Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Top 5 Things Not to Say/Do When You Meet My Family

I've been a mom for nearly two and a half years now. My family looks quite different than the average family; we are multicultural and multiracial. We've had numerous encounters with strangers. Most have been positive, but a few things keep happening that really grate my nerves. And might I add, these apply to friends and family members, too! So....please, do not,

1: Touch either of my girls' hair. They are not puppies. I know you are curious about black hair, but they are people, not pets. And I worked a VERY long time to get their hair styled. HANDS OFF! In general, you shouldn't touch a stranger's child. It's weird. And creepy. And even if you know me and my family, I don't appreciate the head-petting. Would you like me to pet your head randomly?

2: Ask if I'm sure my daughters are full African American or ask if they are "mixed." Yes, I'm sure I know the race of my kids, and they aren't a cup of coffee or a dog breed---so the "half and half" comments are not necessary. I don't ask you if you're sure the guy you call "dad" is actually your father or if your mom perhaps had an affair with the milkman or the pool boy or whomever. We just met. I mean, really?

3: Say or ask about their birth parents such as, "Why did they give them up?", or "Why didn't they love them?", or "How old are they?" My oldest daughter is two and a half. She understands and repeats much more than you think. My children's stories are private. You probably don't want me asking you what position you used to conceive your child and how good or bad the sex was. Some things should just be left unsaid. Especially when we are strangers who just happen to be standing in the same check-out lane or dining at the same restaurant.

4: Say multiple times, to the point where we are all uncomfortable, how beautiful my children are. It makes it seem like you are covering up some sort of prejudice. My girls are beautiful, but they are also smart, funny, and so much more. Say it once and move on.

5: Make any sort of comments about how your kids are driving you nuts and you've thought about placing them for adoption. Not funny. Period. The loss biological parents face is absolutely no laughing matter.

Now before I get 1,000 comments on how horrible I am or how I need to quit being so PC, there are things I don't mind...

1: Saying my kids are cute. (Just say it once, not 100 times like a weird-o). I think they are, too.

2: Asking if we are an adoptive family. That's ok. But beware that walking around asking families that is like asking someone who looks a little thick in the middle if she's pregnant. This might bite you in the butt one day.

3: Asking for more adoption information. Sure. :)

4: Laughing (because it's so cute) when my daughter says, "I'm adopted!" to you when we're standing in the check-out line. She's pretty proud. She recently went up to THREE strangers at Hobby Lobby to tell them she's adopted. Good for her. You go, girl.

5: Commenting on having a family of girls. Yep, I can relate to those challenges and joys!

Yes, we adopted. And yes, our transracial family stands out. And yes, my girls are pretty adorable. But we are first and foremost a family consisting of people. So remember good social graces----no petting, no nosy questions, and no rude comments. Let's all be on our best behavior, get our groceries, and go home. ----- I hope I haven't scared anyone off from adopting transracially.

I recently wrote an article for on the subject of people saying no to black kids because of the top three most common fears. I hope you'll check it out!


  1. This is such a great post! Nearly all your rules are my rules, lol. Although my children are not adopted, they don't look like me. Their hair is different from mine, & I definitely had to find out how to take care of it ON MY OWN (one of my biggest pet peeves is women telling me how I'm supposed to care for their hair).
    Sometimes I wish I had a "Top 5 Things" card to hand to people in the check out line ;)
    And being a biological parent myself, to a little boy who was adopted at birth, I know all the flip side questions of adoption, too.
    GREAT post! :)

  2. I can relate to every word you say. I was now struggling with people saying how cute and beautiful and adorable my kid is. I couldn't pinpoint what was so annoying. I now get it's all prejudice. Great post! Just found your blog and I love it!

  3. I just ran across your website...I have to say this post is awesome. I wanted to share a little story that is a point of view from the other side. We were out to lunch with our adopted son who doesn't look like my husband and I. A multiracial family walked in. My son who is 10 and we've had him since he was 8 said, look mom, there's another adopted family. Of course he jumped to this conclusion but it gave him comfort and joy to see someone else that could be in the same place as him. Its always interesting to see how a child processes what is around them. Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. Rachel, you are awesome. That's all I got. :)

  5. I think random people petting a child like a dog is soooo creepy! Unfortunately, I am one of those people who talk to strangers babies if they smile at me! I am trying to reign myself in so people don't think I am a weirdo! I guess I am just at the point where I am thinking about having a family of my own at some point...

  6. Can I add not saying "boy, you've got your hands full" and "are they ALL yours" to the list?


  7. Great post! Being an "alternative" family we also get rude questions and comments about how our family came to be or who the "real" mom is. I may not have given birth to our daughter but I am every bit as much her mother as my partner. I don't think people realize how hurtful and rude those types of questions are. Some families are made differently but all are beautiful.

  8. Great post. I just found your blog today and I am looking forward to reading more. My husband and I are in the process of adding a 5th child to our family, and it will be our first adoption. We are adopting a school-aged child through the foster care program, and the child will probably be a different race than ours. That is all we know for now, since we have not completed the classes and homestudy yet. I enjoyed reading your take on this, and will definitely be back to read more!

  9. I agree with your sentiments and have had my fair share of unkind comments: 'Oh, another Angelina Jolie wannabe' and 'Was she an unwanted baby?' being just two of the examples! But, I have given this topic some thought as I guess most moms with adopted children have done. I have come to the conclusion that even though it is hard to remain calm, especially in the moment,it does not really help to get all worked up and upset when these comments are made.This does not do our children any good as they pick up on what we're feeling and respond to our reactions. I also decided to cut people some slack. Before my husband and I adopted, we prayed and thought long and hard, we discussed it in detail with each other, with others who had adopted and with our social worker.Since our beautiful daughter came home we have educated ourselves, read books, blogs, prayed and discussed some more. We tried to anticipate the possible difficult situations and questions which might arise(impossible by the way) and how to deal with them appropriately. We have gone through this process of preparation. However,the average person has not. They are possibly experiencing our family for the very first time and have not had the time to process everything the way we have and think of the perfect thing to say. While I believe we must do everything in our power to protect our children, no question, would it not be kinder to try and see where the other person is coming from, and to answer them gently but honestly, even if that means explaining to them that some information is private? We're all guilty of making insensitive comments at one time or another, I know I have! I don't want people to feel they can't talk to me about adoption because of my attitude. And the last thing I would want to do is make my daughter feel she has to justify her place in our family by getting defensive. I want her to be able to deal with those comments in a mature way, understanding where they're coming from and having the confidence to quietly disregard them if needs be.


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