So there’s a PSA-style video that’s been going around on facebook talking about the intrusive questions that adoptive families get about their families out in public. The video suggested that those types of questions are akin to asking a female if she’s had surgery to augment a part of her body– totally inappropriate and invasive of a family’s privacy.
I saw the video all over my news feed last week. My very first reaction, to be honest, was an uncomfiness with the word used to describe female anatomy. (I grew up with a daddy who had a Puritanical streak– he wouldn’t even say the word underwear in public, lol. And right or wrong, his sensibilities still live on in my first gut reactions to things at times.)
I know the video creator’s intent was simply to educate people– to help them think about why these types of questions feel intrusive to adoptive families. And he’s right– we do get tired of explaining our families over and over in the midst of buying eggs and milk and jeans in Wal-Mart. (My personal most-hated question is: ‘are they real siblings?’ Ugh. Yes, they’re real. Yes, they’re siblings. But is their particular DNA a Wal-Mart Stranger’s business? Didn’t think so.) A lot of my discomfort with such questions is how those questions feel to my kids– like we’re constantly needing to say what they have is real– a real mom, a real dad, real siblings. No, not the first, but real nonetheless. Does that question always have to be there, needing addressed over and over?
I’m guessing the video creator was hoping that making people think about this might inform the public in a way that could spare all our kids pain and discomfort. But there are two things that the video overlooks. Comparing a child to a part of the female anatomy doesn’t feel so comfy to adoptees. Here’s an article on Lost Daughters that makes that point much better than I can. Particularly searing is the comment from Samantha about the way the video objectifies adopted people, comparing them to objects to be purchased. Though I can’t ever fully understand the adoptee experience, I do NOT want to be a clueless momma who never imagines life through my child’s eyes. It’s vitally important that we seek out the viewpoint of adult adoptees. Adoption has a much greater (and often more painful) impact on people’s lives than I ever understood when I was a brand new adoptive momma. Oh, I pray that I can always be a listener, even when (or especially when) someone’s thoughts feel uncomfortable to me.
The second thing that the video doesn’t quite address is the amazing opportunity we adoptive families have to engage the public in a child-honoring, God-honoring way in those exact moments of questioning. We don’t have to go into depth about our kids’ DNA or past story, nor should we. And the occasional person approaches questions so ham-handedly we may at times just need to shut ’em down and walk away. But the majority of the time folks are honestly curious.
My first responsibility, always, is to my children– to answer in a way that protects their privacy while also affirming their priceless worth and their legitimate place in our family. Sometimes I do a little debrief after a nosy stranger walks away, to talk about how I answered, why a person might ask such questions, and how the child might respond when he gets a similar question.
But as a redeemed child of God, I want to extend grace to the people around me too. Some folks may be considering adoption themselves. Others might be trying to better understand the adoptees in their own lives. If we can be grace-filled and God-honoring in our responses to those questions, while also affirming the precious value of our children to those people — right in front of our children– we might just be planting a seed, or watering a sprout, or helping to advocate for another child who needs a family.
So often in life our attitude powerfully influences our effectiveness in a situation. Though I still inwardly wince when I get a silly question, these days I also try to see those questions as opportunities to speak for my children, and to advocate for children elsewhere who are voiceless and in need.