Give them grace

We’ve been pretty fortunate in avoiding the awkward public questions about adoption. We certainly get some odd stares here and there, along with lots of smiles. But we don’t get offensive questions. We get questions, sure. And there have been a couple times when I wanted to make a sarcastic comment, but of course I keep that to myself. Mostly, people are just curious and I am ok with that. Although interracial adoption is becoming more the norm, I know we still stick out, so some questions are to be expected. But truly for the most part, we go on about our business in public like any other more inconspicuous family.

I have often wondered what I would say in response to a stranger’s unwanted comment or misplaced question. What I have honestly never thought about is how I would respond to one of my child’s interesting questions. Here is how one incident unfolded:

Angel (age 7): Mom, where is Sunshine’s real mom?
Me: What do you mean? I am her real mom!
Angel: No mom, I mean her real mom.
Me: I AM her real mom! (getting frustrated at this point)
Angel: No, but I mean her real mom. You know, the one in China.
Hubby: (seeing the tension rising and me starting to lose my cool) Angel, I think what you’re trying to ask is ‘where is Sunshine’s first mom?’ … right?
Angel: Yeah, where is she?
Hubby: Well, we’re not really sure where she is. We don’t know anything about her. But sweetie, Mommy is Sunshine’s real mom. She always will be.
Angel: Oh, ok.
Me: (calming down and finally seeing this is is a great learning experience) That’s right baby, Sunshine grew in her first mama’s belly and now she’s here with us. Her first mom is her real mom, and I am her real mom. We are both her real moms!

And just like that, the conversation was over. I clearly didn’t win Mom of the Year Award with my initial reaction, did I? As under control as I thought I’d have things with strangers, I hadn’t prepared myself for questions from my kids. I almost missed a perfectly good teachable moment because of frustration and frankly, annoyance, because it felt like she thought I wasn’t Sunshine’s “real mom.” Fortunately hubby was there to pick up the pieces before things really fell apart, but man, I totally failed that one! I didn’t extend her any grace. I got frustrated with her because in my mind, of all people, members of our own family should understand the proper adoption lingo. Right? Right? … Crickets …

Yeah, I didn’t think so. This really got me thinking about a couple things.

First, we missed the boat in explaining the different roles of “first mom” and “second mom” … to our own kids! We’ve had a bazillion conversations about China, birth parents, foster parents, etc. but we didn’t lay enough groundwork for it to all sink in. And then when given an awesome teachable moment, I got frustrated and almost missed it.

Second, if my own children don’t understand the correct adoption lingo, I certainly can’t expect strangers to either. It needs to be taught. This is where the “give them grace” thing comes into play. When being asked, “Oh, is she your real daughter,” or “Are they real sisters?” … it would be so easy for me to lose my cool and snap back with a sarcastic comment like, “Well are they your real kids?” I can clearly see that in myself now after my frustrated reaction to Angel. Instead, I’m hopeful that I can take a deep breath, focus, extend them a little grace, and use it as a teachable moment for them too.



Comments

  1. i reacted the same way when my then DD 5 years old asked me the same question. She said I was her “fake mom”. yeah, that’s the vocabulary of a 5 year old LOL! She is almost 7 now and still doesn’t know the real meaning of the word adoption, not that I expect her to know all at once. adoption is such a big word! therefore, I too missed the boat on that teachable moment but she received grace immensely for asking the big question at such an early age!

  2. I SOOO agree with you here. I hear a lot of comments from other AP’s about them snapping at “outsiders” for using wrong terminology, asking “stupid” questions… etc. And I agree that we need to show more grace… I mean if we hadn’t walked this path we wouldn’t have a clue either… and for the most part, these people that comment or ask questions are just trying to be kind.

    Well done in recovering for your teachable moment.
    Jill

  3. So well said, Nicole! Like you, I find myself sometimes feeling like I’ve been punched in the stomach by a well intended but unkind remark regarding my kids. But I try so hard to give grace… we are the representatives of adoption, whether we like it or not, to the rest of the world. So when I get an opportunity to speak to someone about adoption, I want it to be a positive exchange, regardless or political correctness on their part :)
    Thanks for sharing such a real-life mommy moment!

    • Thanks Stefanie! Although I know I’m not alone, it’s nice to hear it :-) And that’s exactly how I feel – that if given the opportunity, I need to be graceful in my response so that I can share how wonderful adoption is.

  4. Morning Nicole et al – don’t rip yourslef too hard – we all have an “epic fail” from time to time! It’s always easier to be gentle with strangers than it is with family – we don’t have any “expectations” with strangers – we DO with family – and when family fails to meet those expections … well things just aren’t pretty!

    But we recover – and we revise our expectations – and we grow … and then maybe we get a glimpse into our Father’s master plan – maybe moments like that are why He required two people to produce one – cause He knew there would be moments when “one” missed the ball but the other would be there to back up the play.

    And I love it when He’s.smart.like.that!

    And one day I’ll share some of the questions I’ve heard over the years – there have been some dilly’s!! ;)

    hugs – aus and co.

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