We’ve all been there before. You say the exact wrong thing and you’re stuck trying to backpedal and recover but manage to make it worse? Please tell me you’ve been there and I’m not all alone here. It can be easy for some of us to not think before we speak and just spew whatever thought bubbles are collecting over our heads out onto an unsuspecting bystander. I’m not blaming anyone for not knowing something (especially about adoption). Just, know better do better, you know? 

“Who are their real parents?”

This is complicated, rude, and a little insulting. For this exact moment, I am the real-est parent they have. The word you might be looking for is biological and, hey, at the time, it’s 2024, you should know by now that this isn’t really your business. But maybe they look familiar and you think you know the biological family? I don’t know. Just don’t ask this unless we are close friends and even then . . . maybe don’t. 

The children have working ears. Meaning, hey, they can hear you. Would you like a stranger in Walmart to ask you if your sister was your biological sister or if your brother was a result of your biological mom cheating on your biological dad?

We talk about adoption all the time. It’s a big deal, but it’s not a secret. Still, it’s not something that they want to talk about (or should be forced to talk about) unless there is very a good reason. Your curiosity about my kids parentage is unwanted, invasive, and upsetting. Stop it. 

“Are they special needs?”

Sorry, what? Did you just ask that question? There’s so much to unpack there. But also, none of your dang business. Rude. I don’t know what telling you, a stranger, their medical or psychological profile will do to help any of us. Use your curiosity to be helpful. Did you notice we are wearing hearing protection? Uh-huh. So maybe the noise is too loud and taking them off to hear you isn’t going to help that.

“Oh you’re so brave! I could never do what you’re doing.”

I know you’re trying to be kind and encouraging here. Think about how that sounds to the kid’s ears. I need to be brave to take care of them? Why? Are they dangerous? Do they have fangs I don’t know about? Mutant powers? No? If anyone in this whole dynamic is brave, it’s the kids: the kids who have been through so much stuff they can’t (and shouldn’t have to) talk about it because it hurts too much. 

“Couldn’t you just take them back to CPS or the orphanage?” 

Again, I believe you’re trying to be helpful and supportive, but NO. These are my living, breathing children who need a home. You can’t just surrender a kid because he or she is having a hard time. Re-homing turns into a very sad, messy situation for everyone. Because yes, sometimes a kid is so hurt by their past that they cannot safely live in the home they are in. The process is so much more nuanced than dropping them off at the office and never looking back. 

“How much did she cost?”

She is a person. There is not a monetary value I could assign to fully cover how much she is worth. I wouldn’t want to anyway. Are you interested in adoption or are you just looking to ask nosy questions? If you’re interested in adoption, I’ll for sure sit down and talk your ear off about options and costs. But, my kid is a person who is sensitive, smart, and intuitive. You cannot ask things like that and you especially can’t ask it when kids are around. 

Furthermore, this helps misinformation and the stigma surrounding adoption to stay alive. Adoption can be prohibitively expensive. It’s not small talk fodder and treating it like it is won’t help. 

“Didn’t you want to have your own kids?” 

If you are looking for a shortcut to get on my bad side, this is it. This motley crew is my own kids. In the era of #foundfamily, I cannot wrap my mind around people who still don’t consider adopted children to be family regardless of family biology. Also, FYI that’s a wildly invasive question to ask anyone. It is a potential minefield as well. What if that person can’t have biological kids and wanted to? What if her mom said something similar to her when she announced the adoption? You have no way of knowing these things and if you’re close enough to ask these things, you probably already know the answer without having needed to ask in the first place. 

The bottom line is, for us, family is family. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable hearing those things about your family then perhaps take a step back and examine why that is. For me, I don’t want my kids to feel “othered” or like they are less than what I want. 

The flip side of this is as children get older they may want to know more answers to questions I have to actively seek out the answers to. So, even if they’re my real kids and I’m their real mom, there may come a day when they’d like to know their biological family. That doesn’t make them less mine. It means I get the privilege of sharing my family with other people in the world.