Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Little Sensitivity, Please

Sometimes I get a little weary of being a foster family.  We still have at least a few more months, and it's certainly easier having only one foster child instead of three, but I'm ready to be finished with paperwork, visits, and the various other obligations that are required of foster families. But we are and always will be an adoptive family, a fact that I am proud of and will always celebrate with our children.  However, because our beautiful children clearly did not grow in my Caucasian womb, we deal with a host of issues even many other adoptive families never have to.

Last Sunday as I was walking Joe up to church by myself, we passed a woman who smiled at us and asked how old Joe was.  I smiled back, answered, "3 1/2" and prepared to keep walking (we were late).  But then she asked, "Is he a foster child?"  This totally caught me off guard, annoyed me a little, and I replied, "No, he's all mine." There was a slightly awkward pause and I felt like I hadn't satisfied her curiosity so I added, "But he used to be a foster child."  Then I instantly wished I hadn't.  It's like I felt I had to explain why my son looks different from me and I shared information about him that was private.

For those of you with biological children, imagine total strangers approaching you and asking if your child is yours or if you are their "real" parent.  There's a pretty good chance you'd be offended.  But then go one step further.  Imagine this question from your children's point of view.  How would they feel if people were always asking if they belonged to you? 

Another "innocent" question often asked about our boys is, "Are they brothers?"  Of course they are brothers, and Mikea is every bit their sister! Again, would this question be asked of a family of biological children?  All these questions do is highlight the fact that our family isn't like everyone else's, our children aren't like everyone else's, and creates a separation between our children and their real parents. (And yes, I do mean that their real parents are my husband and myself).

I know we can't pretend we're not different from most families.  Daniel and Mikea will be in the same grade when they enter school and I can only imagine what the other kids will say when they find out they are brother and sister.  But I expect that from kids.  I'd just like adults who don't already know our story to be a little more sensitive and think twice before asking personal questions about our children.  I do believe the vast majority of people who ask these questions aren't intending any harm and are truly just curious.  And if someone wants to know about the process of adopting children from foster care, I am more than happy to share our experience.  But if I don't know you, understand that I will do so without sharing personal details about my own children.  My husband and I have decided that we're not willing to compromise our children's privacy anymore in order to satisfy a stranger's curiosity.


Jamie said...

you guys are an amazing family!! I'm so glad you got in on the bluebonnet photo shoot!

Rachelle said...

What was that woman thinking? Talk about tacky. I hope the "foster" part ends soon. It sounds exhausting. You have a beautiful family and I hope we can meet them all one day soon.

overtiredmum said...

Most people speak without thinking - they don't mean to be nasty and on a good day I think everyone knows this. On a bad day just smile nicely, look at your beautiful kids and ignore them!


Laura said...

You should see people's faces when I tell them Ben has a white mom...like how can white people have Hispanic looking kids? People do say a lot of dumb things...tell them you're their mom and they are all siblings....cause they are. Love the pictures with the blue bonnets....and I will cry with happiness on the day you are no longer a foster mom!

Joy said...


Vanessa said...

thanks for sharing this. I have always been interested in being a foster parent myself so I think I may have asked some personal questions and hoping now I was sensitive. Hearing it put this way has really helped me to see it from your child's perspective thank you I will always remember this