Talking About Adoption with People You’ve Just Met

Last summer, we moved about 80 miles away from our previous town. My son, Jackson, now age nine, has been allowed to play with other children in the apartment complex where we live. He recently made some new friends, and their parents invited us to a gathering at their home. There were two other families there.

The hostess and I had met previously, and she had asked me if my kids were brother and sister. Without analyzing what she meant, I said, “Yes.” It was only after we were walking away that I realized that she meant, “Are they biologically brother and sister?” The answer to that is no. At the gathering, either she or her husband asked how old our kids were when we brought them home. I said they were newborns, which lead the hostess to ask again about their sibling status. I replied that I didn’t fully realize what she was asking when she asked, but no, they’re not biologically related.

Throughout the evening, there were a few other minor adoption-related conversations. One couple asked something that I’m pretty sure no one had asked me before: Did my son get any comments about looking different from his parents? At his old school, where I was on the Memory Book staff, taught an elective, and volunteered as much as I could, he did get asked why his parents were white and he was black. He apparently always said, “Because I’m adopted.” He said he didn’t get teased about it, although one girl (who is black) insisted that my dad (who volunteered in the school garden) could not be his grandpa, because he is white and Jackson is black. That bothered Jackson for many days afterwards.

At his new school, I haven’t been around much because I work full time. I think my husband and I have both been at two school events. I imagine that people see me with Jackson and think “Oh, his dad must be black.” He hasn’t said anything to me at all, and he hasn’t asked me how to say “adopted” in the language he speaks at school (it is a foreign language immersion school). I honestly had to tell this couple that I didn’t know if anyone at school had asked him this question.

I was pleased that there were no awkward, inappropriate, or prying questions, and also that people didn’t try to avoid the subject entirely. I don’t mind answering most questions, especially if there’s a dialogue to be had. I’ve been asked some pretty odd questions in the past, and I’ve had people speak to me about adoption in hushed tones. I’m not a fan of that. My kids are pretty obviously adopted. We’re open about it. We like other people to be open about it too.

How about you? How do you feel when you talk adoption with new people? What are some of the more *ahem* interesting questions you’ve been asked?

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