A few things I’d like to tell you …

TellYou-1

Earlier this week, my children and I were waiting for our lunchmeat to be sliced at the deli counter, passing time looking at the different shapes of the fancy cheeses. A woman next to us smiles kindly at the kids, then looks at me. “Are they all yours?” she said. I took a deep breath and replied to her, “they’re all mine!” – hoping it will end here. No such luck. “Foster or adopted? And those two are your own?” Again, I say a little more firmly: “they are all mine.”

“Oh,” she said, seeming a bit taken aback by my non-answer. “Well, what lucky little boys.”

Our meat was sliced and we were on our way – but there are a few things I would have liked to share with her and the many others who have questions or comments like these … the things I always “would like to say,” but find they just aren’t appropriate in that setting. So, for this woman and all of the others who have asked questions along the way:

I’d like to tell you that all four of them are ‘my own.’

I want you to know that I know you mean well – that you are just curious. I know that you know the word ‘biological’ but just couldn’t think of it. I’d like to tell you that when I come back with a remark that might sound kind of rude or condescending, I’m not intending to hurt your feelings. I’m simply trying to speak the truth in front of my children – that they are all my own – no one more my own than another. I want you to know that I understand curiosity; I also want you to know that my children have ears and brilliant little minds. I’d like to tell you that they hear what you say, and with each time a well-meaning bystander comments on our transracial family, they hear their mama yet again have to ‘explain’ them and us as a family. Those little ears and little minds think about these questions for hours – days.

I’d like to tell you that sometimes at bedtime, it will come up again.

“Mama, why that lady ask if I ‘dopted? She knew I grew in H’s tummy? Why she ask about us, mama?” I’d like to tell you that this is hard. Adoption is no secret in our family – quite the opposite. The boys know as much about their first mamas as I know, and hopefully they will have relationships with them as they grow. We have open adoptions, and I am so very thankful for that. Even with that truth, each time it seems as though we are ‘called out’ and asked to explain ourselves, it is personal and feels intrusive. I’d like to tell you that I don’t like thinking about my sweet children worrying about their place in our family because it is so often brought up by those around us.

I’d like to tell you that when you comment that our boys are so lucky to have us, or that we are such good people for adopting, it is hurtful and it is wrong.

We are the lucky ones, to have these sweet boys and their first families in our lives. I’d like to tell you that adoption comes from loss, and that is something they will have to process over the course of their lives; that not looking like your family is going to be hard in a lot of ways for my sweet sons and I truly hate that for them – not considering it lucky in the least. I’d like to tell you that even though you are trying to be supportive, and I am so very appreciative – I have to correct you. I would like to tell you that I cannot – will not – have my sons feel like they are a charity to me in any way. I’d like to tell you that adopting them was our choice, our joy – we sought them out and we are the lucky ones. Every day.

I’d like to tell you that I am really happy to talk to you about adoption, at the right time and place.

I love adoption – all of it; the beautiful and redemptive, the ugly and the heartbreaking. I would enjoy discussing the process, letting you know what I know … at the right time and place. One thing I won’t tell you, stranger? The personal details of my boys’ stories. Again – curiosity is real. Adoption is still exotic and interesting to so many. But, their stories are their stories. We don’t share with close friends and we definitely won’t share with strangers. I’d like to tell you that if you ask me a question that I’d rather not answer and I, in turn, ask you “why do you ask?” – that it is a safe way for me to save my kiddos yet another go ‘round.

So, next time you see a family who looks a little different than what you are used to – remembering that families come together in many different ways – think about what you’re going to say (if you need to say anything at all!) and how it will sound to the little ones who are always, always, listening. Their mama (or daddy, or guardian) will surely appreciate it.

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7 Responses to A few things I’d like to tell you …

  1. Cali September 15, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    Beautifully said, Katie.

  2. Kyle September 15, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    A wonderful post.

  3. Peggy Aschenbrenner September 15, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

    So beautiful!!!!

  4. Allison September 15, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

    Katie, This is perfectly said! I can just hear your thoughts. How often people ask and say things without worrying about the repercussions…especially those to the little ears. Your babies are so blessed to have you as their mommy and I know you feel blessed to have them as your babies! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Elaine September 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    Oh I feel ya! We’ve struggled through this as a transracial family too. I blogged about it last spring; I’ve been trying to train my daughter to speak up & reply appropriately to inappropriate personal questions. Unfortunately I dread the day she gets quizzed with me around to protect her!

  6. Krystal September 22, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    We’re also a transracial adoptive Missouri family (STL)! Luckily we’ve had no comments yet, but I’m sure they are coming. Good post!

  7. Kelley September 23, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    Thank you for this great post! I’ve re-read it probably 10 times now, as it came at just the right time for me.

    I am an adoptive mom of a gorgeous 18-month old boy who happens to be of Mexican descent. As the summer went on and his beautiful skin got darker (while mine stayed the same vampire-white it’s always been) I got an increasing number of strangers asking me what color my husband is. Some were more subtle and others just came right out and said it, and i found myself getting angrier everytime someone said it. One person tried to rationalize that race doesn’t matter which is why they felt like it was okay to ask (my response was somewhat less eloquent, but to the tune of – “how does knowing my husband’s race tell you anything about me, him or our son?”).

    The last incidence of this was shortly after your post and this post just couldn’t have come at a better time! You are so right that I’m not angry at people for being curious or even uneducated about the subject. I’m angry that their naive-ness causes more doubt and blows to self esteem, and they don’t understand that. And so, for the sake of my son, I always try to answer from a place of love and education, not hate or anger. But I am glad there are other people who can show me how to put my foot down respectfully as we navigate the muddy waters of raising children!

    Thank you so much for the post!!!!