A Quick Primer about Multiracial Adoption and Families

In 2005, adoption is more common than ever before. In 2004, nearly 23,000 children were adopted internationally by United States citizens, and that doesn’t include domestic adoption across race lines here in this country. Companies are starting to realize this, and we’re seeing families that were obviously formed by adoption in major national ad campaigns, much to my delight. To my delight, it seems I’m seeing families formed by adoption nearly everywhere I go these days. I am the mother of a Hispanic daughter, adopted from Guatemala. She’s been with us since she was an infant, and in the past few years, we’ve encountered many types of comments.

“What language does she speak?” This query came to me as I pushed my sleeping eleven-month-old daughter through a department store. “Toddler” was my reply, and I kept on walking, leaving the inquisitive saleswoman in my dust. Did she really think an infant from another country would speak Spanish?

“Is that your natural daughter?” I resisted the urge to respond with “nope, we cloned her” but instead quietly stated her birthplace and let the interested (nosy?) party slowly figure it out.

“Is your husband dark?” Clearly the worker at the Sno-Cone stand was trying to figure out how my fair, blond-haired self could have a daughter with such dark hair and olive skin. “Nope,” I cheerily replied, and left her to wonder.

“Do you know anything about her real mother?” This is my favorite. Because yes, as a matter of fact, I do. I’m a stay-at-home mom. I like pets and sushi and wine. I am afraid of spiders. My favorite show is E.R. Anything else you want to know? Because her real mother is right here. And yes, I realize that you mean her birthmother. But my daughter’s adoption story is private, as is her birthmom’s, and it’s for them to share with whom they want, when they want to. It isn’t mine.

Questions like these are becoming more commonplace as my daughter gets older, and if they’re being asked of me, they’re being asked of the other thousands of adoptive families in our country. It’s time for the general public to recognize their implications. It’s one thing to ask a parent of an infant if their child is “theirs”âÂ?¦although the question is undoubtedly rude, the baby is oblivious to the lack of manners. When you ask the parent of a young child or even a toddler, things get stickier. A little boy on an outing to Target with his mommy shouldn’t have to hear people questioning the validity of his family. Find a nicer way to ask, or don’t ask at all. You may be dying of curiosity, but it won’t kill you not to know.

Words like “natural child” imply that there’s something unnatural about my daughter. “Real mother” insinuates that I’m not her real mother, because she didn’t grow in my body. Please consider what your words will really say before you say them.

Are you genuinely interested in adoption? Perhaps you’re considering it, or your sister is adopting, or your son and his wife are waiting for a baby. Ask away. I love to hear about adoptive families, and I’ll tell you my life story if you really, genuinely want to know. But tell me why you’re interested, so I know you have a reason beyond curiosity.

Adoption has become more commonplace in our culture, and this is a wonderful thing. It’s time for the public to catch up. Let’s start treating it with normalcy instead of as an aberration. It would make a difference in the lives of multiracial adoptive families everywhere.

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