So, my friend S. sent me an email after the post about THIS post, and because she is a smart and thoughtful person, she asked just why I bristle at the "is he adopted question."
And Anonymous commented on the post, stating "We have an adopted African American beautiful little girl. And yes are conspicuous family. This is my question. What IS an appropriate way to ask if a child is adopted. I have an adopted child, yet, I get nervous to ask such a question other conspicuous families.... Any suggestions?"
Both of these questions stuck with me yesterday.
First, asking if LM is adopted doesn't really bother me as much as how the question is asked. We knew we'd encounter these questions well before we our sweet boy's face. When we first chose international adoption, and to have a child who didn't look like us, we understood that we would be a family that looked a little different. And we were OK with that.
We still are. And damn proud of LM, and the beautiful country he was born in. I have no problem sharing that with people. If they ask politely.
The questions just remind us that as we struggle to be "normal", the world will always see us a little different. I guess that a minor irritation.
To answer Anonymous, I don't know if there IS an appropriate way to ask. It likely varies from family to family. I have also refrained from asking when I've seen other families that have children of color. I feel an instant kinship with them and want to talk with them, share our common experiences. But I don't. They probably get enough of that from those other types of folks too.
But there is a way to make a connection---we were at a street fair the other day and the lady we were buying honey from was cooing over LM. "He's beautiful," she said and we beamed. I thought the next question was coming, but then she pointed to an Asian girl sitting on the curb. "That's my daughter," she said. "She's from Vietnam. And my son is from Guatemala."
She established a connection between us, but she never asked if LM was adopted or said her children were. They were just our children. No explanation of how they came to be ours. And I guess that's the turning point from me. They are our children. Period. I liked that.
The other thing I realized after pondering this question is how defensive I am about it. Whenever people ask, or I think they are about to, I find myself gearing up for the worst. Unfortunately the negative experiences we've had (albeit a few, but I've heard enough other stories to make me know there will be more) have made me feel on guard. I think that stems from people making assumptions about us based on our decision to adopt. Generally, they think we are power-Christians doing the will of God as written in the bible (no offense, but this is not the reason we adopted); think that one of us is infertile (this is also not the reason) and, gasp, they sometimes have the audacity to ask which one; or they judge us because we adopted one of those *foreign* kids when we should be taking care of the kids right here in the USA. Obviously that one really pisses me off.
We've learned to be wary of those folks because the conversations, as short as we try to keep them, just end up frustrating us or leading to very awkward moments. So when the question "is he adopted" comes up, the learned response is for us to be on the defensive.
Many of these interactions, no matter how brief, remind me that there are a lot of rude and insensitive people out there. And that is just depressing.
I really love Michelle and Stefan's answer: "Smile and walk away." It makes the most sense. I'm not good at that approach. I often feel some strange sense of obligation to be a good steward of adoption. I feel compelled to explain myself and our decisions. And, I am damn proud of this boy and want to share our joy with the world. As Yvonne commented, you don't have to "feel like you have to really answer the question."
Smile and walk away would be the best way to handle those people who's interest in our lives comes from a judgmental place. Now I just have to learn how to do it.
In other matters, LM met his other grandma yesterday! She was very brave and flew (although the last big flight she took was 55 years ago) all by herself. He was a bit bashful when he first met her, but has since decided she's a good egg and likes to entertain her with his antics.
Grandma will be with us for 10 days, and we will be heading off to the Wisconsin State Fair, one of Daddy's bike races, and a few street fairs. Who knows what other trouble we can get into.
Happy weekend to you!
To learn to write: Alphabet Tracing Pages
To organize: Clever uses for tension rods
To ponder: Either You Have It Or You Don't. Period.
To consider: Kung Fu Panda 2 Takes On Adoption
To make for a girl: Summer Vacation Dress