When we adopted our first child, those around us who knew little about adoption had so many questions! With it being our first adoption, we were learning as well and had plenty of questions ourselves. We welcomed these questions with open arms. The strange questions, the awkward questions, even sometimes the rude questions. It wasn’t until we adopted our second child that we realized the questions would never stop. Sometimes the questions were over the top. Many times, the questions didn’t really seem like questions, but rather judgments in question form.
The more the questions came, the more the judgments and ignorance permeated, the easier it was to become disengaged and sarcastic. I usually either ignored the question or answered it as quickly as possible, though my thoughts were immediately sarcastic and resentful. I even wrote about this experience previously, creating memes for Hilarious Snapbacks to Rude Adoption Questions.
While these are funny, and it’s good to vent now and again, I felt I had become bitter in general. In the beginning, I understood that while there was some judgement, some people truly just did not understand adoption and were ignorant about that world. It’s not an adoptive parent’s “job” to educate others, but I did feel some sense of responsibility—not only because I’m an adoption author and advocate, but also because if we never answer the questions that are posed, the asker will never learn the correct information.
Life has been cluttered with experiences with awkward, rude, and snobby questions about our adoption and adoption in general. Through these experiences, I have learned that there is a right way and a wrong way to respond. One way, I respond with grace and patience, trying to understand where the question is coming from and trying to answer in an informative way. The other way is to be sarcastic or angry, which may be funny or even feel good to make people feel stupid in my frustration, but is the wrong way to respond. Here are four way you should NOT respond to snobby adoption questions:
Probably the most ridiculous question I have been asked in regards to my daughter is, “Where did you get her?” The person asking doesn’t actually think I purchased my daughter from a store, but that is how it sounds. What they are really often asking is, “Where was she born?” or “How did you come to adopt her?” It is tempting when people ask seemingly “dumb” questions to give a sarcastic answer, but it only causes resentment and frustration. I would answer this question with a question to correct them without making them feel that I am calling them stupid, but rather that I understand what they meant. “Oh, Do you mean ‘Where was she born’?”
Sometimes people will ask questions just to be rude. It’s a fact of life, unfortunately, that there are simply people who are hurting who feel the need to hurt others. I have five children. My eldest is my blonde-haired, steel blue-eyed stepson with skin so white we joke he’s almost transparent. I have two younger boys ages 7 and 4 who just look like younger versions of their eldest brother with a little bit of a beige-r complexion and darker hair. We adopted both my daughter and youngest son who are both biracial. When my husband goes out in public with them, people seem to immediately understand that the youngest two are adopted and my husband gets adoring looks. When I am with my children in public, with my tan Spanish skin and raven black hair, people are generally confused. Many whisper or say nothing so as to remain well-mannered. A few times, we have gotten the question, “How did that happen?” followed by smug look. I used to become incredibly offended and roll my eyes. How can people be so rude and judgmental when they have no idea? Furthermore, what business is it of theirs? They have no idea. So I learned to give them the right idea rather than to let them sit in their smug happiness that they had made me uncomfortable. I always reply, without disgust, “We have a beautiful blended family! Adoption, marriage, birth, the works!” Have you ever seen a dog cower in a corner after being caught in the trash again? That is how these people look in this moment. The chance to get someone to think next time before they judge is so worth setting my pride aside to educate instead of act disgusted.
I was out to dinner with my daughter earlier this month when a little girl began to ask her mom questions about us. I am white and my daughter is biracial. The inquisitive little girl asked her mom why my daughter was black and I was white. Her mom began to go through all the different scenarios that would result in myself having a biracial child.
In this moment, I could have been amazed at the nerve of this women to play this guessing game right in front of us. I could have gotten angry that they were discussing my child. However, I have been in this situation many times, and many times, the mothers do not answer their daughters but rather “hush” them as if it was a shameful question. In this case, though I could have reacted in disbelief, I offered a lifeline to the mom, who was fumbling for the answer. “She’s adopted.” I exclaimed with a smile. My daughter waved hi and a sense of relief washed over the mother. Her daughter then asked her what adoption was, and they began a long conversation about adoption. Had I acted in disbelief or anger, it would have shut down an education moment for a young girl to be introduced to the beauty of adoption.
When others know or find out you have adopted a child, it is as if you open a door to welcome every question one might think of. Don’t get me wrong. I adore talking about adoption and helping others understand the beauty of the journey. However, sometimes the same questions over and over can be a bit exhausting. It is easy to dismiss others or shut down when questions are asked. As an adoption advocate, I never want to shut down the adoption conversation and the opportunity to educate others. If more of the world understood the need for adoption and how amazing the adoption journey can be not only for a child, but for themselves, it would change the world. When you have the opportunity to react to snobby adoption questions with grace and compassion, it can transform minds, hearts, and possibly the life a child in need of a forever family.