Many people comment on my two children, who are virtual twins. “You must have gotten pregnant after you adopted, right? It always works that way. People can’t get pregnant, they resort to adopting, then after they adopt they finally get pregnant.”
We were stuck in the checkout line when our peek-a-boos with our babies-turning-toddlers were interrupted. They are nearly five months apart but the same size; their skin tones and hair textures reveal they are not twins. I was, once again, pulled out of the sweet family moments to address another assumed-comment about our family.
I smiled genuinely, because I believe in grace and I believe soft answers turn away wrath. “Oh, actually we adopted while I was pregnant. I was twenty weeks pregnant when we found out about our son. Also, adoption doesn’t work that way — adoption doesn’t magically make anyone get pregnant. Adoption isn’t a medical process, it’s a way to grow a family, a way we chose.” I nodded with the smile still on my face, attempting to politely conclude our conversation, and turned back to play with my boys who were antsy to get out of the cart.
“But it happens to everyone who adopts — they get pregnant after they adopt and finally get what they wanted,” she pressed.
I felt the heat in my face begin to burn, my heart race, my gracious patience thinning. I stared into my son’s eyes and prayed for the day he would be old enough to understand these conversations. Turning back towards her, I attempted to end the conversation with some necessary educating, “Again, you are saying that adoption somehow impregnates people and also your words are saying that my child via adoption is less wanted and less valuable and less mine than my biological child, which is absolutely not the case.” My smile vanished, I was firm and frustrated, but felt clear and calm. My husband felt the tension as he pulled out his Costco card, smiled at the checker, mumbled something about how we are always having these conversations.
The checker finally began scanning our items. And she kept going, she kept pushing that biological children are always the goal, she wouldn’t stop. I got out of there as soon as possible, heart beating out of my chest, but working hard to rearrange my facial features to match a cool, calm, and collected brain.
This wasn’t the only time our family grocery-shopping event was turned into a conversation about the validity or value of our family. This wasn’t the only time real live humans were telling us with their shock and clueless comments and staring that being adopted is far from perfectly-acceptable, that transracial families are something to gawk at and interrogate, and that adoption is somehow less than.
Clear-education isn’t always necessary, but sometimes it is. Sometimes I smile and walk away, keeping my focus on my children who are screaming at me; other times I take the time to help others see what their words are saying in a different light, invite them into a new space of thinking, with grace and patience knowing that we don’t know what we don’t know until we truly know.
Sometimes people are gracious and accept a new way of thinking, humble enough to hear how their words may be hurtful to my children (and any other adoptee/birth parent/adoptive family). But sometimes people are less than humble, determined to make their round about point that adoption is less-than, biological children are some sort of prize, unwilling to listen to the heart behind our patient words. Defensiveness has never helped anyone love better.
If you see a family like mine out and about, a family with different skin tones or hair textures or even languages, know that you smiling and nodding is enough for us.
Costco is a few things for me. Every time I load up our babies-turning-toddlers into the car and make our way to Costco without my husband, I feel like some sort of conquerer. Which is silly, because we only have two kids. But sometimes toddlers feel like multiple kids in one. I love Costco trips — I love giving my boys the samples, I love buying giant boxes of lucky charms, I love strolling through the aisles pretending to one day buy one of those giant playground sets for sale for thousands of dollars. But Costco (and any new public outing) is also a place of constant-commenting, unending questions, people asking me if I am the nanny or if my boys are cousins, am I sure they’re brothers? (this question made me laugh).
It’s not that I’m walking around constantly hurt or offended by these things; I don’t really have the energy for that. I’m simply tired of answering questions when I want to be making memories with my boys. I’m simply tired of wishing adoption was normalized in the sense that my child who was adopted won’t grow up hearing these questions and comments constantly, perpetuating adoptee’s valid fears that they don’t belong.
If you see a family like mine out and about, a family with different skin tones or hair textures or even languages, know that you smiling and nodding is enough for us. There is no need to ask an unending amount of questions; before you unleash the slew of questions about my children’s stories and their biological families, ask yourself why you want to know. Are you legitimately interested in adoption, or are you just curious and the information really won’t do much for you?
Smiling and nodding says so many things, and I will smile and nod back because I truly love our little family. I truly am thankful for the way each of our stories were knit into the other’s. It’s remarkable.
If you must, a simple, “Your family is beautiful” is always a cherished gift.