Are some adoptive parents too sensitive about questions, or….

04 Oct


Just a quick thought to mull on or discuss.  Are adoptive parents too sensitive to questions?  Whether it is the stranger at the mall, the neighbor, a friend, or relative.  I see so many discussions about the “rude” or “ignorant” or “insensitive” questions about adoption…

Perhaps because it has always been my normal, and I’ve been around for some time – but they just don’t bug me the way they seem to bug people today.  Have I become so used to discussions about adoption because I’m adopted, or,  has society shifted to where you can’t ever ask a question about someone’s family…

If it is a societal shift that it is rude to ask questions, what does that really say about how accepting and tolerant folks really are compared to before…

If it is adoptive parents being too sensitive, then what is the impact on their kids?  I’ve always been comfortable in my adoption status.  I can’t think of a time when it bothered me to talk about being adopted, and answer questions, yet, I also think I’m one of those very sensitive people who worries about everything, but not about that…

Just some thoughts…what do you think…



Posted by on October 4, 2014 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , ,

32 responses to “Are some adoptive parents too sensitive about questions, or….

  1. Jess

    October 4, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Depends on the question, no? “What did you pay for her?” Uttered in front of your child at the supermarket. Yup, it’s insensitive. “Do you know where are her parents are?” Not insensitive, in my opinion, and most definitely a conversation starter. Can still remember the day a perfect stranger asked that question. I could see the person was sincere, and once I got over the lump in my throat, it was a pretty decent conversation. So I agree with you, that much could probably be learned and shared in these conversations but 1. some questions truly are rude and insensitive, and 2. once your child gets to a certain age, they should be directing the narrative.


    • TAO

      October 4, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Thanks Jess, I know there are awkward questions about the money thing, but I think they can be teaching moments as well for the kids because parents are not always going to be the ones asked. I do agree that there are times probably not something to talk about….

      I’ve been wondering about this for a long time. People talk about how much better adoption is done today, and with things like this I wonder. Adoption wasn’t anything not to be talked about in our home, but seems like it is today, and to me that isn’t better – that’s saying there is something shameful about it…


      • TAO

        October 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm

        about the kids directing it, I agree when the question is about the child…


    • JavaMonkey

      October 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm


      The fact that it seems inappropriate for people to ask about it in front of a child highlights the real problem of money in adoption. I am more uncomfortable with the amount of money that changes hands in adoption than I am with people asking about it.

      Keep in mind that it is becoming very common for hopeful adoptive parents to hold adoption fundraisers. These things are all over facebook and church bulletin boards. Your adopted child will definitely see these and take notice. With all of the focus on fundraising and money, it seems only normal to me that people would ask you about it.

      If we really care about how adopted people feel about having a price, then we must do everything we can to remove the pervasive influence of money in adoption.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TAO

        October 4, 2014 at 6:45 pm

        JavaMonkey – good point about the fundraising making people think about/ask about money…you can’t have something both ways.


      • Jess

        October 7, 2014 at 11:45 am

        I agree. However, it’s still rude to ask about it, like asking about the price of a new dishwasher, in front of a small child. At some point, if one is serious about excluding money from adoption, then one is going to have to have a frank discussion with one’s child about one’s own complicity in adoption cash, absolutely. But in front of the stranger who pops the rude question is not that time, IMO. As for those who vehemently disagree that the money is dirty, well they got their heads in the sand and they’re going to be offended for a different reason.


  2. Anonymous Mom

    October 4, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I don’t know if this is about adoption or not. Asking a complete stranger personal questions about your family does seem rude to me. I remember twice being asked if I was pregnant “when I wasn’t”, and I remember once being asked about egg donation (my kid has blue eyes and I do not). In these cases, I’ve tried to be polite because answering honestly was always such a great way to embarrass the stranger who was prying.

    The woman at the grocery store who asked me about egg donation was speechless when I calmly explained that my husband had light hair and blue eyes, as did my aunt, so I must’ve been a carrier of a recessive blue-eyed gene.

    How much money you make, how much money you pay for anything, your children’s genetic history, your pregnancy status, what race/ethnicity you are, whatever–all of it seems completely inappropriate to ask a stranger about.

