Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to respectfully ask questions about adoption




Adoption answers we are too polite to say out loud
by: addylawson



As an adoptee, I have also had people come up to me more times than I can count in the middle of a social situation, surrounded by other people, and ask, "Ohmygah Missy! I didn't know you were adopted! Have you found your real mom??"

I am about the happiest adoptee you will ever meet. I carry no adoption baggage. I don't resent my birthparents or my adoptive parents. I've yet to discover all my abandonment issues that I am supposedly required to have. I happen to think adoption is so super awesome that I always wanted to adopt a child myself.

Therefore, if the time is right, the place is right, and I believe you actually care about me and my story and aren't just using me as your personal walking talking People magazine, I'm happy to talk about it. But at a party? Caught off guard? COME ON. And what about the sad details, because all adoption stories have some? Do you really think I'd want to hash it all out in the middle of the Superbowl over some queso? Really?  

I am well aware that once we bring Bethie home, I will be on the flip side of the questions, questions that my mom didn't have to fend off very much because back in the 70s adoption agencies spent a lot of time matching up babies with parents who looked like them.

Times have changed. 

Recently an article went around the interweb called Eight Things Never to Say to Adoptive Families. My daughter is not yet home, but I have already been asked a lot of these.

As a very open person - y'all are reading my blog - some questions don't bother me a bit. Sometimes, I'll talk your ear off about our journey.

But sometimes, I'm just not in the mood to be The Adoption Ambassador to the World. I'm tired. Or PMSing. Or aggravated at the kids I already have. Or mad at the process or on a tangent about ethics which means if you ask me about adoption you might get waaaaay more of an answer than you ever wanted.

But after reading articles like the one above, I know some people who are genuinely curious felt at a loss as to how to talk to us. And after fielding a lot of stupid and offensive questions regarding our babies, we adoptive moms can get a little touchy sometimes. Probably every adoptive mom has had to field a question that caused someone in her family to cry. If it was she who cried, she's on the offense. If it was her child, she's downright stabby. Sure, we need to loosen up. But you don't know the fallout we may have endured from another's nosy question.

But please get this straight, adoption is not a taboo subject. I imagine there are still some nutjobs who never tell their kids they were adopted. But if the mom looks like me and the kid looks like Bethie, the mom knew going into this that she would raise eyebrows at the bouncehouse. We prepared for that.  We even read books on it. We all are proud of our kids and a lot of us are happy to share our adoption stories. It's okay to ask about adoption.

But, just like everything else in life, there is a time and a place and a way to ask about adoption.

Let me give you an analogy you can use.

Think of adoption like the way other people get their kids: childbirth. It's normal, it's beautiful, it's nothing to be ashamed of, and most moms have no problem discussing it. Most moms even enjoy discussing it.

However, there are parts of childbirth that are extremely private. Parts that I wish my husband hadn't witnessed. Parts that I surely, surely wish my 23 year old brother-in-law hadn't witnessed immediately after Shep's birth when someone told him it was okay to walk into the delivery room. It was not okay. So not okay that the only way that either one of us has been able to carry on with our lives has been to slip into denial and just pretend that the delivery room show-and-tell never happened.

You wanna know exactly what biology lesson was learned by my poor formerly innocent brother-in-law? If we are friends, I might tell you. But if I just met you? Sorry, but it is not appropriate stranger talk.

And if any of my children are standing right here listening? Definitely. Not. Appropriate.

As for a few of those questions? Lots of private and messy things happen on the delivery table that we just don't ever need to talk about outside of (a very small circle of) family (not including brothers-in-law.)

Lots of private and messy things happen in the adoption process that we just don't need to talk about outside of family. 

So in the interest of keeping you away from my and my child's private parts I thought it would be a good idea to give some respectable alternatives to the show-and-tell questions regarding adoption.

Sound good?

First off, as with any other conversation, it usually helps if there is a relationship already established, even if it is a burgeoning relationship. Even if it is only five minutes old. Going up to a perfect stranger and asking very personal questions is just, you know, awkward and wrong.

So assuming you have known this lady for more than the time it takes to check out your groceries, I believe the first thing that you can do is ask if this is a good time.

"I am very curious about adoption. I think it's so beautiful. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?"
Or, "Could I take you to coffee sometime and ask you some questions?" 

Then if we say no, let it go. And don't take it personally. You have no idea what we might be dealing with.

If the child you wish to inquire about is standing right there listening,  

THEN THIS IS NOT A GOOD TIME. 

I repeat
if the adopted child is standing right there,
THIS IS NOT A GOOD TIME.  

Don't wake up Mama Bear, y'all. You know how Mama Bear can get. Grrrrrrrowl.

