When my husband and I adopted, we knew we were entering an unfamiliar world. Even knowing that so much would be unknown, we wholeheartedly chose to enter this journey to become parents. And this world of adoption was full of endless paperwork, interviews, examinations into every aspect of our life, relationship, finances, health, and more. So, with the plethora of interviews and examinations, we began to expect personal questions from social workers, attorneys, and judges, because there is always more than one judge. However, one thing we never expected were personal, intrusive, and at times ignorant, questions about adoption from friends and random strangers.
My son is now eight, and I have gotten questions about adoption that have left me wondering why someone would think it was ever okay or thought they had the right to ask in the first place. I am sure that 99% were not trying to be mean or hurtful but were genuinely curious about the adoption process. However, by asking or saying certain things, that curiosity just did not come out correctly.
Curiosity is good. Curiosity helps us learn and grow; however, even with curiosity, everyone needs to be respectful and think what they ask or say. Most of the time, these questions about adoption were asked in the presence of my son, and I do not think most people thought he would hear them or understand them, but he did, and he does—every single time. So, I write this for parents and our kids who need not hear anything that brings into question their place in our families.
How much did he cost?
Have you ever asked anyone how much their doctor and hospital co-pays were when they gave birth? No, you have not, so why would it ever be okay to ask a parent how much the adoption journey cost? Yes, we have expenses, a lot of expenses, but none guarantee we will end the process as parents, and none are made as a payment for our child. They cover fees, court costs, attorney fees, social worker fees, and many other fees, but never the cost of a child.
When you ask this question about adoption, you are removing a family’s validity. There is no way to phrase this that is not shocking or harmful, so it is best to avoid this topic totally.
Now you can have children of your own, right?
This is usually asked because someone’s cousin’s husband’s mother’s aunt’s co-worker adopted and got pregnant, and those stories are great, but they are not the norm. The truth that needs to be heard is, my son is my son. Whether he came through childbirth or adoption, he is my son, completely and totally. He is loved as my child, and there are no conditions or clarifications to that love. What makes a mom or dad is love, not biology, and what makes him mine is the fact that he is just that, my son.
Did you mean to pick a child who doesn’t look like you?
My son is of a different race than my husband and I, but this question is not okay even if he was of the same race. Maybe you are curious as to how we were matched with our child, and that is a legitimate curiosity and one I, and probably most parents, would be happy to share. Our journey of how our child came to be ours is a beautiful one but asking if we care if they look like us is not the way to go about it. It is offensive. Imagine how you would feel if someone asked you if you were upset your child had red hair instead of your black hair? If you want to know how we were matched, ask how were you matched with your child, nothing more.
Will you raise him according to your race or his?
While we are on the subject of what questions about adoption could be offensive, this is one. I was asked this by a lady when she realized my 2-year-old son was my child. Did you read there that he was 2?! I am not sure what made this woman think this was okay to ask or that it was any of her business, but she asked it in my son’s presence. But it is never anyone’s place to ask a parent how they intend to raise a child. Also, I do not get to decide anything about my son’s race or culture; he gets to determine that path for himself, including what parts he embraces and which parts he does not, just like each of us were given the opportunity to do for ourselves. Will we make sure he has access to his heritage and the heritage of our family? Yes, of course, but his future is his to decide. His race is his to embrace and celebrate and as his parents, we are so excited to see how he does that.
Aren’t you worried that he’s broken?
Out of all the questions about adoption, this is the one I can understand. Because before adoption, I thought this too. There is so much misinformation out there about adoption, and just like everyone knows someone who knows someone who adopted and got pregnant, everyone also knows someone who knows someone with a horror story about adoption.
But adoption is not scary. Are there kids who have been through trauma and horrific things? Yes, but they are no less deserving of love and a stable home. And that is part of adoption, opening your home and heart up to a child, regardless of circumstances and loving them through every step of their lives- the good and the hard. That is what parenthood is:: unconditional love. So, yes, ask about their story and ways you can help or support a family, but never if a child is broken, because children are never broken; they are worthy of love.
Adoption stories that are not yours to tell
If you have adopted, then I will happily enter a safe space to share our journey and celebrate the beauty of creating a family this way. But please do not share with us the stories where you know someone who knows someone etc. We do not need to hear them. They are not helpful, and very rarely is all the information accurately being told, so just do not share those.
I will happily tell you almost every part of our journey to and through adoption. Like every other mom who loves to talk about her child, I love to help people understand what adoption is and how beautiful it is. Adoption is a lot of things, but it is also not a lot of things. Each journey is different, and each journey involves an innocent, beautiful, and beloved child whose story deserves respect. So, with an adoptive family, let us all remember the rule our moms taught us:: if you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all.