Awkward “Parking Lot” Conversations And How to Handle Them

Sometimes, people ask some pretty crazy and insensitive things. Here's what to do when that happens.

Virginia Spence September 03, 2018

People say the dumbest things. Some folks just don’t think before they speak. If you are an adoptive, foster, or even blended family, you most likely will hear people ask some pretty crazy and insensitive things. These conversations may take place in some awkward places like restaurants, checkout lines, and parking lots—usually in front of your children—and will leave you scratching your head in incredulity. Here are a few awkward conversations that happened in public places to real adoptive families and how they handled them.


”How much did they cost?”
1. ”How much did they cost?”

Let’s clear something up: buying a child is illegal. Children are priceless treasures that, even if it were legal, no amount of money could ever pay what they are worth. That being said, there are fees associated with the legal adoption of a child. An adoption through foster care generally costs $0-$2,000. Typical domestic and international adoptions cost between $20,000-$50,000, with the possibility of additional fees associated with travel, birth mother care, and other miscellaneous expenses that can pop up.

I’ve been asked this question before. It made me scratch my head in amazement as equally ludicrous answers swirled around in my brain. Instead, I chose to answer with something like, “Well, buying kids is illegal, but adoption fees can ridiculously steep. I believe the fees associated with bringing these children into our home were worth every cent.”

“What happened to their real mother? Didn’t she want them anymore? Was she a drug addict?”
2. “What happened to their real mother? Didn’t she want them anymore? Was she a drug addict?”

Oh, that’s not stereotypical. These questions make you groan and roll your eyes as you marvel at the ignorance of the person asking them. Unfortunately, most adoptive families have heard these questions. As if the questions aren’t bad enough, some people ask these things in front of children. They have no idea the circumstances from which the child has come.

It is so easy to answer with a snarky retort like “Was YOUR mother a drug addict?” However, a simple, kind response is probably better. One lady chose to answer these questions with, “I am their real mother. I wanted them very much, and am so grateful that God saw fit to give me the gift of them. There are some parts of their story that we choose not to share outside of our family because it is no one else’s business.” There is so much grace in that answer. It is filled with love, affirmation, and discernment. It gently puts the nosy individual back in his or her place. If it were me, I think I’d be tempted to answer with the snarky retort. Oh, and not all birth parents are drug addicts. Just sayin’.

“Are you these kids’ Granny?”
3. “Are you these kids’ Granny?”

My friend is 48 but looks no older than 40. She and her husband have five biological children—three are grown and two are tweens. Then they adopted two sets of twins who are now 4 and 5. When she is out with the littles, people often think that she is the twins’ grandmother. It is easy to see why a person MIGHT think that she was granny, but in this day and time when it is common for women to not have their first baby until they are 35, and some couples are adopting a “second family” after kids are grown, why should it come as a surprise that a middle-aged woman has preschoolers?

Fortunately, my friend has a great sense of humor and lets the question roll off of her like water off a duck’s back as she proudly announces that she is indeed their MOTHER. My friend handles this situation with a chuckle and a gentle correction, but she shouldn’t need to explain their relationship.

“Why did you adopt? Can’t you have kids of your own?”
4. “Why did you adopt? Can’t you have kids of your own?”

Nosey much? When a person asks these questions, they are truly creating an incredibly awkward situation. People adopt for a variety of personal reasons, and what a couple does regarding fertility is off limits for inquiry. The temptation would be to answer the questions with, “Why did you choose to have a family?” or “So, you want to tell me how this having kids thing is done?” That may make things more awkward, but the person will get your point.

However, you could choose to take the high road and use the rude questions as an opportunity to educate the individual. One grace-filled mama replied, “We chose to adopt because God gave us a great love for kids. Any child that we adopt will be our own child. DNA is not required to make a family.” Perfect answer.

“Where did you get them?”
5. “Where did you get them?”

Seriously? When I’ve been asked this question, I really want to tell them either Walmart or Babies R Us. I’ve even been tempted to ask the individual where their mama got them but have refrained. Transracial adoptive families probably get this eye-rolling question A LOT more than I do. Contrary to popular thought, just because a child has “natural hair” does not mean that child is from Africa. A child who has straight black hair and almond eyes is not necessarily from an Asian country. Just because children are adopted does not mean that they are from another country at all. America, as well as many countries across the world, is a melting pot of ethnicities. Domestic, transracial adoptions are quite common.

One mother who adopted transracially chose to answer this question with a deadpan stare and a simple, “Texas. She’s from Texas.” I have chosen to reply to this inquiry with “They are my gifts from God, and he allowed them to be born in coastal Virginia.” Nothing awkward about that, but people seem genuinely shocked when they learn that my boys are all-American, homegrown babies from towns within an hour of where I live.

“You should beat up the mailman.”
6. “You should beat up the mailman.”

Say what?! This really happened to one family. Some guy saw them with their son at a restaurant and felt the need to stop and tell the husband that he should beat up the mailman. The man was probably trying to be funny, but it backfired into awkward. Imagine the looks of horror and confusion on their faces. It should go without saying that this comment should never have been said, especially in front of the children.

People make snap assumptions based on what they see, and they often speak without thinking. There are many responses that COULD be thrown back at the man, but the mama was very gracious. She firmly told him that her son was adopted and that he should not judge a situation just by what he saw. Pretty solid advice.

In Conclusion...
7. In Conclusion...

There are always going to be people who ask awkward questions in awkward places. Whether you choose the snarky answer or the mild answer, remember this: Not everyone will understand your journey. That’s fine. It isn’t theirs to make sense of. It is yours.

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Virginia Spence

Virginia Spence and her husband Eric are the proud parents of two awesome boys who joined their family via domestic infant adoption. Their journey through infertility and into the world of adoption awoke in her a passion for life at all ages/stages, especially the tiniest lives in the womb and the women who carry them, and a desire to champion the cause of those who choose to adopt. Virginia desires to be a voice for adoption through advocacy and education as well as an encouragement to those suffering through infertility. Virginia loves to read and considers herself a coffee connoisseur. When she isn't writing or drinking giant mugs of coffee, Virginia can be found watching Paw Patrol and racing hot wheel cars with her boys.

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