Pretend your child had a large birthmark that covered her face, and she's standing right by you. Would it be okay for me to come up and begin: "What's up with her face? Was she born that way or did she get burned or something? Are you gonna get that removed?" Asking about adoption in front of an adoptee can make them feel just as self-conscious and weird. Which is why Mama Bear might eat you.

But if the timing is right and the child is way out of earshot, fire away. (Politely. Respectfully. Within certain boundaries.)

Know first off that the word "REAL" causes me, both as an adoptee and an adoptive mom, to instantly bristle, and I'm not alone in this. Think about the word. To use 'real' in regard to my child's first family implies that our adoptive family is fake, unnatural, or artificial. Best to just ban 'real' from your vocabulary. Proper terms are birthmom, biological mom, or first mom."Kids of your own" is another phrase to ban. Bethie will be just as much 'my own' as Maggie or Eva Rose are.

Burning questions about adoption and how to ask them:

Don't say: Is he yours?
Do say: He's so cute/smart/funny!
If I say thank you, then you know he's mine.  

Don't say: So why was she adopted? 
Do say: How old was she when she came home?
~Then we will share as much or as little of her story as we choose. Please understand that all adoption stories involve pain and loss. And like other life stories of pain and loss, it's very personal. Adoptive moms, as a general rule, believe that their child's story is theirs alone to tell or keep private. You will probably get very little information out of us.

Don't say: Where's her real mom? Why couldn't her real mom keep her? Was her real mom on drugs? Oh I could never give my baby away.
Do say: I bet her birthmom misses her terribly.

Don't say: Which ones are your real kids? Are they real brothers and sisters?
Do say: May I ask, which ones came to you through adoption? or Were they all adopted? 

Don't say: Why did you adopt from over there when there are so many babies over here who need homes? (This is my personal blood boiler.) My friend Julie says she gets the opposite, Why did you adopt from here when there are kids in Africa who are starving? 
Do say: How did God lead you/what led you to {foreign country}/adopt domestically?

Don't say: How much did he cost? 
(I'm fine with this question because I love to proclaim that God provided every penny. But lots of people just aren't comfortable discussing their finances. Adoption costs less than most cars, yet people rarely ask how much a new car cost...)
Do say: I'd love to adopt, but I worry that we can't afford it. or I hear adoption is very expensive. 

Don't say: Did you go to his house and get him / did you just see her over there and bring her home / did you get to pick him out?  
Do say: Was it a long or difficult process to adopt?  

Don't say: Does he have AIDS? Did his mom have AIDS?  
Do say: I can think of no polite alternative to this question. Just don't. 

Don't say: Why didn't you get a white baby?  
Do say: What led you to Ethiopia?

Don't say: Couldn't you have kids of your own?
Do say: What led you to adopt? 

Don't say: Wow, she's so lucky you adopted her!
Do say: Wow, you are so blessed you get to be her mom!

Don't say: Wow, you're amazing! I'm so glad you found your calling!
Do say: Wow, she's not so amazing, she's just a normal mom, with normal strengths and weaknesses. And that kid sure is cute. Maybe adoption is something I want to get more information about...I think I'll ask her to meet me for coffee.

Does that help?

Many thanks to my facebook friends who helped come up with questions and answers

Moms, I am very open to editing this blog post based on suggestions you leave in the comments, so go ahead!





84 comments:

  1. My husband and I both feel called to adoption & money is literally the only thing holding us back. I'd love to talk openly and honestly with some adoptive parents about this, but it's so taboo to ask questions about money. I hate that.

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    1. Hi, Kodi! I'd love to talk with you about how to fund an adoption. God has provided every penny for our adoption in the most amazing ways! Feel free to email me at wendyloudesigns at gmail dot com.

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    2. Kodi, use the "I'd love to adopt, but I worry that we can't afford it" line. We all know it's expensive. And we all have a bag of tricks on how to make it affordable!

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    3. We adopted through the foster care system. Most people are unaware that this can significantly reduce or even eliminate your costs. In our situation, the state paid all of the expenses for the adoption. I would be willing to discuss this more if you are interested.

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    4. Yes Kodi! We fostered to adopt and our adoptions were...... wait for it..... $100. Yes, you read that correctly. True, we didn't know when they came home to us if we'd be there forever family but adoption IS affordable. Even international. God sets the lonely in families. His desire is NOT to call people to adopt and then allow them to flounder while they wait for funding. He will provide a way.

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    5. And in Texas at least, if the foster kids belong to a certain demographic, college is paid for too. Ka-ching.

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    6. Seriously Missy? I need to check into that!

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    7. Yup. They have to be - I haven't read it in a while so I could be a little off -

      - over age 2 and/or
      - non-white and/or
      - part of a sibling group.

      My friend got white twins straight from the NICU but their college is still paid for because they were a sibling set :-)

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    8. And it has to be college at a Texas state school, like UT or A&M.

