Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Questions I've Been Asked about My Adopted Children

I was half of a white couple who, after seven childless years of marriage, chose to become foster parents. We didn’t care about race or gender; we just wanted to be parents, even if it was temporary! When our first two foster babies became available for adoption, we had already taken the adoption class. That’s how we became the forever parents of two brown-skinned tots, which sparked a lot of questions from strangers, both children and adults.

I don’t know whether other interracial families ever got this first question, but it left me flabbergasted. I was so excited to finally have a baby that I couldn’t wait to show my coworkers my beautiful bundle of joy, and I took him to the office. One coworker, let’s call her Linda, took a look at the infant in my arms and said, “Why is this baby black?

I gave her my best what’s-wrong-with-you look as I said, “Because his birth parents were.”

She laughed and slapped at my arm and said, “You know what I mean,” but I was speechless. I mean, do I really need to explain that all babies are precious and amazing and deserving of a loving family?

Curious children in the grocery store sometimes asked that question as well, but without the tone that Linda used. I was always happy to explain adoption to them. Today’s curious children could be tomorrow’s adoptive parents! 

Another question was often asked right in front of my children: “Are they siblings?” Why would someone ask if the two children that I have with me, who call me Mom, are related? Of course they are! They’ve been brother and sister since we adopted them.  

Do they know they are black?” In my head: Do you know you are stupid? From my mouth: “Of course they do.” I may or may not have included an eye roll with that answer.

Do they know they are adopted?” In my head: Do you know you are stupid? From my mouth again, as graciously as I could respond: “Of course they do.”  First of all, we’re different colors. And also, we were foster parents for a total of ten children over the years, though we weren’t blessed with any more adoptable children. Our children always knew their adoption story. It wasn’t a secret.

Where are they from?” People who ask this hope to learn that these children are from an exotic location. One person who had just met me and my kids went on to congratulate me on adopting children from Haiti. Do all black children come from Haiti? I was unaware of that. My children were born locally. Sorry if that disappoints anyone. (Not sorry.)

Personally, I don’t think anyone ever asked “how much did they cost,” as if I’d gone to the pet store and plunked my money down on the counter for my choice of puppies, but I’ve heard that many adoptive parents have faced this question. If you wouldn’t ask a birth mother how high her hospital bill was after labor and delivery (please tell me you would never ask), then you shouldn’t ask an adoptive parent money questions either. It’s different if a friend who is considering adoption for herself asks about expenses. But strangers just asking for curiosity’s sake are displaying poor manners.

I feel fortunate that I was never asked about the “real” parents, as if I was just a pale imitation of the real thing. (Pun intended! Teehee!) But, just so you know, we met all known birth parents (3 out of 4) and have their photos, which I shared with my children once they each turned 18. I continue to be the only mother they have ever known, and all the feeding and diaper-changing, discipline, tears and laughter, and memory-making make it as real as it gets!   

Neither of my kids ever threw “You’re not my real mom!” at me. I’ve heard about other adoptive parents experiencing that. I may be wrong, but I think my children felt like they’d lost three parents (not only two bio parents each but also their adoptive father, who walked out on us when they were just six and seven years old), and they were afraid to say anything that might cause the last remaining parent to leave—though they should have known that would never happen. Working, homeschooling, and taking them to extracurricular activities as a single parent was exhausting, but it was worth it to be there for them, encouraging them and watching them grow up. My 23-year-old daughter has often said, “I’m glad you adopted me!”

I’m not a saint. I’m just a woman who desperately wanted to be somebody’s mother and who was blessed to be able to adopt two foster babies as her forever children. And if you were to ask me if I’d do it all over again, I’d give you an emphatic YES!

2015 Crazy Christmas Family Photo

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