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.