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    9. Our youngest three were adopted as a sibling group out of Texas foster care. Some huge pluses are:
      1. Our adorable boys of course
      2. Free college tuition (up through doctorate degree I believe)
      3. Medicaid until they turn 18
      4. A $400 monthly stipend (per kid!!!!) until they turn 18
      I'm a huge advocate if you have any questions:)
      www.christina-jones.blogspot.com

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  2. Nothing bothers me more then when someone looks at my family and asks which ones are mine. They are all mine. The first one is brown and the next two are white. So people also assume that we adopted first and then were surprised with getting pregnant. Total strangers ask that A LOT. For the record, all three were adopted and all three are MINE!!!

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  3. You are adorable, Missy. I can't keep up with all the "Don'ts", though, so I just usually say "Cute baby!"

    I just am not that nosy, and I just DO like babies that much. :o)

    As a woman married 9 years before we were able to get pregnant (and I was 40)...I have had my share of "Oh no, you did not just ask that," questions. LOL It doesn't beat my sister, though, who was in her 30's, pregnant with twins and had a neighbor SHE DID NOT KNOW yell across the street (and neighborhood, and world) if my sister had done it "the right way". (We are still unsure what that means, hahahaha.)

    Good grief. People are so funny.

    God must have a lot of fun with us from up there on high. I hope we make Him laugh sometimes with our "Open mouth/insert foot" comments.

    Best to you and yours. ALL of yours (even if they don't live with you yet).

    (Thanks for letting me still comment with your comments open to us non-bloggers. I have been commenting!)

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  4. I get the "What happened to his real mom?" question all the time! I glare. I also get, "He looks just like all your real kids!" Ya know, because I adopted a plastic child. SHEESH!

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  5. You can ask me any questions you want BUT FOR THE LOVE OF PETE KEEP YOUR FREAKING HANDS OUT OF MY KIDS HAIR!!!!! (I have two Ugandan boys and two biracial girls. I spend a ridiculous amount of time doing hair.)

    I think instead of giving people a list of things not to ask we should instead do like you did and point out that some of us really just want to make it out of Target with the same number of kids we came in with and answering questions about adoption rarely makes that easy.

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  6. Oh one of my favorites is "how did you learn how to do her hair?" (My 6-year-old Zoe is from Ethiopia). I love to answer "How did YOU learn how to do your daughter's hair?" Not to minimize the hair thing...it is an important issue...but hair is hair...you figure it out!!

    I love the "It's not a good time" response...you would be amazed at how many times I am unloading my cart in the checkout line at Target and get questions about adoption. It's not a good time, people. :) Skin gets thicker and I get less "people-pleas-y" as my daughter has gotten older and been home longer. I appreciate your well-thought out "ask this way" questions and responses here. They are spot-on to me!

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  7. When we found out we couldn't have more biological kids, we kept hearing, "Just be thankful for the two you already have." Oh, really? Ya think? Of course we're extremely greatful for the two sons that we have, but please get out of my way and allow me to mourn. We're now a waiting family and are so excited to get that call that will make us into a family of 5.

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    1. I don't know you, Kelli, but this comment kept my attention because it is the journey I am on right now. We have two biological children, and I am unable to carry any more babies. We have always had a desire to foster and/or adopt, and I have always wanted four or so kids. People don't understand that there is still a part of me that is sad to not get prgnant again. And we have to wait at least another year or two before we can pursue adoption (due to financial reasons and medical reasons with my youngest.)

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  8. My brother is adopted. If the mom introduces their child, don't respond with "no way!", "That's a joke, right?", "no, seriously", and the like.

    99.9% of people don't joke about having a child that doesn't look like the rest of your kids. Chances are, they're serious.

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  9. You probably have already seen this, but just in case, you'll get a laugh out of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFp61HAj-nk&feature=player_embedded

    When we had our extra kiddos here, I loved to watch people's head spin around when I told them that, yes, they are all mine...no, they are all singleton births...and the youngest three were all born within 11 months of each other. Bahahaha!!

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  10. With two adopted girls age 3 and 2 (that look NOTHING alike), I get "are they sisters?" All the freaking time. Of course they are sisters. So I always say yes. But then they keep going, "But you know what I mean, REAL sisters." Then I karate chop their throats. Just kidding. I just say yes again:)
    And NOW......I'm pregnant with our 1st bio baby (complete and utter shocker after 8 yrs of infertility) and guess what I hear non-stop. You know it....."I knew you'd get pregnant after you adopted, it happens all the time!" Gag. I need prayers to respond with grace to this one....

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    1. ((((ABBY)))

      After our years of trying and trying (and not telling) we finally got pregnant. And then I got the comments of "Oh, you finally RELAXED!"

      Are you KIDDING ME?? Trust me....I was RELAXED...

