In the past couple of months, there seems to have been a deluge of blog posts and articles about stupid remarks about adoption. I think I read three different posts all titled “What Not to Say to Adoptive Parents.” You know the ones.
“How much did she cost?”
“Can’t you have any of your own?”
“I want to adopt after I have my own kids.”
“What if his real mom comes to take him back?”
“Wow! Her skin’s so dark. Where did that come from?”
In the comments, people post their sometimes sincere, but often snarky, replies:
“How many times did you have sex before you conceived?”
“My kids are my own.”
“I told you – my kids are my own.”
<Pokes person> “Gee, I feel pretty real, don’t I?”
“We bought her the Barbie tanning bed for Christmas.”
Unless you have an enormous chip on your shoulder—or you just like to verbally abuse people—there are really only three acceptable responses to stupid things people say about adoption.
Before I get to those three things, let me explain my reasoning here. I submit that, when people say stupid things about adoption, they don’t mean to be stupid.
Before you adopted, how did you refer to your friend’s stepdad versus biological dad? I bet you used the term “real dad,” no?
And if you went through infertility treatments, you may have often said how you wished you had children of your “own.”
Before adoption, you may have even bought into those Lifetime movies where “the real mom came back.”
But then you adopted, and you learned things. You know things now, many wonderful things, and other people do not yet know them. How would pre-adoption you like to have been treated by post-adoption other people? Yeah, it all boils down to the Golden Rule.
You could be snarky. Some people deserve snarky. But you could also handle these comments with grace and set a good example for your children.
The three acceptable responses to stupid things people say about adoption are:
1. “Why do you ask?”
Grocery Cashier: “How much did she cost?”
Adoptive Parent: “Why do you ask?”
Grocery Cashier: “Oh, um, I was just curious. Sorry.” Or maybe, “My wife and I are thinking of adopting.”
“Why do you ask?” puts the pressure on the questioner to defend his or her question. If there’s a valid reason, he can explain himself. If there’s not, he will most likely realize that the question is inappropriate.
2. “We don’t share that information.”
Other Mom at School: “Why did she go into foster care? Was her real mom a drug addict?”
Adoptive Parent: “We don’t share that information.”
Other Mom at School: “Oh. Sorry.”
Really, if you say you don’t share that information, the other person doesn’t have anywhere to go. Some people—your nosy aunt, for example—may push for details anyway, but you can continue to say “I’m sorry, we don’t share that information.” If the other person really pushes, then you can come up with a snarky remark or counter-question that is equally inappropriate as the one being asked. However, I’ve found, “we don’t share that information” to be a pretty good deterrent.
3. “My children are my own.”
Waitress: “Oh, I’d love to adopt after I have kids of my own.”
Me (smiling politely): “Yeah? My son is my own.”
Waitress (embarrassed): “Can I get you something to drink?”
(Yes, that actually happened to me in a restaurant in Pennsylvania. Stating the obvious—my kids are my own kids—is neither snarky nor mean-spirited. I think it’s important to reinforce that idea, especially if kids are older and can understand what “my own” really means.
Society does put adoption in second place. As adoptive parents, we have to make sure our kids know that’s not true. And, if we’re able to educate a few waitresses, cashiers, and other parents, so much the better.
I’m sorry if you clicked over here thinking that you’d get a list of snappy, zingy retorts. Yeah, I could write that post. But what message does that send to our kids, really? Don’t ask any questions about adoption, ever. How are other people supposed to learn if we don’t at least let them know where the acceptable boundaries are?