    There are too many busy-bodies in the world, I am not an adoptive parent, but I don’t think this is about adoptive parents being overly sensitive. We should all be able to go buy some pasta and apples at the grocery store without someone we have never met before prying into the intimate details of our lives.


    • TAO

      October 4, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Perhaps it is just a societal shift that asking anything in person is not done anymore, although on-line it appears to be the opposite, and people feel free to ask anything.


  3. Anonymous Mom

    October 4, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Good point, TAO. People are totally inappropriate online, IMHO. I think the shift you describe about in-person behavior *may* be happening a bit, due to the freedom people feel to “pry” online. But the stories I relay about being asked about my pregnancy status and whether or not I used an egg donor (I didn’t), plus questions about my own race/ethnicity, etc…those have all happened in recent years. And I think it’s just wrong. I would *never* ask a stranger about their child’s genetic history, or any of the things that adoptive parents get asked. It’s just none of my business. I’m glad you were able to roll with the inappropriate prying of strangers, but I’m sorry you had to go through that as a child.


    • TAO

      October 4, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      Honestly, I don’t see it as prying, I see it as curiosity and wanting to understand. A stranger is just someone who you haven’t met yet. I’m not going to go into intimate details, but asking questions is fine – take the money thing – I’d answer that thankfully I make enough to live comfortably, there’s always an answer that satisfies without being specific. If they push for more after giving a general answer, then they’ve crossed the line. Perhaps because although I’ve lived my adult life mostly in big cities, I grew up in a rural area. Who knows…thanks for talking.


  4. Mimi

    October 4, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    I’m still fairly new at this and pretty open so I see questions as mainly teachable moments. I’ll offer this as an opinion – in many cases strangers ask questions to families that look visibly different and it may be the first time the parents feel “othered” in such a prominent way. So questions may feel more intrusive because it serves as a reminder that their family is different.


    • TAO

      October 4, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      I can see that, but with adoption specifically, what are you saying to a child about adoption? Hush? It’s shameful? I could be completely off base and have nothing to back that up – but I think kids are very aware of how their parents react…


    • TAO

      October 4, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      I’m in no way advocating for intimate details to be shared…


  5. christycanuck

    October 5, 2014 at 1:29 am

    Yes, I think a lot of parents are too sensitive. But I think Mimi is onto something too. White adoptive parents aren’t generally othered all that often. It’s a new experience for many.

    Also, I think it can bring up a lot of parents’ own “stuff.” It’s digging around possible infertility and their own deep-seated feelings about “entitlement” to parent.

    I think there are lots of relatively innocuous questions that a-parents get their panties in a bunch over. Newsflash: we look different as families. There aren’t that many of us. People are going to be puzzled. People are going to say things — sometimes insensitive things. We signed up for this. But our kids didn’t.

    There are definitely lines that can be crossed. We live in a large, very diverse city and people generally keep their questions and opinions to themselves. Hands down, the worst comments I ever got were from a woman who we would see every so often; catching me without my kids one day, she asked me if I wasn’t worried that they would have HIV/AIDS or not be very bright since they were from Africa. That day I felt rather homicidal when dealing with questions.

    At the end of the day though, I’m not too worried about me. But I do feel like crap that my kids walk around with this narrative burden anytime they are with us. I’m a big girl and can deal, but they shouldn’t have to constantly explain themselves to anyone.


    • Tiffany

      October 5, 2014 at 4:01 am

      For me, it’s just plain instrusive and rude for a stranger to ask me questions about my daughter related to her adoption. I’m completely comfortable with get being adopted, and very open to educating people. But I don’t view my child as a teaching tool, and i am sensitive to her feeling “in the spotlight” with a total stranger. People we know? Fine. But perfect strangers? I don’t care to divulge any personal info of any kind to the lady in line at the supermarket, be it about my child who is adopted or my child who is biological. I get comments constantly about my (bio) daughter’s blonde hair compared to my dark brunette. I just smile and move on rather than explain that- obviously- her dad has blonde hair. It’s really none of their business.
      For me, it’s a product of how I grew up. New Yorkers are notorious for minding our own business. It often gets us pegged as rude, but we actually value privacy. I find intrusive small talk rude, personally, when its prying into my personal life. Chat about the weather like a normal person. 🙂
      On the whole I don’t mind answering any questions about adoption, including financial, but not from complete strangers in line at the bank or Whole Foods.