      It is crazy to think that grown women (most of whom have their own children) have apparently no concept that parts of the female (or male) reproductive system can be broken...and then can give you a tiny window of working right. No, no, you're right -- I just haven't been ENJOYING MYSELF when with my husband...ahem...that way....yes, that was it. Shoot-dang! I wish I had had that nugget of information 5 years ago when we started trying!

      /sarcasm

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    2. My last comment (I promise. At least on this post):

      Because of long-term infertility and my age, we have one child. A beautiful and smart boy who is 4.5 and amazing.

      Speaking of the Don'ts....I can't tell you how many people ask if we aren't going to have more. (No, we're not. I nearly had a stroke while he was being born, then couldn't even consider it for maybe 3 years but now I just feel I am too old and it is too risky.)

      And so the follow-up question when I tell them no AND TELL THEM MY AGE, is always "Oh, but my Grandma Myrtle had my uncle when she was 40-whatever," and "My co-worker's next-door neighbor had a baby when she was forty-EIGHT!!!"

      And then I say something like "That's great but I really can't have more." (I would like to be alive to watch the one I have actually grow up, as well as be a wife to my husband, a daughter to my parents, a sister to my siblings.) I grew up with 7 siblings. I get the value of having siblings.

      And then after I explain that I can't (which is more of a won't but that is NEVER an acceptable answer, I've learned)....then it always goes to "What about adoption? You guys could ADOPT!!"

      Now, I am as happy as anybody about adoption but my husband (who would probably love to raise more babies) **WILL NOT** go through all the lack of privacy on those forms to do it. And I can't blame him. It is a long, frustrating process in so many way, but it is also quite invasive with what they want to know. He is a very private person, AND THAT IS OKAY.

      It is okay to "just" have one kid. It really, truly is. In fact, God even puts some families together like that: the parents and the 1 kid. I know....it's such a shocker, right?

      Oh, you really got me started, but I will stop now. I promise.

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  11. My personal favorite, especially coming from hugely pregnant women as they rub their sore backs: "well, you had kids the easy way!" Yup. Really easy... I usually say: "well, it's harder than you think" and let it go because hugely pregnant women have it rough and I'd rather wait until they are more comfortable to tackle this one :)

    Also, "where are they from?" followed by a disappointed "oh!" when I simply say: "from right here" because there is no juice story to our kids. They are not from any exotic place with a sad story. They were born right here and we just drove two hours to get them.

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    1. Totally agree on the "where are they from?" question - especially as my daughter is getting older (14 mos now). She was born at a hospital 4 miles from my home and we took her home from there. People so want me to tell them a story of us flying half-way around the world to get her and seem terribly disappointed that we didn't do that. It's still a "real" adoption, people - even if she's "just" from here!

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  12. Great post! I shared on FB. :)

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  13. Great post Missy. What I can't figure out is how to respond to the "don't" questions politely and quickly. I get the "what's her story?" or "what happened to her birth mom" a lot. So far, just saying that "its her story and we're keeping it close to the vest so she can choose who to tell when she gets older" line seems to be working. But the "real" daughter question comes up a lot relating to my 5 year old. So far, I just say "I think they are both my real daughters," but then, dissatisfied with the response, people just repeat the question! I get the "yeah, but you know what I mean." I'm not sure yet how to tactfully and quickly response to that one yet (probably when she's actually home, I'll just start punching people in the nose if they ask again - is that a good response?) Anyway, great post and thanks for starting the conversation.

    Jean

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  14. This was an awesome and oh so helpful read, I'll definitely be passing it on! I'm not even an adoptive mama (yet!) and my husband and I CRINGE when friends of ours (or our own family) say all of these exact things. We come from an amazing community and have been well trained on the ins and out of adoption lingo since pre-marriage, and we are oh SO THANKFUL. Knowing we feel led to one day grow our family through adoption we have been trying to have these conversations with our family before any of our kids even get home, and this will be one more awesome resource! Thanks!

    And I've never commented on here before, but I love your blog, it's definitely brought me lots of laughs during my own naptimes lately. :)

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  15. Well, I may have to challenge you about being the happiest adoptee! Yay for adoption! SO excited that you have seen her face!!

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  16. This was a very helpful post. Thanks for sharing. While I totally understand the "mama bear" reaction, as someone who has not walked this road and who God has called to serve in other ways, I would like to say in all honesty I am disturbed at times by the overall attitudes I sometimes sense from many who are adopting: they have so much grace and love to pour out on these children, and not much left for those of us who "don't get it." Yes, there are nosy, insensitive clods out there. But most people are just curious and a bit in awe, and they don't realize the ramifications of what they ask. I would hope that adoptive parents would extend grace rather than sigh and roll their eyes, even behind our backs. Posts like this really help. Thanks.

    Love ya!

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    1. Love this comment.

