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  • Gina Heumann

8 Dumb Things People Say to Adoptive Parents

Our first family photo in Guatemala, 2004

We are the poster family for international adoption: two white parents, two Latino children. It’s pretty obvious wherever we go that we adopted our kids. It’s most noticeable when I’m out alone with my boys, as I am of Swedish descent and have very pale skin. My brown-skinned boys will make fun of me and call it “translucent”. I usually buy the lightest shade of makeup in the store. It’s less obvious with my husband because he has olive skin and jet black eyebrows… used to have a full head of curly black hair, but he shaves it all off now. So often when the boys and I are in public together and I get the inevitable questions. Some people are genuinely curious about adoption and interracial families. Others are just plain rude. So I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of some of the common questions I get and some clever retorts to either educate the asker, or put them in their place.

  1. Where did you get them? This question sounds like I went to the mall to pick out a kid and sort of trivializes the whole idea of adoption. If I have the time to educate, I might rephrase the question and say, “are you asking about their heritage?” But if I’m feeling particularly snarky, I might say “there’s a great website where you can pick out a baby and have it overnighted to you in a box.”

  2. Do they know they’re adopted? Well, since I mentioned that I am pasty white and my children are Guatemalan with brown skin, this is a pretty stupid question. If I’m feeling nice, I’ll just say “yes” and maybe tell them that we read storybooks about it and discuss is all the time. If I’m feeling annoyed… well, then I say “No, and please don’t tell them.” This is especially funny when the kids were right in front of me!

  3. How much did they cost? This is a horribly intrusive question. The average adoption in the US right now costs about $40,000 - $50,000, but that isn’t how much my kids cost. That is how much I paid for paperwork, lawyers, agency fees, doctor visits, and foster care while we waited to complete our process. I didn’t actually pay for my kids as you would in a store. I will usually say, “I didn’t pay for my kids, I paid for the adoption process” and leave it at that. Or I might say, “My kids are priceless and I love them to pieces” or something similar.

  4. What happened to their “real” families”? OOOH, this one irks me! First of all, I am a “real” mom. I got up in the middle of the night to soothe two screaming babies. I changed more diapers than I wanted. I cleaned up throw-up, helped them with homework, disciplined them, had heart-to-heart talks, grocery shopped and cooked for them, cleaned up after them, bathed them, paid for and drove them to all of their activities. I think I qualify as a “real” mom. But if you’re asking about their birth mom, then it’s really none of your business. That is my child’s story to tell, and should they want to share it with a complete stranger someday, that’s their prerogative.

  5. Did you choose International Adoption because of Angelina Jolie? This question was especially prevalent in the early 2000’s when I first adopted my kids. Back then, International Adoption was fairly common and apparently the latest trend in Hollywood. It is, in fact, NOT why we chose International adoption and I don’t think my reasons are anyone’s business. If you’re a friend of mine, I’m happy to gush on about why we picked it, but if you’re a random stranger in the store, then not so much. So to this question, I like to answer, “Oh yeah, Angie and I go way back and we do play dates with our kids all the time.”

  6. Do you wish you had your “own” kids? UGH. See the question above about being their “real” mother. These ARE my “own” kids. I am listed on their birth certificates as their mother and I’m financially and emotionally responsible for them until they graduate college, and I look forward to being a grandma to their kids someday. I would throw myself in front of a train for either one of them. So, yes, these are my “own” kids. And I really couldn’t care less about biology or DNA.

  7. Do they speak Spanish or English? Someone actually asked me this in a Target store when my son was SEVEN MONTHS OLD. I believe I just went with “He’s a baby, so he only knows goo-goo-ga-ga right now, and since we speak English in the home, we assume he will learn that”. Oddly enough, now that my kids are teenagers, I joke that I have the only two Guatemalan children who failed Spanish in high school. Apparently it’s not innate.

  8. I could never love a child that wasn’t mine. This one is especially interesting to me when it’s someone who owns a pet. Not that I would compare children to animals in any way, but it’s funny that people can love their dog so unconditionally (which is a different species…) and yet have a problem with an actual child. You love your spouse, and they are not biologically related to you. (Or at least I would hope not!) That being said, I don’t especially like other people’s children, but these particular kids are mine! And I could not love them any more if I gave birth to them.

In honor of National Adoption Month coming up in November, I am proud to be an adoptive mama and couldn’t be more proud of my kids! Adoption is an amazing way to build a family.

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