Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ask Rachel: Curious Friends + Articles on Race

C.M., mom of seven (4 biological, 3 via adoption), asks:

How do you respond when a friends asks too personal of questions...not just a stranger in a store...but a good friend?   As a foster parent, I am not supposed to divulge ANY information.   How do you keep that information private without offending your friend?

I have been exploring this issue myself lately.    And as usual, I feel my expectations are just way to high of people.  

For example, a few weeks ago my family and I walked into a Cracker Barrel for lunch.  There were two hostesses, one of whom said (THE VERY FIRST THING OUT OF HER MOUTH), "Are they [my girls] sisters?"   

I gave her the "mom-look" while my husband and I said "yes" at the same time.   The hostess noticed the look I gave her, paused, and then said, "Oh, I it a boy and a girl?"  (I guess Miss E's teal shirt and lack of hair bow made the hostess question the sex of my daughter...)

Eye roll.    I mean, really?!?   Ask a dumb question, and then follow it up by another dumb question...just in case the first dumb question wasn't enough.  

I expect these sorts of nosy questions from strangers.  It happens to my family time and time and time and time (and time and time and get the point) again.    

Adoptive families, we generally feel that strangers have NO right to ask intimate questions.    In fact, if you are a stranger and see my family, you are allowed to say the following (in my humble opinion):

---What cute kids!

---How old are they?

---What fabulous hair accessories/outfits/shoes!

That's about it.

Oh, and the occasional supportive comment is nice.  For example, I was at the grocery store the other day with my girls when an older man approached us and said, "My daughter adopted two black kids.  They are grown now.  So tall those boys are!"   That was it.  I appreciated the connection he made with my family and that he didn't utter anything offensive, judgemental, or nosy.  It was sweet, really.

Otherwise, think what you want, stranger.  But as my mom used to tell my very outspoken little sister, "You don't have to say aloud whatever you are thinking."

I wish I could wear a shirt everyday (a cute one, granted) that says, "If I want you to know, I'll tell you."  Meaning---don't ask.  Just. Don't. Ask.  Because I think people generally ask questions in order to pass judgement.  To try to figure out adoption on their own and put that "figure out" into a neat little box which they will use to judge all-things-adoption against.     

But I digress.  A lot.  Sorry, C.M.!

I have a lot of awesome friends.  Have some of them asked questions that have me mentally cringing?  Yes.     What do I say in response?   Either I divulge too much information which I usually regret.  Or I say something nonsensical that has the friend so confused that she moves on to another topic.  (And I have to say much of this is my fault--I'm outgoing and love to dish with my girlfriends---but there's this line I just don't want crossed...and no one really knows what that is).

I think friends ask because they care.  At least my friends do.  I don't have dramatic friends---period---because I can't stand drama.   I want real, raw, honest, funny, down-to-earth friends----the type of friends I have.  

C.M.---Because you really aren't allowed to share information about your kiddos---I think you should say, "Foster parents aren't allowed to share personal information about their kids.  I hope you understand."

I think the bigger issue is when you adopt the kids.   For me, a friend asks an uber-personal question about my kids' history like "Why did their birth parents give them away?" or "How old are the birth parents?"---that I find myself answer generally.  For example, the "how-old-are-the-birth-parents" question. I say, "Most birth parents are in their twenties.  I know many people believe all birth parents are teens, but that's not statistically the case."   This educates, but it also doesn't reveal information I'm not comfortable sharing.  

It's ok for a child's doctor to ask about a child's medical history.  I think it's ok to tell your close family members, those who might spend time with your kiddos when you aren't around, some basic background info---because that could be helpful to them when caring for your children.   I think it's fine to share details of your child's story with those who can advise and educate you (such as other adoptive parents whom you trust).

I have often screwed up when it comes to answering questions.  I usually end up kicking myself for not answering in the perfect adoptive parent way.  But hey, then I realize, I'm not the perfect adoptive parent.  :O)   


Here are a few awesome articles on race:

My 12 year old son knows he could be Trayvon

White people, you will never look suspicious like Trayvon Martin

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