I find that every day there are interactions that occur that present opportunities to educate people about adoption and there are also times when I am taken by surprise by how intrusive and plain offensive perfect strangers can be in their comments. These times call for limit setting and sometimes they are so breath-taking that you just walk away and move on. We can prepare our adopted children the best we can by modeling when to educate and when to ignore comments from strangers about adoption. Sometimes, our children show us that they are more prepared than their parents in dealing with such comments!
Last week my daughter had an appointment at the local post office to renew her passport. I realized that I was a little anxious, and reflected on the fact that my own experiences of becoming American and dealing with immigration and getting my own passport had not always been pleasant. I took some relaxing breaths.
Everything seemed straight forward, This was my daughter's 3rd American passport! I had made sure that the correct forms had been filled out and signed; photo taken, yep everything was going well, and then I heard this 'Official Gatekeeper to a new passport' who happened to be American/Chinese say:
"You chose her? You did not choose her? They just give you a baby"
Then she kept going on and on about how lucky my daughter was to be adopted, and how it would have been if she stayed in China, not once, but three times! I had stopped breathing! I was totally dumbfounded! I was thinking how dare you be so intrusive! I then placated her and explained to her the process of adoption (which I had already told my daughter). All the time I was thinking how grateful I was that my daughter was now old enough to integrate and understand the reality and meaning of her own adoption around 'being chosen' (which is at times a romanticized view we read in books) by her adopted parent.
The telling of the story of your child's adoption is paced according to the developmental process and the questions your child asks you on the way to the library or in the car on the way to school. Over time the story is told differently with more detail and information. It is YOUR story - you and your child create the meaning of the adoption together - it is not meant to be forced upon your child by a perfect stranger!
And Being adopted and being an adoptive parent can be messy at times. Your adoption story, is both deeply personal and at the same time factual and statistical. Often, the messiest times present themselves as a test to the parent and their readiness to tell the truth! In so saying, it is amazing how adopted children, when they are young, can easily internalize the mis-perceptions and negative opinions and assumptions about adoption from strangers, if the parent is not open to talking about their adoption story in a transparent way with all the necessary facts. An example of this would be when a friend of my daughter whom had been adopted asked her "how much did your mother pay for you?" My daughter was very surprised by the question and then gently informed her friend of what she knew about the process. Unlike her friend, my daughter was aware that money is involved in the process of adoption and she also knows that she was not a commodity to be bought.
We finally got out of the post office and my daughter immediately started saying that " the woman was weird and intrusive and had no business talking about her adoption and our personal life". My sentiments exactly and I wish I had said that!
As a parent was I ready to tell the truth? I would say yes and some of our adoption story is deeply personal and belongs only to me and my daughter.