It is an age-old problem: How do I respond to a rude comment? Add a new spin to it and ask: How do I respond to a rude comment about my adopted child? The thing about responding to rude comments about an adopted child is that it is quite likely that the rude question was asked in the presence or hearing of the child, and they are now listening to how their mom or dad responds. People are going to ask rude questions. Most of the time they do not intend to be rude, but it often comes out that way nevertheless. Some people just do not think before they speak, and, sadly, some people just do not care what they say. Adoption naturally sparks curiosity. To the majority of the world, there is still something unnatural about a person taking in a child that is not “flesh of their flesh” and raising him or her as their own. Various forms of adoption have been practiced for centuries, and while adoption is gaining momentum and awareness across America and the world, people just do not seem to understand that the love you have for that child is exactly the same as they have for their biologically raised child. Most people think before they speak. So when people are curious, they ask questions, and the questions often come out as rude because they are not sure about the semantics.
It basically boils down responding one of two ways. How we WANT to respond, and how we SHOULD respond are often two very different things. Something happens inside of us when someone makes a rude comment about our children that makes us turn into something like a mama bear and tear the other person apart in defense of her child. It is often so very hard to reconcile how we should respond with how we do respond, especially when it comes to our children. I have lost track of the number of rude questions I have been asked over the years. Prior to adopting my boys, I was asked about when we were having kids, what we were doing to increase pregnancy chances, and even given a book of suggested “positions” to help pregnancy occur. It was insane and quite mortifying. I figured that once we adopted our kids that the rude questions would cease. Unfortunately, adoptive families are subjected to some of the wildest questions. Here are a few questions that many of us have heard and some responses that were given to the nosy inquirer.
1.) Where did you get him from?
I have a friend who adopted transracially, and it is very obvious that he is adopted because their skin colors are different. “Where did you get him from?” Really? “Yeah, I found him wandering around the bakery aisle and thought he looked nice, so I brought him home” would have been my snarky response. To my knowledge, she calmly and politely responded that she had gotten him from God. THAT is the perfect answer because all kids are gifts from God above. This forum suggests that another way to respond when they ask, “Where is she from?” is to turn to the child and ask them if they would like to share where they are from. Then, the child can choose to answer them, or not, giving the power back to the child.
2.) Are you their grandmother? Are those all your children? Do you know how that happens?
Another friend is an older mom who has 12 children. The five older children are her biological children. Of the seven younger children, four are adopted through the United States foster care system, and three are adopted internationally. She has blessed and very full hands. Many times, especially when she is out with her 24-year-old daughter, she is asked if she is the children’s grandmother. However, she chuckles and proudly states that she is indeed their mother. I have also heard of people rudely asking, “That’s a lot of kids. Are they all yours? Do you know how that happens?” So many possible answers, but the kindest is, “Yeah, adoption. That is how it happens.”
3.) Are you his real mother? Where is her real mom?
It takes more than a uterus to be a mother. Whether you give birth or adopt, you are still mom, and you are real, very real. Adoptive mothers hear this a lot more than we would like to admit. It can be really hurtful. I love how the author on this blog sweetly answers this question. “A real mom is the one who is there for their child day to day, when they are sick, tackling their homework or sharing a family meal. Real moms are there for the first day of school, the first boyfriend/girlfriend and the ups and downs of life.
“Urban dictionary has a fun definition of what a mom is, ‘The woman who loves you unconditionally, the one who puts her kids before herself and the one who you can always count on above everyone else.’ …The act of pushing out a baby does not make someone a mother. A mother is the one who has earned that title by being there every day. …A mother is both a noun and a verb. Her birth mother is the noun. I, the adoptive mother, am the verb. Both are real.” This article suggests that you “give helpful, polite answers… You might be the only teacher they have, and most people are observant enough to catch your re-wording. Correct their adoption terminology, giving more accurate titles to the various people in the adoption story. For example: make a point to call the person who gave birth to your child their ‘birth mother’ instead of ‘real mother.'”
4.) How much did he cost?
This is one of the most insensitive questions that a person could ask. Putting a price tag on a child is not only illegal but also illogical. You can choose the high road and remind them that children are priceless gifts, but adoption’s legal fees cost a lot. One blog suggested the blunt answer of, “I’m sorry about the look on my face but I am honestly shocked that you would speak about my daughter as though she were [sic] a piece of furniture!” or the honest answer of, “There is no price tag on human beings. If you are asking how much her adoption cost because adoption is something you are considering, I would be happy to give you the phone number of our adoption agency.” Or the cheesy answer of, “Like all of my children, she is priceless!” However, I love the article that suggested a snarky response of, “Three easy payments of $19.95 plus shipping and handling.”
