Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Adoption Etiquette

There are no secrets in my life-heck I blog everything there is to know about our family. My concern lately comes from my kids and others carelessness in questioning about how they became part of our family. Years ago, when we were deep in the throws of adoption, I sank every ounce of energy into adoption advocacy. I'm still a huge supporter but life takes you in different directions depending on what your family's needs are. I ran a parent adoption support group for three years through our local adoption agency, did much public speaking, fielded phone calls from anxious parents who's adoption was delayed yet again. I enjoyed it. It was where I was supposed to be and what my calling was at the time. I have been blessed to have many such opportunities in my life. An oldest child with Tourette's Syndrome, special needs advocacy, public school mediation with the state, caring for dying parents, service dogs for my hearing impaired husband, a nursing career, battling lyme disease and so much other stuff that it would make a really good book. Someday I'll write that unless someone else wants to jump in.
My two youngest children are adopted from South Korea. Morgan is now almost 10 and Tae just turned 5. The past several times we have been out at stores or elsewhere, someone inevitably asks a question that makes my skin crawl. Most are just curious about the adoption process-I realize that, but do they not realize that my children are standing right there?
There comes a point when the adoption and how they came to you is not longer important. It will always be very special but it just doesn't consume us like in our earlier days. They are just our kids. Morgan is a normal 9 year old. She plays soccer, meets with friends, writes songs and loves to play outside. Her adoption into our family rarely comes up as conversation. That's not to say that we don't talk about adoption, her birth family, life in Korea or her culture. Mostly, we just live life by enjoying what our family has become.
My favorite question (not really) is, "Are they real brother and sister?" Now I know what people are asking by this-are they biologically related. Does it really matter and why do you need to know this? Isn't it enough that they love each other? Families are formed in all different fashions and whether my children are biologically related has no bearing on what being a family means to us. Would anyone dare ask this question if all three of my children were caucasian? I assure you, my children are "real brother and sister" in every sense of the word. They love, they fight, they make up, they play and they appreciate. Yes, they are brother and sister.
Then there is the other question, "Why did the birth mother give him/her up?" The reasons for this are as diverse as our methods to homeschooling. Is my children's birth history something for you to know? Shouldn't my kids be the first to hear about their birth history and then shouldn't they make the decision on whether to share that information with perfect strangers or even with family?
In all honesty, sometimes I'm taken aback, still, even after almost 10 years of being an adoptive mom, on how to answer these questions. Lately, it's just been the standard, "Why do you ask?" A few times I've even said, "Maybe sometime we can talk about that but right now isn't appropriate. " I had one father even think that I hadn't told my kids they were adopted. I think the kids have pretty much figured out that they are not adopted but thanks for that.
Questions about adoption are fine and I'm more than willing to answer them. In fact, I'm happy to. But realize that children don't need every nuance of their lives exposed, nor to they want to talk about it at a field trip, while they are out grocery shopping or when they are at a soccer game. Let the kids be kids and answer what they feel is appropriate. Know that we are not trying to be evasive-we just want to be the family we were meant to be.


Kate in NJ said...

People are strange.

Marybeth said...

Well said, Bev. As a fellow adoptive mom - and passionate adoption advocate - Some folks ignorance just amazes me. Your kids, like ours, are beautiful, creative and talented. Biology is small spuds in the creation of family. It's the love, man, it's the love. And ours run deep for you and your family!