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I'm a 30-something wife and mom. My boys are my pride and joy. Together, we are navigating being a forever family post international adoption.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Does he have a real Mom?

Once, someone asked me: "Does Buddy have a real Mom?"

I have a few issues with this question.

First of all, the dreaded R word. I am going to assume, given you are reading an adoption blog, that you're familiar with the tension surrounding the concept of real family in adoption.

Secondly, let's ignore the whole discussion about what makes a "real" family. This person was asking if Buddy had a Mom before me. Did she think he magically popped into existence at the orphanage right before we adopted him? Or did she just think it was the least offensive way to ask a very personal question.

Which leads me to my last point: NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS. Sorry, that wasn't directed at you, dear reader. I just really, really don't like it when people ask intrusive questions about my family.

So, what did I answer?

I didn't go into the debate about what a "real" Mom is. I didn't address the person's apparent lack of understanding of basic biology. I didn't launch into a diatribe of the appropriateness of the question.

I know the response I am supposed to give is that I am his real Mom, and also his story is not mine to tell. Which is true. At the same time, Hubby and I have found that type of response gave Buddy the message that we wanted to avoid acknowledging his birth family.

Buddy doesn't always know how to express his feelings for being adopted, even to us. He has began to embrace his life story more easily since we stopped totally avoiding these types of questions.

This person didn't mean to be rude. Her lack of understanding of the insensitive nature of the question was completely lost on her. I know that it is my responsibility as a member of the adoption community to educate. On the long list of things I am responsible for that I didn't know I was signing up for, this one is probably at the bottom of the list.

My number one responsibility is to Buddy.

So, what did I answer?

Does Buddy have a real Mom?

Actually, he has two.

14 comments:

  1. I hope I can give that positive an answer when that (probably inevitable) question comes up. Well done.

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    1. Thanks! I don't know for sure it's the "right' answer, but it's what seems to be right for us at this point.

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  2. You are SO intuitive! That's exactly what a very wise adoptee counseled us to say when our children first came home. I don't think I would have thought of it myself. Also, I love you remained calm. I'm [slowly] learning my son internalizes my defensiveness as shame. Yet another reason to keep my cool.

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    1. I wish someone had told me when we first got home, it took me over a year on my own! And I totally agree, staying calm is important in so many situations for so many reasons.

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  3. Great post. As you say, your number one responsibility is to Buddy, so I agree, it is very important to think about what message you are giving to your child when you answer people's "nosey" (but usually innocent) questions. I like to model openess and truth and matter-of-factness in my answer so that it doesn't give my daughter any inkling of the idea that her story is 'a bad secret'. But where you draw the line between 'openess and truth' and 'it is not my story to tell' I have not quite figured out!

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    1. I agree, it's a tough balance. I find the response I give also depends a lot on who is asking. An standard reply I like is, "why do you ask?"

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    1. Thanks, every once in a while I seem to get it right!

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  5. Great answer. I personally try to avoid 'educating' people except for close family and friends, as it's so hard to 'educate' a stranger without embarrassing or humiliating them and, if I'm honest, before I got involved in adoption-world I was probably just as ill-informed in my own way. Your answer is of only passing interest to the questioner anyway - it's your son who will internalise and mull over what you say, so your instinct to answer in a way that makes best sense for him is spot on.

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    1. Thanks! You have a good point, it's a pretty complex thing to educate people on.

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  6. Oh my gosh I LOVE this! I can't believe I have never heard of this response before because it is perfect. Wow. I am definitely using this from now on, thank you for teaching it to us!

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    1. Thanks, Erin. Glad you find it helpful!

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  7. Great answer! We have had the same question asked and you are SO right about the word "real". I am not imaginary and I also don't want to minimize my children's first mother. I hope you don't mind if I borrow your answer?

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    1. Absolutely not, go right ahead! Glad you like it!

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