The Questions People Ask

Question #2

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In a recent post, I wrote about practicing answers to questions that people will ask about an adopted child. I’m always surprised at the questions that people will ask in front of my child. This series of posts is my attempt to give people creating a family through adoption the chance to think about what they’ll say in advance so that they don’t get mad or, like I often want to do, laugh in someone’s face.

“When did you get her?” is the question I’m most often asked about my daughter. Then there’s the next question.

Question #2:  ”Where did she come from?” Or less politely phrased, “What is she?’

She’s a little girl who was born from my heart, not from my tummy, is the answer that makes people roll their eyes. People like a story of international adventure. People try to guess. Guatemalan? No. Ethiopian? No. I was asked by one woman if she is Hawaiian. I wanted to ask if she thought that counted as an international adoption but I just smiled, shook my head no and kept moving.

She’s a Texan. “Oh,” people say trying to decide how to get to the part they want to know. “What is her ethnicity?” I don’t answer the question unless I’m asked it directly.

My daughter is biracial. Looking at her, most people can guess she’s half African-American. Then the guessing begins. She’s with me. I’m white. It’s possible that she’s my biological child. So maybe she’s half white. But her hair is very thick. There’s something about her that says that’s not quite right. She’s half Hispanic, I tell people.

A college-age Hispanic woman asked me, in front of my daughter of course, if she was “mixed.”

“Yes,” I said smiling at my daughter, always wanting her to know that I’m proud of her.

The young woman then said, “With what?”

Trying to keep a straight face, I thought about the question which was basically, “What is my daughter mixed with?” As if she were a recipe that you just put in the ingredients in different amounts. She’s one part African-American and one part HIspanic. I would hate to have to guess what I’m mixed with, maybe two parts English, one part Irish and some other parts from some other European countries.

“She’s half black and half Hispanic,” I said. Knowing that my daughter was too young to understand what made that conversation so odd, I just took her hand and wandered off.

Soon after we brought my daughter home from the hospital, my 8-year-old son had a friend over. The little boy took one look at my daughter and said, “Is she Mexican?”

“Yes,” I said.

This was my first encounter with the “what is she” question but it was a young boy so I didn’t realize it was the first in a long line of unusual questions.

“Does she speak Spanish?” he asked.

“No,” I said. I tried not to laugh. “But if she did, I’d be really impressed. She’s only three weeks old.”

I don’t mind if people are curious, especially if they are considering adoption and are trying to learn more about adoption and transracial families. I do mind when people make my daughter feel different. I mind when they want some kind of genetic breakdown that explains why we don’t look alike. I mind because I don’t know why it matters.

If it’s not the “when” or the “where,” it’s the “who,” as in, “Who are you to be with this child?”