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    2. I totally agree, Linda. Most people are very sincere and a bit nervous about asking. As an adoptive mom, I try to take that opportunity to educate them.

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  17. Thank you very much. This ia a huge help to me as a non-adoptive mom. i am very interested in adoption, but have felt unwelcome on expressing that interest because I was never sure where the hot buttons were or why they were there. Thanks for explianing this so well.

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  18. I feel like this can apply to so many situations, not just adoption. I have twins and the amount of questions, interrogations, and just strangers-in-my-face-and-business that I encounter every time I step outside is ridiculous. "Are they natural?" "Which one is the good/bad one?" and just the plain old "Double Trouble!" and "Better you than me!" comments are so, so offensive. My kids can't understand the comments yet, but when they're old enough to, I need to plan my comebacks so they will know I don't consider them a burden or "trouble". Large families, children with disabilities, pregnant women, the list goes on and on....

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    1. Yes! We have 7 kids, 2 of which are twins, 2 of which are adopted. We've had SO MANY questions. Which is fine if they're good intentioned b/c God crafted our family and I love to share His story. But the remarks are fun.

      I love it when people ask if our boy/girl twins are identical.

      Um? Nope. They aren't. And then I chuckle.

      My newest reply to someone who says, "Oh! You have your hands FULL!" is, "Better than empty! Praise God!"

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  19. Would you believe (of course you would) that on Orphan Sunday, after we showed a video highlighting a dozen adoptive families in our church, some domestic, some international, that a mom who adopted domestically looked at my prayer cards for Asian orphans and said "Well you KNOW there are a LOT of orphans RIGHT HERE in America!" Yeah that happened.

    And if my own grandfather doesn't stop telling me what a "good person" I am for adopting from Haiti, I think I'm gonna scream. He only says that because he thinks I'm crazy.

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    1. Wow, I am surprised at that. Usually other adoptive moms get it. Evidently not all.

      As for Grandpa, hey. With that generation, as long as they aren't calling out racial slurs, we kinda just have to count our blessings.

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    2. My 88 y/o father always tells my guatemalan daughter that she has a "good tan" He means it as the most sincere compliment. Take it as such. They don't understand the lingo. :)

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  20. My top *favorites* with my kids have been:

    1. Wow! He's really smart for an adopted kid!

    2. He's SO CUTE! I need to get me one of those!

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    1. Wow! He's really smart for an adopted kid! {deep exhale}

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    2. Well, you know, since they're already assuming he was a crack/heroine/drug baby I'm sure. Gah. People!

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  21. I got the question the other day...

    "What if it doesn't work out?"

    I just said that there was a screening process to begin with... but what if I didn't mesh with the personality of my bio son? Would I just take him back to the hospital and say it didn't work out?

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  22. Another better alternative to the "did you pick her out?" kinds of questions is "How was your family matched with your daughter/son?" Love this post!

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  23. Don't Say: I love children, and I think it's great that you want to foster, but I could NEVER do what you are doing!! (foster to adopt)
    Do Say: I love children. Is there another way I can support foster children and foster families.
    I'd say: well sure! What are you good at? (child care, cooking, car pooling, shopping, lawn care, etc)

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Yes!!! I once, in a much less graceful moment than I care to admit, responded to this statement with "you are right! you couldn't and we are all glad you aren't trying!"

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    3. Mommy to AJ4, while I haven't said those words out loud, I've certainly thought it :)

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  24. We adopted two of our children through foster care. We got them when they were infants but we had to do weekly visitations with their birth mother for a long time, and we actually keep in touch with her still. I always used the term "birth mother" when explaining adoption to my girls, but other people have been bad to ask about their "real" mom. Yuri, the oldest, was about 4 years old when she mentioned something about her "real" mom. I said, "Hey, I'm your real mom. Pinch me. See? I'm real" and left it at that. A few weeks ago, Yuri had to do an "About Me" poster for kindergarten so we included a picture of her with her birth mom. The kids asked her who the lady was, and Yuri replied, "Oh, that's my fake mom". hahaha

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  25. I have a bio son then a son adopted from foster to adopt. I suddenly, after four losses, found myself expecting a little girl. I was extremely sick through the pregnancy. My neighbor had the audacity to say, "you can't handle all of them! Are you going to give that one back?" I have never been rendered speechless before. I muttered no and left.

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    1. Oh my lands! I can't imagine!!!!

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    2. Oh wow. Some people simply should NEVER have been given the gift of speech. "Are you going to give that one back?" Seriously. Do they even think before they speak?

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  26. When people ask about my girls' birthparents, I tell them that "it isn't my story to share so we keep that information private." It politely puts up a boundary.

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    1. That is a great answer! I will try to remember that, for the next time we are asked about our daughter's birthparents.

