An open letter to the ignorant and thoughtlessly unkind, on adoption.

My child wears her trauma as an open wound on her arm, her racial differences from the rest of our family immediately proclaiming her complex past to even a mere stranger. Yes, she is adopted.

Think. Be kind.

But you didn’t think. And you weren’t kind. And since you asked, yes, she has real parents. Two sets of them. Her real beautiful Chinese parents made her, and birthed her, and loved her with all their hearts. Her real America parents went halfway around the world to find her, and will raise her forever. Yes, she has real parents. Quite likely twice as many real parents as you have. But to be honest I have never met anyone without real parents – perhaps you meant to say something else? Let’s hope it wasn’t something even ruder.

But your curiosity wasn’t satisfied yet so you had another question: “Was she raised in an orphanage?” Frankly, this is none of your business. If you are okay with me asking if you were raised in a mental hospital or if your mother was by-chance in jail during your childhood, let me know. We are raising our child in our home. If you’d like to know more about her past, earn the right to know through a long term relationship with her or our family. The fact that my family is interracial does not earn you the right to ask rude questions.

“Does she have any medical conditions?” Wow. Um. How bout you go first. Could I hear about your medical history? Any mental health issues? Medications you might be taking? No, I didn’t think you’d want to share that with a complete stranger on the playground. Strangely enough, I don’t want to share information about my child’s medical past with you either. I know you’re wondering how the adoption process works. Google.

Oh wait, hear comes that “something even ruder” I was afraid of from your first question about real parents: ” Did her parents die?” Well let’s see, I know you’re not talking about me since I’m standing right here. You must mean the other real parents. Hmmm . . . . Yes, yes, let’s say they died. Does that answer feel good to you as my child listens next to me? Okay let me say they didn’t die. I’m sure that won’t lead to any more rude questions. Okay how bout I try this answer: we have no idea. Frankly most adopted children won’t know nearly as much about their own history as you want me to tell you on the playground today. And now my child will need a cry, hugs and a debrief when we get home. Because this, this question that you asked about so casually to satisfy your own curiosity? This is her greatest wound you just deftly reopened. Thanks for being friendly.

This is only a small sampling of the thoughtless remarks and questions I receive on a regular basis since our international adoption. When you see a child who looks adopted: stop. Think. Notice her beauty and her courage and compliment her on her beautiful black hair or eyes. Then remind yourself not to mention adoption, or ask personal questions you would not consider appropriate in any other setting. Adoption is beautiful, painful, sacred and complex. It’s not casual playground, cash register or in-law conversation.

I promise not to ask about your divorce, your sex life, your credit card debts or your STD’s if you promise not to ask about my adoption.  We all have boundaries.  Let’s be respectful.




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