      • TAO

        October 5, 2014 at 1:39 pm

        Tiffany if you field intrusive questions the same way with both – then my concern wouldn’t apply to you – does that make sense? In that way you show it is any questions regardless of biological or adopted – not the adoption questions…


        • Tiffany

          October 6, 2014 at 7:22 pm

          It does. I was just saying that sometimes, if you just overhear an adoptive parent choosing to not answer the question, it may be because they feel questions like that from strangers are just generally intrusive. When i was pregnant, I was blown away by the rude comments and questions I received from total strangers! I think I am by nature a more private person than some cultures or people, and I handle things a bit differently because of that.

          We are blessed to live in a very diverse area where people are married to people from other ethnicities, so I generally don’t get lots of rude comments from strangers. It’s more often from people we are in contact with to a greater degree, like parents of the kids’ friends, and I don’t mind talking to them about the adoption. I do prefer to handle it carefully, though, because as I said, my daughter isn’t a walking teaching tool, and i want to be sensitive to that.


    • TAO

      October 5, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      Hey Christie, I’m not advocating for telling intimate details, I’m concerned if mere questions about adoption upset the AP – and the kids seeing that reaction – what is it telling the kids about being adopted…you are never going to get people to not ask, it’s reality…

      At least the women had the common sense to ask you when your kids weren’t there – despite showing her ignorance…

      I think the powers that be need to do a better job of showing people who adopt transracially what it is like to always be the family who gets looked at…no idea how – child actors perhaps?



    • TAO

      October 5, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      about the kids, yes, it can suck to varying degrees based on personality, family makeup, etc…but they are adopted and that’s part of what other people signed them up for (whatever reason) – to be the odd one in a sea of biological families.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. christycanuck

    October 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    “I think the powers that be need to do a better job of showing people who adopt transracially what it is like to always be the family who gets looked at…no idea how – child actors perhaps?”

    Tao, I’m in 100% agreement. We look different and both the adoptees and their a-parents will get questions and comments. (And agencies do a piss-poor job of educating PAPs wanting to adopt transracially about this, IMO.) My oldest is very vocal that she doesn’t like it at all at this stage. And it also sucks because she never had a choice in the matter.

    But some of it is just silly on the part of APs. Here are two things that happened to us recently (not questions, but comments or assumptions):

    On a flight back from Ethiopia this summer (we take the kids every year), my son and I were in a row of three. The gentleman beside my son was black like him. The flight attendant came to offer our row drinks. Instead of asking me what my son wanted to drink, she asked the man what he wanted — making the assumption that he was his Dad. Honestly, I think some a-parents would have gotten upset over this, but it was an entirely logical assumption.

    Last week I volunteered in my son’s kindergarten class when they had a workshop with an outside presenter. My son kept coming over and giving me hugs. At one point the presenter said to me, “I’ve noticed that that little guy has really taken a shine to you!” And I replied, “Well, I hope so ‘cuz he’s my son.” 🙂 She looked mortified even though I had said it in a matter-of-fact way with a smile. But should she have been mortified? No. Again, it was a pretty logical assumption that we were not related. Why should anyone be upset about that? But some a-parents would be. Heck, they’d read their child “A Mother for Choco” three times in a row at bedtime that night. But I don’t think that instant defensive stance is going to help their kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      October 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      Christy and that is exactly where my concern lies…they get their knickers in a knot over their ego or whatever.

      That is what I think needs to be understood….you explained it far better than I ever could. Hopefully others read the comments.


  7. christycanuck

    October 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    One of my very favourite things on Twitter was something from AP and psychotherapist Martha Crawford who wrote, “If I had a magic wand: Adoptive parents would seek out & engage in adoption competent psychotherapy for THEMSELVES, not (just) their kids……to examine their own fears, attachment issues and styles, history of loss and need for mirroring -and their own adoption problems.” And, “Adoptive parents need to examine their own childhoods, and their own fantasies that they seek to fulfill for and from their children.” And, “Adoptive parents have their very own “adoption problems” that stem from our own yearnings and needs, and fears. We need to look to ourselves.”