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  27. Missy - thank you for the post - I have experienced the adoption process through my aunt and uncle - they were blessed with two children - I take that back, our entire family has been blessed with two children - they adopted them at birth and we loved them the second they were born - they have always been "ours" - I truly believe that Bethie has always been yours also, it has just taken her a little longer to get home - enjoy these crazy moments and remember the outcome....your family together! - jennifer

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  28. Ok, one more thing. We were talking to an administrator at the school that our children will probably go to (for the record, both of my girls are black). We were talking about some of the kids who were having behavior issues and one of them is supposedly a train wreck. Apparently "he's kind of a mess, he's biracial...he's adopted...you know...."
    WHAT?!?!

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  29. Hi, de-lurking here. I love your blog, been reading for some time now.

    As adoptive mother of three little boys in a country where adoption is one of the worst taboos ever I have heard nearly all such comments. Actually, they don't even bother me that much, because I know what everybody "knows" about adoption and I want people to understand more about what it really is. What really bothers me, is that everyone in Estonia has read "Rasmus and the Vagabond" where a 9-year-old orphanage boy runs off to find new parents and stumbles upon a nice man who takes him along. In this book about Sweden sometime around WW I a rich couple visits the orphanage and chooses a child. So several times I have heard: "Did you visit many orphanages before you picked these boys?" or "Why did you chose only boys, didn't you want a girl-boy combination?" Just breathe, think happy thoughts and explain, explain, explain.

    But the worst experience that brought out the Mama Bear in me, along with all kinds of anxiety issues, is documented here: http://www.catsandcarrots.blogspot.com/2011/12/i-felt-like-needing-psychological-help.html
    We went from foster care to adoption and this day was the most surreal ever. Sorry, I have no idea how to make a link active. Also, please excuse my bad English, this is not my first or second language.

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  30. I haven't had the completely stupid adoption questions yet. But the one that got me was when I introduced our first baby. When I would tell them her name, they would ask, "Oh, so did you get to name the baby or did she come with that name?" LOL. I loved their faces when I told them I picked it out. AND it happened more than once. Apparently I like "unique" names.

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  31. As an adoptive Mom...thank you....just thank you.

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  32. You handled this very well, Missy.

    Here is a similar post I wrote a couple years ago:
    http://learninghowmuchidontknow.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-not-to-say.html

    I do think we need to be careful, as adoptive parents, not to be overly sensitive or without grace, but to discern where people are coming from and if they need a "dressing down" for rudeness or if they just need some gentle education.

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  33. Missy, I love your blog, and I love your adoption journey so much. I am truly inspired by so much of what I've read here in the past few years. But...something strikes me as a bit 'off' about this post. As a Christian, I try (try! try!) to extend grace and understanding even in the face of personal questions. I know that I have been on both sides of conversations like this. People have asked me personal questions about my birth control methods, for heaven sakes, and I have put my foot in my mouth many, many times when talking to friends and acquaintances. Many times. If a parent feels uncomfortable or attacked or put on the spot in regards to a question of any type, then they have the option to simply say "I'm sorry, that's a bit personal for me to answer" or some version of that. But as Mocha With Linda mentions above, some people are insensitive clods, and the majority are just curious, and maybe a little nervous because they don't know the lingo, and this could be your opportunity to extend grace, and maybe even plant the seeds of interest in adoption. If God has called you to adoption, perhaps he's also called you to be a visible adoptive family in your community, to show how 'normal' it really can be.

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    1. I agree with this sister so much. I know the feeling of being asked insensitive questions or hearing thoughtless comments (not in regards to adoption, but other things, including while grieving infertility and miscarriages) . . . but i know that I too have at times asked things or made comments that inadvertently caused offense. It is always important to consider what the person's intent is, where their heart is coming from. If their motive is to get to know you better, understand your struggles and joys, or to learn more about adoption for their own potential journey, then I feel these motives are much more important than how they word their questions or comments. (Conversely, it's possible to use all the right phrases, but still have a heart-motivation that is not loving). Having been through any difficult circumstance, including adoption, miscarriage, death of a loved one, raising a child with a disability, etc., is not a license to ignore God's instruction that "love is not easily angered." Missy, thank you for sharing these very helpful suggestions for those of us who talk to adoptive families. i encourage all of us when confronted with an insensitive comment to look past the stinging sound of the words, and try to respond to the heart of the speaker. Finally, might I suggest that if we are following God's leading in our decisions, that is the only reason we ever need give to ANY "why" question. Whether why we adopted from a particular country, why we have limited our family to one child, why we are doing foster care, or why we are taking a vow of celibacy, the true reason is, "that's what God told us to do!" No Christian should have anything else to respond at that point. And if the person you're talking to is not a Christian, then you have given a beautiful testimony, and possibly opened a door for further sharing about what it means to be a follower of Christ.

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    2. "If God has called you to adoption, perhaps he's also called you to be a visible adoptive family in your community, to show how 'normal' it really can be."

      So many, I have a blog where I talk about adoption all the time! I love to talk about adoption. I am also a very open person. I don't see how I can be any more visible.

      However, there is a time and a place for personal questions, about any topic. And when it comes to adopted children, for some reason a lot of people feel like they can ask away, any time, any place, and in front of the child. They are still going to do that, but this post is for people who would prefer to be on the polite side of the questions.

      As a mom of four kids, I get pleasant, snide, and occasionally downright ugly remarks ALL THE TIME. It just goes with the territory.

      But adoption is different. Think of it like this. If you child had a very obvious difference, like, a missing limb. Would you want perfect strangers to constantly come up to you and ask all kinds of questions about it, in front of your kiddo? No way. You know how that would make the child feel self-conscious and weird. Quizzing a mom about adoption when the child is present is the same thing.

      And when that happens, protecting my child will trump educating a grownup, every time.

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    3. I WANT to be visible and have people ask about our adoptions. I WANT to be a source. In fact, I'll often talk to strangers in the grocery store about our daughter (who is obviously adopted) and then point out our son (who looks JUST like us, but is also adopted) b/c I think education is key. And, our children know they're adopted. We talk about their story with them regularly. In fact, if people are asking questions tactfully, I'll usually answer them even in front of our children. I feel like I can read people fairly well and even if they are using the "wrong" lingo, if they mean well, I can let it slide or gently correct their unintended harsh words.

      BUT, there are people that when you try to answer nicely, or gently correct them they just keep on, oblivious. Or they just walk straight up to you with no prior conversation and say, "Where did you get HER?"

      Um, excuse me? And, sadly, that happens and equal amount of times as does the gentle, sincere questions. It really does. I know that some people are genuine and want to ask seeking questions, not probing ones. And the truth is, as a lover of stories myself, I GET wanting to hear other people's stories. But if we're being honest here, there are an equal number of harsh and nosey people to ones to are gentle story seekers. It's those that really make me angry. And like Missy said, I'll protect my baby every single time over educating an adult who has access to google.

      Asking in love is evident. Always. But there still needs to be education on how and when to ask.

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  34. One thing I learned when working at an adoption agency was not to use the term "give up" when talking about biological parents. We used the terms "to place" or "to parent." I still cringe when I hear "give up."

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  35. It drives me batty when people call my biological kids my "own"-- as if our son isn't ours too. It also drives me crazy when people say, "ph, we'd love to adopt too, after we have our own".

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    1. Yeah, I've heard that one a ton. I just let it go. Can't figure out how to correct it without embarrassing them. I know what they mean - I think you just have to look at the heart on this one, and let it go.

      I guess you could say, casually, "you mean after you have bio kids first?" maybe they'll get it.

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  36. Great post Missy!! I think I have been asked every one of these questions and then some. I get the most bothered by it when they ask right in front of the girls. Any other time, I try to use the question as a time to educate if possible. Not always easy though! I'm getting much better at handling these situations with grace.

    Love your blog!!
    Bonnie

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  37. Love this post! We get all those questions, some worded nicely and others not-so-much. But I'm learning how to handle them more gracefully.
    I loved the video - too funny! :)

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  38. Thanks for this post! After watching the video on what not to say to families with adopted children, I couldn't help but wonder what in the world I could say and if I'd offended someone in the past, specifically my brother-in-law & sister-in-law, who are in the process of adopting from DHS, although like you, their son's beautiful dark skin does not match their own. But your post showed me that I'd actually been saying the correct things all along. I do have one addition or amendment. Instead of saying "Wow, he's so lucky to have you as a mom!" I often say "you ALL are so blessed." God has truly provided for both the parents and the baby. He is the first baby they fostered and he will be theirs any day now.

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    1. Also, Gabrielle, it's totally different with family. My inlaws have asked questions that wouldn't be appropriate from anyone else. Family is different.

      But then I have family who have been ignoring our adoption for three years who then suddenly pop up with one of the intrusive questions. That's very hurtful.

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  39. We adopted from foster care. When people, who typically start out well intended ask us how she was when we got her they nearly keel over when I say, "four days."

    They assume we adopted internationally since she's brown and we are not. Once they grasp the fact that we adopted from our very own county, the REALLY probing questions begin. And usually, they aren't polite.

    "Was she a drug/crack/heroine baby?"

    "Was she thrown in the trash?" (Yes, yes they have.)

    "Does her Mom know where she lives?" (Yes, I do. It would be really hard to Mother a child that I don't know where she lives.)

    "Why didn't her mother want her?"

    and my personal favorite

    "Oh! I could NEVER foster a child. What if they have issues?"

