The things people say (part 2)…

My last post talked about the inappropriate things people say to adoptive parents.  While many of those questions are upsetting or even offensive, I’m a big girl and I can handle myself.  However, I do find it VERY hard to handle the things adults have said in front of my children.  They were present for most of the questions I listed.  In many ways I think I’ve been too patient, too willing to smooth things over instead of correcting people, and for that I wonder what may have sunk into the kids’ psyches while grownups talked about them as if they were our new accessories.

If I think about how those questions would make an adopted child feel:

  • Adopted?  How wonderful!  He’s/She’s so lucky to have you!  
    • I’m lucky?  Maybe she means lucky they took me in, because if they didn’t take me then who would?  What if I don’t seem grateful?  Will they give me back?
  • But he/she looks just like you!  
    • For the child who looks just like you:  Thank God, nobody thinks I look weird.  I look like part of the family.
    • For the child nearby who looks nothing like you:  I knew it.  I knew I was the weird one; everyone can tell I don’t belong here.  I hate my (skin color, eyes, hair).
  • Oh, he’s yours?  You mean, really yours?  
    • Why is that so hard to believe?  Maybe I’m not really hers.  Maybe I’m nobody’s.  Maybe that’s why my birthmom gave me up.  Maybe my mom just got stuck with me.
  • Giving up your own child…I can’t imagine ever doing that.  
    • MY mom gave me up.  She didn’t feel this way — I guess she didn’t love me enough to keep me.
  • Can she change her mind?!  
    • Wait, what?  What does that mean?  Will my real mom come back for me?  (Alternatively, could my real mom take me away from my parents?  I don’t want to go.)
  • Why did the mother give him/her up?  
    • My MOTHER is right here, she says she’ll never give me up.  My birthmother gave me away, though.  She must not have loved me enough.
  • So, how much did he cost?  
    • My parents PAID for me?!?
  • So, where did you get him?  
    • Duh, from the hospital.  Where did you get YOUR baby from?
  • Now you’ll definitely get pregnant.  
    • Oh.  What if mom and dad have a baby of their own?  Will they want me anymore?  I’ll just be that weird kid they adopted before they got pregnant…

Pain.  Doubt.  Loss.  Like they don’t fit in anywhere.  Like there’s no one they can really count on.

Some of my other favorites that didn’t make the last list:

  • Do you have any real children?  Uh, you mean the pseudo-kid here doesn’t count?  He sure seems real when he’s puking in the middle of the night or asking uncomfortable questions about puberty…
  • Do you talk to his/her real mother?  Well, I keep in touch with his birthmother, yes.
  • Does he/she ever see his real mother?  I’m pretty real and he sees me morning, noon, and night.  We do try to get together with his birthmother sometimes, yes.
  • How can you handle having an open adoption?  That sounds so hard!  It’s not exactly easy.  I look at it like being divorced — that’s not easy either, but the parents being respectful of one another is in the best interests of the child.  The child is the one who gets hurt if the parents can’t work together.
  • You know, a friend of ours adopted and it was a disaster. (Followed by a horrifying adoption story that makes everyone cringe.)  Wow, that is so sad.  My heart really aches for families like that.

I don’t know if it’s a lack of awareness that keeps people from sensing how their questions will come across or if there’s just been a general breakdown in civility.  We have a “call it like you see it” culture these days, and usually I’m all for cutting out the crap.  It saves a lot of time in the long run.  But my line gets drawn where my kids start getting hurt.  Yes, they look different from us and yes, I understand people are curious and might have questions.  But please remember that those adoptees you’re talking about are also 8- and 10-year-old kids with brains and emotions to match.  They need their unconditional love and acceptance more than you need your answers.

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