When I was growing up, I went to Ireland every year for Christmas to visit my grandparents and extended family members. Although I would speak with all of them on the phone semi-frequently, I would always get the same set of questions when I saw them all in person: “Anything new? How old are you now? What grade are you in? What subject is your favorite? How are your friends?” This list did not change much – when I got into high school, the added questions of “Any boys in your life?” and “Are you thinking about college?” started popping up as well. I am sure many people can relate – this list of questions is likely not exclusive to just me as they represent typical questions older people tend to ask children and teenagers, and I am sure almost all of us have had our fair share of answering them. In the adoption realm, adoptees have the same set of basic questions we get asked when we tell people about our adoptions.

The conversation usually goes something like: “You were adopted? Why? Do you know your birth parents? Would you ever want to meet them? Do you have any siblings? Are you and your sister biologically related?” 

This seems to make sense. This is what people tend to be curious about when I tell them about my origins. These questions do not bother me at all, I just find it funny because it is like clockwork that these questions will be asked. It is the same spiel every time, and I prepare for this conversation in the same way I would prepare my rehearsed answers to the typical questions my family members would ask me at Christmas. For adoptees like me who are pretty comfortable about their adoptions and do not mind speaking about it, please feel free to ask questions. I am happy to answer them, and I always get especially excited if a prospective adoptive parent asks me about my experiences as an adopted child. [Disclaimer: Even though I am pretty much an open book, I have written previously about comments, questions, reactions, and the like that make me slightly uncomfortable as an adoptee (find the article here).] However, aside from these typical questions, here is a list of questions I wish people would ask more when they are asking me about adoption. 

How Are You Doing?

This question seems so simple, but it often gets overlooked. When people hear that I was adopted, they want to know what happened. The questions asked of me often fast-track straight to “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” and “Why.” Sometimes, it is hard to separate myself from my adoption. As a child and into my teenage years, I struggled a lot to find worth after being “thrown away” or “rejected” by my birth family. I still find myself grappling with my identity as a Chinese girl in a predominantly white community. I fight a deep-seated fear of abandonment every time I decide to be vulnerable with someone. At the same time, I feel so lucky to be where I am and who I am. Being adopted strongly molded me into the person I am today and gave me a level of compassion and empathy that I do not know I would have otherwise. I would not know any of my favorite people if I had not been adopted. As you can see, it is complicated for me. I have a lot of feelings towards my adoption. 

I understand people’s desire to know the (honestly pretty boring) story of my adoption. As humans, we are slightly nosy and wired to love a good story. However, I have realized out of the numerous times I have recounted my adoption tale to others, very very few people have ever asked how I am doing now. Do not get me wrong, if someone asked me that question, I may not even answer it. But for me, being asked such a general question like this one reminds me of the bigger picture. Sometimes when I have periods in my life where a lot of people are asking me about being adopted (it happens sometimes), I get inside my head. Asking a general question like “How are you doing?,” is just something outside of the five questions I tend to get asked about what happened, it is enough to pull me out of the roteness of the exchange and make me realize people care about me as a person and not just as an adoptee. 

Why Are Some People So Anti-Adoption?

I have read a lot of posts, comments, articles, feeds, etc. written by adoptees or parents who adopted that absolutely bash adoption. Like everything else in life, there are undoubtedly adoptions that did not go as mine did. I have heard horror stories from adoptees about the terrible families they were connected with. On the other hand, I have heard horror stories from parents about the terrible child they were connected with. I think it is important to note I have heard equally terrible stories from biological children and biological parents regarding their strong dislike for some or all of their family members. 

Most people I have heard of that are anti-adoption either had a bad experience as either (1) an adoptee, (2) a parent who adopted, or (3) a friend of an adoptee or parent who adopted. I am by no means invalidating their feelings because I do know about adoptions that have not gone very well. As an adoptee, I know about the complex feelings it brings about and I am sure having a non-supportive, unloving family would just make matters worse. What I will say, though, is for every negative experience, there is probably one just as positive, too. Like most things in life, the people who had negative experiences will likely be the most vocal about the issue. (Think of Yelp reviews – people who had bad experiences are more likely to write a review over people who had a positive experience.) In the same way, people who had terrible experiences with adoption are likely more vocal than people who had positive experiences with it. While I would take these negative experiences into account, especially if they pertain to a specific adoption agency or attorney, I would not discount the entire adoption process because a few vocal people had negative experiences. Many adoptees like me grew up very well-adjusted and live “normal” lives with bright futures. 

I Am Thinking About Adopting. Do You Have Any Thoughts?

This is my favorite question to answer because I think adoption is an amazing gift and I also think it is really introspective and good parenting to gather data by asking people like me about their experiences and what worked for them. I try not to sugarcoat when I write, people who were adopted sometimes struggle with identity issues, self-esteem, and the like. I still struggle with rejection and abandonment issues that I am slowly working through. Being adopted is not all rainbows and sunshine. However, it is probably one of the best things that ever happened to me at the same time. So, as an adoptee, I usually give adoption two thumbs up!

My advice to any prospective adoptive parent is to continue doing this: researching and gathering information. I often relied on articles about the psychological impact of adoption on children to validate my own feelings growing up. I would recommend reading a few of these as they may better clue you in on what feelings your child will likely experience at some point during their adolescence and you will be better prepared for it. Internet resources are probably the most helpful thing for you at this preliminary stage of discerning whether adoption is right for you and your family. 

Adoption is an interesting topic, and most adoptees do not tend to have a problem talking about it and answering questions. However, some of my favorite, most memorable conversations have been when the other person has asked me a question about adoption that is a little more introspective than “Why were you adopted” or “Where are you from?” Not speaking for all adoptees, but questions like this are the ones I wish I would get asked more often!