Saturday, December 10, 2011

Just Don't

Recently:   "So," X asks, referring to my youngest, "What's her mom's story?"

Now, let me stop to say that I get the "her mom" a lot---when people refer to my girls' biological mothers.   This does not offend me.  I understand what they mean, and I'm not embarrassed by the fact that my girls are adopted, that they have two moms (one by birth, one by adoption), and that people do not know all the PC adoption language.   Whatever.

What's most bothersome to me is the assumption that it's ok to ask something so personal and assume that you have a right to know that information.

You don't.

I realize that a lot of my family's personal information is "out there"---after all, I blog about adoption!  However, there are many details I keep private, details that only our immediate family members know, and the only reason I have shared these details with them is because they spend time with my kids and might be asked a question one day to which they should have some sort of clue how to answer.

There are so many misconceptions and stereotypes about birth parents that are detrimental to all of us in the adoption community.  I always try to educate those who ask questions, attempting to reshape their view of birth parents.    For example, I am often asked, "Is her birth mother young?"    I state, "Statistics show that many birth mothers are in their twenties."    I don't directly answer the question because, well, why does it matter how old the girls' birth moms are?, and because two, it's none of the person's business.

We can't escape adoption, nor do we wish to.   However, there is a fine line, a necessary balance, between educating others and living life as a REAL, NORMAL, BEAUTIFUL family.   

I'm always amazed at the audacity some people have.   My parents raised me not to stare and not to ask assuming or potentially nosy questions.     Obviously not everyone grows up with those same values.    I do think honesty is fabulous, as I always strive to be honest about adoption with my readers, strangers, family members, friends, my kids, my spouse, and myself.     However, honesty and tact seem to rarely go hand-in-hand when it comes to adoption.

I don't know how I could have better answered the asker.   My daughter (age 3) was sitting right across from me.  If I snap, she's watching and learning.  (Should I say, "That info is on a need-to-know basis.  I'm pretty sure you aren't in that category.") If I evade, she might grow up to think that I'm embarrassed or ashamed about adoption.  If I answer completely honestly and openly, my daughter's privacy is invaded without her permission.   If I answer in an attempt to educate, is it fair to always use my daughter's existence as a teaching tool for clueless askers? 

Some adoptive parents suggest responding with a question, "Why do you ask?" But I think that gives the asker an opportunity to explain why he or she is asking, rather than serve its intended purpose:  to shut them up.    If someone is bold enough to ask a nosy question, he or she will likely be bold enough to ask another. 

The truth is, I don't care who is asking me---a stranger, a friend, a family member:  if I want you to know, I will tell you.

I think my message to anyone reading this who wants to ask an adoption question that is specific to a child's story, just don't.   

You don't need to know.   If you do find something out, you will do what is normal behavior for humans:  you will use it to judge.   

Adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents---we already face enough assumptions and judgements.    So please, just don't.


  1. We usually answer with a very polite "I'm sorry, but that is information that belongs to our child. If you have questions about adoption in general I'd love to discuss it with you at another time."

    We use that especially in front of our kids because we feel like it arms them with the knowledge that we're not ashamed but that they are the only ones who have ownership of their stories and they don't owe it to anyone for any reason.

  2. Now that Ahnalin is older, and very verbal, I will often ask her if she wants to answer the question or would she prefer to keep it private. When she was little, it depended on the person asking the question. But often I would just say "I don't know", because I truly don't. I know that she is our miracle and the country she came from had laws in place that often forced the hand of first families. And to be honest, sometimes I have answered badly.

  3. I love this post! I so relate, for another reason. My brother was born with severe disabilities and people that don't know me at all always ask "do they know what caused it" or worse, "was your mom healthy in her pregnancy?" I always wonder what would happen if I satisfied their morbid curiosity and said "oh she was a big time freebaser." She wasn't!! It was just a natural occurrence in God's sovereignty! But it's so uncalled for to think you can just pry into personal family details when you observe something out of the ordinary for you. Love your blog; just found it through Passionate Homemaking. Your family is beautiful and your children a gift from the Lord.

  4. I missed it- how did you answer that question?


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