The ongoing journey
Dealing with the Public
Your baby is home. Your final paperwork is in process or
completed. And just like when the frenzy and excitement of the wedding
celebration fades and the real work of marriage begins, so, too, goes
Adoptive and otherwise.
This is one section that will always be in process. I'll be
adding sections, comments, links and essays, and who knows what as you and I
together navigate this joyous, challenging, and thorny business known as
adoptive parenthood. (If you have comments you'd like to share,
let me know. I hope to add an interactive section here very soon.)
We're going to touch on a lot of important subjects, and some
not so. At the moment, I have no predetermined logic to this section, so I
expect it's going to grow a little unwieldy at times. I'll reorganize as we go
along. I expect this to be a little "stream of consciousness", too, so forgive
me the occasional typos or oddly phrased thought.
One important caveat. I'm not a social worker or adoption
professional. Just a mom with a lot of opinions with a strong need to share. So
take anything I say with a grain of salt and use your own experience and heart
as your final guide.
parenthood is mostly like any other parenthood, but with differences.
Most of time, we are parents just like anyone else. We kiss
boo-boos, read bedtime stories, wipe runny noses, fret when our children are
sick, and feel pride at every hard-earned accomplishment they make. Especially
when our kids are quite young, we spend most of our time doing the usual
But there are those times we're not like everyone else. Perhaps
it's when our families solicit stares at a restaurant or when we're on the
receiving end of nosy, pushy questions while we're standing in the supermarket
A little about race
We are, more than likely white families with Asian children.
Unless we ourselves are members of a minority group - religious, ethnic, have a
disability - we don't have a deep understanding of being "the other" until we
become a multiracial, multiethnic family through adoption. It's only then that
our blinders begin to fall and we and our beloved children begin to experience
For many of us, it comes as a deep shock. I've often compared it
to discovering that you, your family, now have a new adjective in front of you.
Like male nurse or lady doctor, we add extra adjectives to those concepts and
individuals that are not the norm.
And when you don't fit the norm, you become the other. When
you live outside the norm, it makes some folks curious, others nervous, others
Families like ours, depending on where we live, stand out. Our
children, also depending on where we live, also stand out. It's our job then to
decide how - as a family and as individuals - we will handle our "otherness" in
ways that maintain our sense of worth, dignity and preserve our family's
privacy. It's our job to help empower our children to decide for themselves how
and how much they share with the outside world.
A little about being adopted
Unless we are adoptees ourselves, we don't have a deep
understanding of the questions "Who am I and where do I belong?" and "Who do I
look like and who looks like me?" Those of us raised by the family who bore us
will never confront these questions. We know the answers and they ground us, for
better or worse. Our adopted children will struggle with these questions all
their lives to one degree or another at times more acutely than others.
We can't take on this struggle for them either. We can love
them, support them, guide them, give them room to make their own decisions - and
push us away if need be - but it's theirs to own and manage.
We'll be exploring racism... grief and loss... how to deal with
family, schools, and community... and lots more in the weeks, months and years
ahead. But for now, I'll start here.
DEALING WITH THE PUBLIC
As an adoptive parent, you're going to be asked a lot of
questions. Most are asked from benign curiosity, some may be a little more
aggressive. Here's a list of typical questions and my own take on the answers. I
think this kind of give and take is fine when your children are small. Once your
kids reach the age where these kinds of questions asked about them and their
family make them uncomfortable, go ahead and ask your child if he/she wants to
answer these for themselves. If he/she says no, simply tell the inquirer that
you don't answer personal questions about your children. And that you know
he/she will understand.
Top 14 List of Stupid/Nosy Questions (and possible answers)
1. Do you have any children of your own?
They're all my own. I did, however, give birth to my oldest
2. She's (he's) such a lucky little girl (boy), isn't she
I think we're all lucky to have found each other. Aren't they
3. His (her) father must be Korean/Chinese/Asian
His/her birth parents are Korean/Chinese/Asian. His/her Dad is
that big guy with the grey hair standing over there.
4. What happened to her (his) REAL parents? Can you imagine
anyone giving up such a beautiful little child?
Actually, we are the real parents. But the reasons why children
are placed for adoption are varied and complicated. I can give you the names of
some books to read, if you're interested or you can visit my website.
5. She's (he's) so....... cute!
Thanks. We think so, too.
6. Are they real brothers/sisters?" (asked about
children who each have been
adopted into the same family)
(And if prodded) "Yes, but are they REAL sisters - you know
what I mean?"
Yes, aren't they great?
7. I bet they're smart. I hear "they" have a real gift
I think they are, but then I'm their mother. (smile here) I
don't think, though, that we can make sweeping assumptions about any group, do
8. Aren't you afraid they'll grow up and go back to
their real parents.
We are their real parents, thanks. The rest of your question is
sort of personal. But briefly, no, we're not worried. As adults they are free to
pursue any relationships they choose and with our blessing.
9. Where are they from?
We're from Our Town, This State though my youngest children were
born in Korea.
10. What do you know of their real history/family?
Our agency provided us with the information they had. Perhaps
there will be more to learn later on. I hope so for their sake. For now, we're
just happy to have them in our lives. We are so blessed.
11. Why did you adopt one of "those" children when I hear
there are lots of children here in the US who need families?
Korea was the right decision for our family. Do you have adopted
kids, too? No? Why not? (If they do, you can ask them why they decided to adopt
12. Did you adopt because you wanted to or because you HAD
We decided to adopt after I had many miscarriages. My only
regret is that we didn't decide to adopt sooner. Aren't they great kids?
13. How much did they cost?
My children, like yours, are priceless. However, adoption fees
cover two adoption agencies, government fees, as well as housing, food, and
medical care. If you didn't have medical insurance for a high-risk pregnancy, it
would run about the same. (Or you can ask, "How much do you weigh?")
14. Do they speak English? (asked when you're holding
Only in private. In public, they speak "baby." [smile here]
And so our journey continues... glad to have you with us.