Two out of three kids are adopted. At least, that's how it works in our family.
We didn't plan it that way... That's just how it worked out.
People are curious when it comes to adoption -- I get that. We're naturally curious about families that look different or are put together a little bit differently. I've made my peace with the curiosity, although I don't do very well with the complete stranger asking me personal questions in the frozen food aisle (because shit always goes down in the frozen food aisle... who knows why, really?).
My family has learned to handle staring, assumptions, stereotypes and prejudice. We adopted our boys because we wanted to be parents. However, we have had to make an uneasy peace with our new role as the poster family for adoption.
I can handle the most intrusive questions with a fair amount of grace, but I am way nicer when I've had some chocolate or when I've been drinking. Aren't we all?
I have heard it all:
"Why China and not an American kid?"
"Bless you, you're such a saint."
"How much did your adoption cost?"
Oh, and if you're that person who asked, "How much did they cost?", like my kids are some sort of good deal at the farmers' market... best to take cover. You were warned.
That said, there is one word that raises my blood pressure and causes my inner crazy b*tch to skyrocket to the surface: REAL.
"Are they real brothers?"
"What happened to their real parents?"
I try not to get wrapped up in semantics. I know when people say "real," they mean biological. And the simple answers are:
No, my boys are not biologically related, and we have no idea what happened to their biological parents or why they chose not to parent these children. That knowledge isn't part of our adoption story, and even if it were, we wouldn't be sharing.
But think about what it means for my kids to hear you ask if they're "real brothers." Stop and consider what they might think when people ask casual questions about their place in our family.
My kids share a room. They share toys. They share parental attention. Sometimes, they share punishment. They are real brothers.
I comfort my children when they're scared. I sit up all night and worry when they're sick. I laugh at them and with them. They piss me off, make me feel old and keep me young. I am their real mother.
You might think your questions are innocent. You probably don't think at all. Maybe you thought my kids were cute and I accidentally smiled at you and opened the door for conversation and the "real brothers" question was the first thing that popped into your head.
My children love each other fiercely. Sometimes, this love is shown by teasing, punching, hair-pulling and messing with the other kid's stuff, but the love is there.
I don't love my adopted kids less or more than my kid that came into this world via my own hooha. You don't need to be connected by DNA to love, people. And while I "know what you mean" when someone asks if my sons are real brothers, it's something I wish people wouldn't say because the after-effects can hurt my children.
My kids are usually standing right next to me, and they hear the questions people ask. Not a week goes by when we don't get asked a question about "real brothers" and "real parents." Constantly having my family's authenticity questioned, even in a benign and well-meaning way, wears on me and opens the door to questions at home that I'd rather let happen organically. I hate that our adoption talks are usually sparked by something said by a stranger.
My kids are real.
My family is real.
And the "you're a saint" comment never ceases to make me laugh. I'll bet my Friday night wine-swilling cuss-fests would probably change a person's mind about that real quick.
I'll end with a tip: Use a boob job as a good frame of reference for nosy adoption questions, or any nosy questions. If you wouldn't walk up to me and ask me if my tatas were real, then maybe you shouldn't ask a similarly inappropriate question about my kids. I think that's pretty good advice.
From "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, including birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, waiting adoptive parents and others touched by adoption: