignore them and change the subject. It’s silly, though, to take offense at someone’s questions.
It seems society has completely forgotten one of the most important lessons of childhood. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Instead, we go through life crying “you’ve offended me” every time someone says something we don’t like. So what?
Ignoring someone is an action. Feelings are not actions. Again, you have a choice how you act. You don’t have a choice how you feel. My question was on how it would make you feel.
Actually, words do a ton of harm. People have committed suicide over being shamed and taunted. That “lesson” from your childhood is untrue.
As to it being silly to take offense at unwanted personal questions, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I was taught not to ask such questions if they might make people feel uncomfortable. Perhaps that had to do with my mother being wheelchair-bound. People ask handicapped people the most rude things imaginable. I still regard refraining from prying as the polite option.
Don’t agree with that words do hurt more than sticks and stones especially if said by someone who you love. Parents etc
I don’t think it’s a good idea to be offended when people are asking genuine questions and have no intention to offend. People should know, going into adoption, that these questions will happen so they can be prepared. Adults need to be prepared to deal with the questions that people *will* ask.
I think we should handle adoption questions the same way we handle questions about Jesus. How I handle “Why do you believe in that Jesus nonsense?” and “Did you adopt because you have a savior complex?” should be the same: Lovingly.
Now If someone is truly discriminatory and belligerent, that’s a completely different situation and I will do my duty to protect my children.
“If you’re not equipped to answer a few questions and politely ignore a few others, then perhaps you shouldn’t adopt a child who will arouse people’s curiosity”
Did you just say if you can’t (or in this case, more like “don’t want to”) answer people’s intrusive questions, you shouldn’t adopt?
Thank you for writing this. I may not have been there when my son and daughters were born but I will be there for them until I draw my last breath. I thank them for teaching me that father is a verb. I might not be related to them by blood but my love for them flows through me with every beat of my heart. I am their real father and to be their father and grandfather to their children is the greatest gift I have ever been given.
Even if she is adopted, she is still your real kid.
All children are expensive. People who are counting dollars and cents should avoid being parents.
When people raise those questions, they are telling you about themselves.
One man asked me why we didn’t go for a boy. We fell in love with our foster daughter and chose to start the process to adopt her back in 1984 when he asked.