----This post is part of an ongoing blogging adventure called Adoption Talk Link Up----
Dear Stranger Who Asks the Real Siblings Question:
You see, when people see my family, I can bet on what questions will be asked of us. The most common is:
(Or some form of that question, such as "Are they from the same family?")
From the frequency and predictability of this question, I have determined that strangers believe our family is just so interesting. There must be a back story that we are just dying to reveal to the public. Our story must be a cross between a Disney, Hallmark, and Lifetime movie. Mysterious. Magical. There's got to be a "once upon a time" and a "happily ever after," with a long, winding road of drama in between.
So, naturally, a great conversation starter is to approach us and ask how "REAL" we are.
Every time, I inwardly groan, draw in a deep breath, and figure out how to respond in a semi-dignified way.
People mean well.
People are just curious.
You chose to adopt transracially, so you chose the spotlight.
Oh, geese! Don't get offended. Everyone is so sensitive these days!
- We do not have a right to privacy.
- Our children's very personal adoption stories should be made public for the benefit of curious strangers.
- We should answer nosy questions in order to not be perceived as rude.
- We should answer nosy questions in order to educate the public on adoption.
But answering, in a way that appeases the person, comes at a price:
- Answering teaches our children that their privacy is less-important than how we, the parents, are perceived by strangers.
- Answering teaches our children that it's acceptable for stranger adults to use their size and age to "bully" children.
- Answering teaches our children that they are defined by their adoption, their history, or their "status."
- Answering teaches our children that we, as adults, can take from them, instead of giving to them.
If a nosy stranger could see our children day-to-day---the hugs, the cuddles, the arguments, the making up, the sharing, the smiles, the tears---they would know. They would know how REAL our family is---how REAL the siblings are. How authentic. How genuine.
But this is not what strangers see. They see two White parents and three Black babies. They see the range of skin tones, the different eye, nose, lip shapes, the different body types. They see DIFFERENCE.
Now, there's nothing wrong with SEEING difference.
What is not okay is turning every thought into a verbal question or comment---questions and comments directed at innocent, wonderful, beautiful children. What is not okay is using your bigger-taller-stronger-older status to demand answers from my babies.
This isn't an interrogation. And my kids will not be your prisoners.
The love, the relationship, the trust, the grace---these things are so REAL. They are real between the kids, between us and the kids, between the kids and their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Real between the kids and their birth families.
What you see, dear stranger, is difference.
But if you would take a few moments to observe. Observe how when Baby E trips and falls, Miss E is at her side in a matter of seconds, asking in the sweetest voice, "Are you okay, sissy?" Observe how Baby Z dashes toward an exit, and Miss E and Baby E run after him, grabbing at his hands and telling him it's not safe to run away. Observe how the kids all try to grab the same toy at the same time and an argument, a real sibling argument, ensues. Observe how my children say "Mommy" ten times a minute while tugging on my arm, or my pant leg, or my hair---or whatever they can grab. Observe how their father lovingly kisses their hurting places, changes the baby's diaper, and wrestles them while they squeal in delight---all within a five-minute period.
And remember, my babies are listening and learning. Please don't hand them ignorance or suspicion or demands. Offer us a smile or a nod or a "nice to meet you" instead.