    Please, if you're enough of an idiot to even say that last sentence (usually, while flapping your hands around and saying it in the LOUDEST VOICE POSSIBLE, then I'm a jerk enough to just walk away).

    I get that you don't think you're strong enough. But when God clearly said "Do it!" my options were to 1) obey or 2) ignore God. The latter is never a good choice, really, though I try it often with my sinfulness.

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    1. Oh, Jessica. Oh.

      To my commenters who have not adopted and think we get touchy - now do you see how it happens??

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    2. I think the thing is, that adoptive Moms by in large, are open to questions. That's probably how we became interested ourselves, by asking questions. But I will admit that once I see the *look* in someone's eye, I begin to brace myself.

      It's a toss up which way it will go.

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    3. "I get that you don't think you're strong enough. But when God clearly said "Do it!" my options were to 1) obey or 2) ignore God. The latter is never a good choice, really, though I try it often with my sinfulness."

      That right there, just about sums it up. Thank you for wording it that way.

      Delete
  40. we havent brought home our daughter yet, but I still get them. "So did you guys figure out why you couldnt have your own kids?" this was from the Dr. doing my physical. that has been my favorite so far.

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  41. I have been meaning to respond to this since I saw your question on FB. And I intend to read through these comments when I have longer than 4 seconds. I just wanted to add that I am one of those rare adoptive moms (1 domestic, 1 international) who has rarely (maybe twice??) fielded a rude question. Most of the people in my life are so considerate and truly supportive of our decisions. We've inspired countless people to adopt because I was willing to share our stories over and over and over. I just want to encourage you that not everyone is an idiot and most people really do share in your joy.

    The other thing I wanted to add is that I am not offended at all when someone asks, "Is she/he yours?" I have never interpreted that question as anything but, "Is this child your daughter/son?" I usually have any number of kids surrounding me--my children, plus their friends. They are all different ages and colors and it's just difficult to tell which ones call me mom and which ones are just staying for dinner.

    When I see other children I suspect are adopted, I always ask, "Is that your daughter?" Because I wanna chat about adoption and how awesome it is...not because I intend to be intrusive or rude.

    Just my two cents.

    Carry on.

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  42. My beautiful Chinese baby girl is now 16...I don't even know where the time has gone. But, starting in about 3rd or 4th grade she started getting very difficult questions and comments. Helping her navigate tough peer moments has made me cry on more than one occasion. In fourth grade one of her spelling words was orphan. That was a tough week for sure. Her clueless teacher did not help the situation.

    My husband and I have fielded so many questions through her adoption and through a season of fostering four beautiful girls. We also have 3 bio, so our family was a very interesting attraction. We would often hear from across parking lots or restaurants, "Are all those kids yours?" My response was, "For now they are!" My favorite comment to hate and laugh at that I ever got was an old guy with a thick hick accent who leaned in real close and said to me, "Anyone ever call you fertile myrtle?" No, no they haven't until this very special moment right now, so thanks for that.

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  43. Thank you for this! I love this! We are in the process of our first adoption. We are adopting a little girl from China who is 21 months. We've already had some odd things and questions said to us. The worst thing that has happened is when ADULTS came up to my two little girls and pulled their eyes back with their fingers and told my girls to do that because they need to practice doing that for when they go to China. I just stood their stunned at their ignorance! I could not believe what I was seeing. I could tell my daughters were very uncomfortable with it. When these "adults" walked away I told my girls that what those people did was not nice and they agreed. Both of them told me that they thought they were making fun of their sister doing that. People never cease to amaze me with their ignorance.

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  44. I am the sweet advocate/educator 99% of the time, BUT>>>
    I had one nut that asked if we "had to give her back"--this was for an internationally adopted kid!--no question about it being foster care--we had just been introduced as "Janet and her daughter whom was just adopted from CHina".

    From Missy's post was "how much did he cost?" HE didn't cost anything, buying children is illegal! There are many expenses that are involved with international adoption, but you are NOT BUYing the child!--I have explained that one in the past.

    About the rude people who just keep on with "you know what I mean"..about being REAL siblings...I have said "yes, I do, but did you stop to consider that 12 little ears are listening? And although the kids know the whole truth (age appropriate), it does not encourage family love, and acceptance of each other, when they hear that question practically every time we leave the house.

    LASTLY--sort-of related...I had a lady ask me if my 2 blind kids (who use white canes) were REALLY blind!!! I WANTED to say "no, getting thru this store with 6 little kids isn't obstacle course enough for me, I thought we'd bring these canes along just to make it more challenging!"

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  46. Honestly, I think people should not be getting personal. I mean if a person is discussing their personal whatnots, then it doesn't mean that we badger them with questions that we shouldn't be asking. Anyways, I think that what you are doing is great and it is true that not all adoptions have issues of any sort for that matter.

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