    Martha storified it and I think it’s brilliant.

    We put our stuff on our kids ALL THE TIME. All parents do but I think there are far more risks to adoptees when APs do this.

    So often APs say that they are reacting *on behalf* of their kids, when I think, in many, many cases, it is way deeper than that.


    • TAO

      October 5, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Totally agree – hope everyone checks out the storify post…


    • Mimi

      October 8, 2014 at 4:01 am

      Christy – thank you for sharing that storify link. That was a pretty radical thought and its interesting how PAPs may even be scared to list that they have gone to pschotherapy for fear it will taint their homestudy. I’ll have to share with my readers.


  8. flrpwll

    October 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    You’ve made me think of something else, so here’s a tangent.

    There’s always a big thing from the anti-welfare crowd about not having children you can’t afford and blah blah blah.

    One of the “reasons” touted for adoption is poverty, or not being able to “provide adequately” for you child.

    So what’s up with these adoption fundraisers? Sure, if these “deserving” married people are such a good option, that should include having enough disposable income to buy a child. After all, you’re not meant to have kids unless you can afford them, right???

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      October 5, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      Hi flrpwll,

      What’s good for the goose is supposed to be good for the gander, but, people see adopting parents as good people as compared to those needing a hand up. It’s wrong, but those who slam/judge people needing a hand up – would never apply that judgement on an adopting parent, the bias prevents it… not right but there it is.

      I’m not a fan of fundraisers, raising funds like you would do for anything else is a whole other matter, but sometimes people combine the two as the same. Fundraising is wrong in most circumstances in my mind because the potential impact on the child – I’m leaving the door open there a crack because I’m sure there are justifiable cases. It just gets so complicated…the more you know the more white, grey and black areas come to light.

      Thanks for commenting…

      I don’t like the term buy used in a broad way – yes, some adoptions are so ethically challenged that it is buying a child or at least it seems that way, and of course the “fees” they charge and the “expenses” paid can be over the top wrong. But there are also ethical adoptions and I worry about painting a broad brush…


  9. cb

    October 5, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    If one has one’s child with them, they should answer the question in a way that gives their child guidance of how to answer the questions themselves. If they don’t wish to answer, then say so in a calm way – one could just say “I don’t think this is the time and place right now”.

    The thing is that the child:

    1) will be probably be asked the same questions themselves.


    2) they themselves may ask those same questions.

    Sometimes questions can be hard to answer for some APs because of the “elephant in the room” – this is why truly ethical adoptions are not just beneficial to the child/bparents, they are beneficial to the APs.

    Also, if a question makes one feel insecure, then one needs to put that aside and think about what is a good answer for the child to hear. One problem with revealing one’s insecurity in front of one’s child is that adoptees can be very sensitive towards their parents and protective of their feelings and they are going to know that somethings can’t be asked.

    Also, APs need to be careful that they don’t constantly encourage that protecitveness from their child. I am sure it is nice for one’s ego to have one’s child be protective towards one but it is not really the child’s job to do so.


  10. Dannie

    October 7, 2014 at 12:05 am

    For me I don’t mind talking about adoption or my family or whatever but comments that do rub me the wrong way are any that insinuate that I must NOW KNOW what real love is after giving birth to my son. Um no I knew what love was with my daughter and now son.
    There are differences….my son will know his complete medical history and what weaknesses are present etc. I don’t have that luxury with my daughter.
    However coming from a person that adopted and gave birth people should be able to trust me when I say I love my kids the same, differently as each are different but in the same manner.
    But curiosity about adoption and foster care, sure let’s chat about it, I have plenty to say 🙂


  11. Beth

    October 7, 2014 at 3:20 am

    I think I have been so exposed to adoption that I can’t really answer the question.
    I often feel very offended by overly (IMO) sensitive people. And dismissed, and…. they just make me feel like crap! or bored.

    And if it IS adopted parents being too sensitive to comments or questions lately, I might worry about them more than their kid. A clever kid could work with that and rule the world.


  12. Robyn C

    October 12, 2014 at 5:48 am

    It depends on the question, who is asking it, and why it is being asked. That’s all I can say without writing a book about the subject. 🙂



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