Dear Abby’s answer to an adoptive mom

I love Dear Abby and have read her column for years, but her recent answer to an adoptive mom asking a question regarding adoption left me scratching my head. Summary: Someone asks awkward questions in front of an adoptive mom’s kids and Abby advises the Adoptive Mom (not Adopted Mom, btw, as the letter is signed) to answer “That’s a long story.” Plus, Abby expresses chagrin that anyone is insensitive enough to ask nosy questions at all.

Where to begin? First, this kind of question come with the territory, unfortunately. I hate to sound crass, but get used to it! Second, in my experience, now 11+ years into it, many times folks truly are curious and word their questions from a place of not-knowing, rather than insensitivity. In fact, I find often the most “unlikely-looking” people often have a direct connection to adoption–their grandson or niece is adopted, they are adopted, their brother or sister is adopted–and they are trying to find their way in to a conversation, to engage. Or, they are interested in possibly adopting, and haven’t found the right person with whom to broach the subject. Thus, rather than answering “That’s a long story,” how about “Why do you ask?” That way, you’re inviting a dialogue, which you can choose to continue or shut down. Based on the person’s demeanor (and trust me, soon enough, you’ll develop a radar), maybe you can say “I’d prefer to keep the personal details of my child’s life private,” or “I’m real and I’m his mother. What do you mean by ‘real mother’?” Of course, sometimes it’s best simply to smile and walk away. That’s always an option. Not in a mean way! But just to be clear in your body language: This conversation is over.

The fact is, your kids are watching you and learning from you. For the rest of their lives, they’ll encounter these questions. Rather than avoiding the conversation, give them some tools to work with. A book helpful to many adoptive parents is the WISE UP Powerbook by Marilyn Schoettle, available on Amazon and elsewhere. Personally, I have studied this book and swear by it.

As always, these are only my thoughts on the subject to take or leave. Here’s the link to the original letter.

 

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