I have three kids — one biological and two adopted. People ask some really ignorant questions about adoption. I should be used to it, but I’m really not. I wonder if I’ll ever get used to nosy strangers who try to get up in my business under the guise of friendly curiosity.
This curiosity is usually harmless, even when it comes at really weird and awkward moments, like when I’m at the drugstore holding a box of bladder control pads. Because that’s really when I want to answer personal questions.
But there’s one question I don’t see as harmless: “What about their real mom?”
Sometimes this question is whispered. Sometimes it’s asked blatantly in front of my children, who don’t know any mom but me. Sometimes it bothers me. OK, that’s a lie. This question bothers me every single time it’s asked.
I know people are asking about my children’s birth mother. My two boys are Asian, and I’m a tall redhead with blue eyes. No one has mistaken me for being Asian, ever. Maybe it’s wrong of me to get wrapped around word choices. Although some people are nosy jerks, I don’t think anyone has ever intentionally tried to hurt me with an adoption question or comment.
But sometimes, it does hurt.
The “real mother” question hurts me, and it hurts my children. I am as real as it gets. I do all the things a mom does: I nag my kids to pick up their LEGOs. I make their lunches. I wake them up in the morning. I know which kid will flip out if I give him a sandwich with the crusts on and which kid needs a little extra time to ease into the day.
I’m the real mother.
I listen to their endless recaps of whatever thing happened on Paw Patrol. I pretend to be offended at their fart and burp jokes. I read to them… I have Go, Dog. Go! memorized, and I can even turn the page at the appropriate places. I kiss them good night, and sometimes I watch them sleep. I worry about them. I see the men they will become emerging in their everyday shenanigans.
I’m their real mother.
When a stranger, or even someone we know, asks about my kids’ “real mother,” I know they’re asking about the women who gave my sons life — their biological mothers. People want to know if they’re involved in the boys’ lives and why the adoptions happened in the first place.
The answer to that is none of anyone else’s business.
Asking me that question is questioning the authenticity of our family relationships and sometimes forces a conversation with my children that ought to happen organically, when they are ready for it.
The “real” question is something everyone impacted by an adoption has to field at one time or another. Teen Mom stars Catelynn and Tyler recently did a video on how they handle the question of “real.” I admit to not being a Teen Mom superfan, but I had to give Catelynn and Tyler virtual high fives for their composure and grace in dealing with a question that is all too familiar to me.
“It’s not like they’re made of cardboard or something,” they say about their daughter’s adoptive parents. “They are her real parents.”
I am not made of cardboard. I’m a real mom.
Our love is real.
Our family is real.
How about this: The next time you get the urge to ask an adoptive family — or any family — an intensely personal question, stop yourself. Throw them a smile and say, “You have a beautiful family.” And mean it.
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