We got a couple different questions pretty regularly when we first brought Teddy home: What is your biggest challenge? and Do you have contact with Teddy’s birth parents? We don’t get the first one at all anymore (because, obviously, we come across as completely competent adoptive parents now…) and don’t often get the second one. A couple new questions have cropped up in their place: (1) Are you going to adopt again? and (2) Where is he from?
I welcome most questions people ask about the adoption process and our experience with Teddy, but I especially love the first question. Why? Because it’s essentially the same question birth parents get. I’ve heard people ask my friends with bio kids whether they plan to have more or if they’re “one and done.” While I do think there’s probably more to this question when it’s posed to us–the adoption process can be difficult, long, and expensive, so people wonder if we’re willing to put ourselves through that again–none of that is articulated, so I can interpret it as I choose. And I choose to hear it as any birth parent would: Are we happy with one or will we “have” more?
The answer, in case you’re wondering, is “absolutely we’re going to adopt again!” Our plan was never to have only one child. Granted, our plan hasn’t quite gone according to…well…plan at this point, but we love the story God’s writing in our lives, and we’re excited to continue along this path.
Not to mention Teddy needs a sibling. This kid is far too social and has far too much energy to grow up an only child. We’d be perpetually exhausted.
The second question, though, is definitely not one birth parents get. And it’s one I struggle with. It’s a question that, at some point, we’ll have to start deflecting. For now, it’s fine. Teddy doesn’t understand yet, and we’re happy to answer “Baltimore” (which always surprises people; I think they see a black baby and assume we adopted him from Africa) and then make a joke about how we’re teaching him a bit about his culture by raising him to be a Ravens fan. (His foster mom passed on a Ravens onesie that we dressed him in last fall, and we’ve since received as a gift a Jerry Rice jersey, so he’s set for this fall.)
But at some point, this question won’t be cool anymore, because it will subtly point out that Teddy is different, that he didn’t start out as part of our family. It’s not like people are asking where our family is from. They’re asking where Teddy is from. People don’t mean this maliciously. They’re genuinely curious. I know this. I often want to ask the same thing when I see obviously adoptive families. But our training classes have taught us that it’s inappropriate to ask such questions in front of the kids. Kids just want to be like everyone else, and this question reinforces that an adopted kid is different from his non-adopted peers. It singles him out. Odds are an adopted kid is already going to struggle more than his peers with identify issues and figuring out his place in the world. No need to make matters worse by pointing out another way he’s not like everyone else.
A former colleague who adopted her daughter from China would get really annoyed with this question. When people would ask her where her little girl was from, she would shoot them a confused look and answer, “Silver Spring, Maryland. Our family is from Silver Spring.”
But the tricky part is knowing when to start following my colleague’s example. Teddy won’t understand the question for quite some time yet, let alone feel awkward because of it. And therefore, it feels silly to make a big deal out of it now. Especially since it’s easy to give a quick, humorous answer and move on.
We’ll play it by ear–as the obviously completely competent adoptive parents we are. In the meantime, we promise we won’t glare at anyone who asks us where Teddy’s from. But we may well follow up with answers to more “normal” questions that haven’t necessarily been asked yet, like Teddy’s age and milestones he’s hit. Like any proud parent, we’ll happily go on all day about that stuff.