Ah, nosy adoption questions. I have Rachel Garlinghouse from White Sugar Brown Sugar on the blog today talking about how she handles this.
“Are your kids real siblings?”
“Were their birth parents on drugs?”
“How much did she cost?”
“So you couldn’t have your own kids?”
“How could their real parents give them away?”
I’ve been part of the adoption community for a decade, and though I consider myself experienced and confident, the nosy questions always catch me off-guard. I’m usually in my own world. And when I say my “own world,” I really mean the world ruled by four children which involves things like “fire butt balls,” Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and bribery. So when I glance up from tying my four-year-old’s shoe to see a stranger (all up in my personal space), my eyes grow wide. And then it happens: one of those questions.
Families built by adoption are unashamed. But we aren’t eager to hand out our children’s stories like a grandma hands out chocolate chip cookies. Why? Because those stories are not only private, but sacred.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking: people are naturally curious! Chill out! Political correctness has gone too far!
There is a difference between being curious and being rude. Curious thoughts are just that: thoughts. But the line is crossed when the thought is turned into word, especially when it’s a stranger (someone with zero investment in my children’s well-being) cornering us to get “the scoop” on our family.
Here are five real life responses I’ve delivered after being asked yet another nosy adoption question:
1: One word answer.
Take, for example, “Are your kids real siblings?” My answer is always simple: yes. I mean, how much more real can it get, stranger? As you are interrogating me, do you not notice the sibling wrestling match? The snickering as a result of sibling-only secret joke? It’s pretty darn real! Plus, a one-word answer sends the message that I’m not interested in having a conversation. Please do not interrupt me selecting my buy-six-bottles-of-wine-get-10%-off-Wednesday-sale. Salut!
2: “Yep” or “nope.”
Once, we were at my daughter’s basketball game. We gathered up all our things, preparing to exit our row of seats, when a woman blocked us. She leaned in close (I could see her pores) and said to me, “Are all these your kids?” gesturing at my three children. My oldest two were standing on either side of me holding my hands, and I looked down at them and saw their ears perk up and their eyes widen: they were intently listening. I said “yep” (see point #1), to which she began firing a series of questions revolving around their different skin tones and how they could be really related to one another. I finally said to her, when she finally took a breath, “That’s none of your business.” Mic drop. Peace out. Buh-bye.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, dead silence is worth a million. There are people out there who just cannot take a hint. And honestly, with four kids, I’m out of patience most of the time for any shenanigans, especially when it comes from grown ass people. I mean honestly, I obviously have my hands REALLY full. (The old ladies at the grocery store remind me of this weekly.) So unless you plan to hand me a frozen margarita and give me a standing ovation for surviving motherhood another day, don’t stop me in the bathroom line to ask about the state of my uterus or what country my kids are from. (Which by the way, is the United States. You know, America? Not all Black kids were adopted from Africa.)
4: “What do you mean?”
My mom taught me, just because you think something, doesn’t mean you should say it. But for those whose mamas didn’t teach them this lesson, I sometimes extend a wee-bit-o grace. I give them a second chance to reel themselves in. Stranger: asks nosy question. Me: “What do you mean?” Stranger: either realizes question was really, really terrible and changes subject, or rephrases question (usually only making themselves look more ridiculous), or repeats question verbatim (because not all the lights are working on that Christmas tree). But either way, it puts the spotlight back on them. And if the questions continue, I can always resort to 1, 2, 3, or 5.
5: “Sounds like you’re interested in adoption. Here’s a website.”
If I’m at the store with only one or two of my children and have Starbucks in my hand, I’m going to be nicer than if I’m there with all four kids and no caffeine. So if a nosy stranger hits me up with pettiness when I’m trying to select tampons while trying to stop said children from ripping boxes open and throwing tampons like confetti, I will simply assume that the stranger is interested in adopting. I hand her (because it’s never a guy) a card from my wallet stating a website addy for an adoption agency or organization. I’m not Google, stranger. Do your own research.
I’m a nice lady. I really am. And I’m passionate about adoption, thus why I blog about it. But I’m head-over-heels for my babies, and I love their birth families, too. Thus, I’m going to choose, every time, my children over a stranger’s desire to “get” our family. In essence, their adoption stories aren’t some kind of goody bag handed over at the end of a cool party.
Rachel Garlinghouse is a mom of four, writer, and top-knot fan who may or may not spend too much money on chocolate covered espresso beans. Follow her family's adventure on her blog, White Sugar, Brown Sugar and on Facebook and Twitter.