5.) Why didn’t you adopt from our country instead of overseas? There are children without parents in our nation!
I have to admit that people questioned our method of adopting, even though we adopted through the domestic infant program. One lady even prayed that we would raise enough money or find a cheaper adoption because she was very pro foster adoption. It can be maddening! We knew what God had called us to do, and we never wavered. God will provide whatever is needed on the route he has called you to go. One possible answer to these questions could be, “I’m aware there are children locally without homes, and it was a difficult decision, but this seemed the right decision for our family.”
6.) “Why didn’t you adopt someone of your own race?”
Ugh. This question often comes out more like, “Why did you not adopt someone who looks more like you,” or, worse, “Why didn’t you adopt white babies?” I have even heard people have the audacity to say, “Why did you want to adopt a black baby?” These questions, no matter how they are asked, are so incredibly racist. I can only imagine the thoughts rolling through the minds of the parents who adopted transracially. Some possible answers to this incredibly rude question are: “You mean kids come in designer colors now? Who knew?” or “We didn’t put in a take-out order, we adopted children.” Or “I took one look at her picture and fell in love.” Sometimes a blank stare and silence is more powerful and saves you from saying something just as stupid as their question. It also allows them time to contemplate the foolishness of their question.
7.) Does it bother you that the adopted child won’t be your own?
I have heard this one in this form and also as, “Why couldn’t you have children of your own?” Seriously, some people have no respect for boundaries and social etiquette. Adoption and giving birth to a biological child are different ways of creating a family. Why we did not have biological children, and why we chose to adopt are personal questions and are not fodder for some busybody’s gossip mill. This author answered, “People choose adoption for a variety of reasons. These reasons may include infertility, secondary infertility, feeling called to adopt, or wanting to provide a home for one of the more than 147 million orphans in the world.” One kinder response to this invasion of privacy is to proudly state that the child IS your own. I have reminded people that I am the one who spent the nights walking the floors with a colicky baby. I am the one who sat in a hospital with a sick baby. I held him when he was sick, kissed his booboos, and cheered him on at soccer games. He is every bit my OWN child, and I would never change the way God brought our family together.
8.) Does she know she’s adopted?
Possible humorous answers are, “Well, she does NOW. Thanks.” or “Shhhhh, keep it down, I don’t want my husband to find out she’s not his!” or “Well, if she didn’t all she’d need is a mirror.” This one is truly funny to me, but not to everyone. I firmly believe in letting children know they are adopted. In our home, it is no secret. It is something of which we are proud. My children are not weird because they are adopted. They are just like every other child who has a family. When asked this, I respond, “Of course!”
9.) Were they orphaned?
A possible response could be a reminder that children are placed for adoption for a variety of reasons, but not all children are orphaned. Poverty, war, famine, first family’s inability to care for them, and yes, death of or abandonment by one or both parents, are some of the many factors that place a child for adoption. Adoption was created from a hard place, but, no matter how a child comes into an adoptive situation, it is not the business of any but the child and their family.
10.) Which ones are adopted?
This is awkward, especially if it is asked in front of the child. Does the person asking the question actually want you to sort your children by which ones are “mine” and “not mine”? Seriously, people should just think before they speak! Sometimes adoptive children have had a hard time believing they belong anywhere, especially if they have been in many foster homes or an orphanage for a long time. I love the response, “If you can’t tell, then neither can I.”
People ARE going to ask you rude questions. It is inevitable. This website admonishes us to not “let the fear of the crazy questions ruin [our] moment to shine! Instead of meeting the curiosity of others with frustration, we can choose to meet that curiosity with grace and tact…Think of it this way: as adoptive families, we are showcasing one of our passions, our children, in a most public way. We get to decide what adoption looks like to those around us. It is a mixed blessing, but one [that] we need to consider when we choose how to answer the crazy questions.” The best way to prepare for the questions is to carefully consider how you can respond because the questions will usually come at an awkward moment and most likely in the hearing of your children. Remember that it is not your job to appease the curiosity of rude people. Your job is to raise your children in the best way that you know how and to teach “them to be thoughtful and considerate of others as they get older and grapple with topics and people that peak their curious questions.”
Virginia Spence and her husband Eric are parents to two awesome little boys who joined their family via domestic infant adoption. When she is not playing referee or engaged in tickle wars, Virginia can be found cleaning, reading, or drinking giant mugs of coffee. Virginia is passionate about advocating for life at all ages/stages and educating about adoption.