Almost five years ago, after months of compiling necessary documents and then more months of waiting for that phone call, my husband and I brought home our beautiful baby boy. As part of our training, we learned how to talk to our child about adoption and the importance of maintaining a diverse social circle: as a newly multicultural family, we needed to make an extra effort to ensure our child regularly saw people who look like him. The seminars and webinars also prepared us for questions we would get and encouraged us to have responses ready so we wouldn’t be caught off guard.
To be honest, I get a little tired of the questions. Are they yours? Where are they from? Sometimes at a playground, usually in passing, rarely as an organic part of a conversation. (One woman sitting on a bench asked as I pushed the stroller by, in reference to my daughter, “Whose is she?” Not sure what she expected from me if she was assuming Lydia wasn’t mine…that I’d name some random person?)
I get it. We’re a conspicuous family–something no amount of training can prepare you for– and we make you do a doubletake. A white mom (and dad) out with two black kids is definitely not the norm. This is changing (the other day at the park, there were three transracial families at any given time during the two hours I was there with Teddy), but we’re still in the minority.
I try to answer the questions with a gracious smile, but they just rub me the wrong way. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, and I don’t like being forced to make small with someone who’s not actually interested in having a conversation, but just wants to clear up this one issue.
After chatting with a friend and fellow adoptive mom about this, I was reminded that, like it or not, I am an ambassador for adoption. If I want my son to maintain a positive view of adoption following each of these interactions, I need to get over the annoyance and be truly gracious with my answers. I need to view each conversation as an opportunity to educate someone about adoption.
Since we brought our daughter home, a new question has been lobbed at me: Are they brother and sister? And I’ve been struggling with how to answer this. My instinct is to say, “Of course!” After all, my husband and I adopted both of them; ergo, they’re siblings. But I know people then assume we adopted siblings either from foster care or internationally, and I don’t like leaving people with the wrong impression–even if I’m never going to see them again.
Another answer I’ve tried is, “They are now.” But that doesn’t work either. People definitely understand what that means, but that answer begs the question, was there a time when they weren’t? Which could be confusing for Teddy. His sister has always been his sister, from the day we brought her home, no matter that they don’t share the same DNA.
After further conversation with my friend about this, I think I’ve settled on a satisfying response, at least for now. One that answers the question, leaves my son with a positive view of adoption, and even emphasizes that the four of us are a unit, rather than isolating the kids as the adopted ones: “Yes, we’re a family through adoption.”
I’m so grateful for adoption because it allowed us to have a family. I need to make sure that’s the sentiment that comes through in these brief interactions, so everyone leaves with a positive feeling.