By Beth Demme
One night a few years ago my husband and I were at a comedy club with friends. The comedian was going on and on about being in the delivery room when his children were born. He used his comedic intuition to find the ONE person in the audience who absolutely did NOT want to participate—my husband.
He asked if we were married (yes) and if we had children (yes). Searching for empathy he asked if my husband was present in the delivery room when the children were born. Initially my husband just shook his head side to side in reply. The comedian pushed so my husband replied, “I think I was at work or maybe I was at home sleeping. I’m not sure.”
The comedian couldn’t believe it. “How’d you swing that, man? My wife would never have gone for that!” I piped in and said, “well, I wasn’t there either. Our children are adopted.” The comedian smiled at my husband and said, “Ohhhhh. You found a loophole.”
Even though adoption is an intensely personal matter, we had no problem telling a room full of strangers it was how we built our family.
Because we’re open about our adoption experience, we hear a lot of random comments about adoption in general. People occasionally make offensive comments about adoption (no, actually I’ve never felt like we shopped for our children), but usually people are genuinely curious and supportive.
In celebration of National Adoption Awareness Month, here are some of my favorite comments:
1. I didn’t know your children were adopted!
People are usually surprised to learn our children are adopted. Although not all adoptive families look alike, it just so happens we do. My daughter and I both have blonde hair, hazel eyes, fair skin, and freckles. My son favors my husband. They have the same coloring and the same strong chin. My husband used to take our son to the barber shop and the barber always said the same three things:
- The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
- You have your daddy’s hair.
- Look at that, cowlick is in the same place.
We had this conversation with the barber for a decade because father and son do, in fact, have the same thick brown hair and matching cowlicks despite their lack of biological connection.
I love it when people are surprised by our adoption story because it’s a chance to share an important truth: I believe our children were born for us. It doesn’t surprise me that they look like us or act like us. I think our family was created by God on purpose, for a purpose.
2. You and your husband are very blessed.
You’ve got that right!
I’d much rather hear this than a statement about how lucky our children are. My husband and I never set out to “save” or “rescue” our children from anything. Their life with us is very different from what they would have experienced growing up in Russian orphanages and institutions, but that wasn’t our purpose. We just wanted to be parents. Our purpose in finding them was selfish, not self-less.
I feel like our children saved us, not the other way around. Through them we see the world with fresh eyes and fresh hope. We’ve become less self-centered and insular.
As a bonus, parenting together has strengthened our marriage and our sense of purpose. This is our best adventure so far.
3. Your child is wonderful/respectful/kind.
What parent doesn’t want to hear this? Every parent loves to hear nice things about their child! This isn’t any different for me as an adoptive mom.
It’s especially nice when the compliment is offered without an adoption reference or qualifier. For example, “your son seems really level-headed” is much nicer to hear than “your son seems really level-headed for an adopted child.” Just like you wouldn’t say, “your son seems really level-headed for a biologically related child,” there’s no reason to reference adoption.
In general, that’s a good rule of thumb — don’t reference adoption unless it’s specifically relevant to your point. Most of the time it’s probably irrelevant!