Dealing With Ignorant Questions About Child Adoption
My 2-year-old son was adopted from China. As a white parent of a child of a different race, I was certainly prepared for inquisitive and puzzled looks from strangers, and we certainly get plenty of those as we're out and about. What I was less prepared for, however, were the uncensored, and sometimes downright inane, comments and questions I am forced to deal with. And the worst part is, people say these things right in front of my son, as if he's invisible or somehow not a real person.
I'm fine with curiosity. And most of the time I can tell that people mean well. But there's a time and a place for it—and asking me probing questions about international child adoption in the supermarket as I'm shopping with my son is not the time or the place. More than once, someone has come up to us and said something like: "Is this your son? Oh, he's beautiful! What happened to his real parents?" "I am his real parent," I reply. I know this isn't what the questioner meant, but why should my son have to hear someone say I'm not his real parent? Yes, he's just a little kid, but if he were 8 instead of 2, would they walk up to him and say: "My, you're cute! Is this your dad? Where's your real dad?" I doubt anyone would be so callous. But little kids have ears, too, and they soak up what they hear.
No, my son has never looked me in the eye and dolefully asked me if I was his real dad. But who's to say what effect hearing such a question could have on him? I certainly don't want complex questions of identity forced on him, and I especially don't want such an issue thrust on him by a stranger in the frozen-food section.
So think twice before your curiosity overwhelms you. And it's not just about internationally adopted kids, either. Think twice about asking probing questions in front of any little kid. Because while they may not be able to speak for themselves yet, they're beginning to learn to think for themselves, which is just as important.