Adoption–and Stupidity–are Forever

13 Jun

When my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher developed a semester-long unit of study on Antarctica. Being the helpful soul that I am, I suggested the class sponsor a penguin. They’re cute, they live in Antarctica and they are endangered. The teacher agreed and the class collected money for the sponsorship. They sent the money off to whichever  “Save Antarctica” organization it was that was collecting children’s pennies for penguins.

Some time later, my daughter asked me, “ Mommy, when will we get the penguin?”

“What penguin,” I asked, having forgotten the penny collection.

“The penguin!” she said, vehemently, apparently believing that additional verbal force might force my brain into remembering.

“I’m sorry, honey,” I said, “I just don’t know what penguin you’re talking about.”

“The one we adopted, Mommy! When do we get to bring him home?”

My daughter wasn’t trying to be cute. The penguin-saving organization called their sponsorship an “Adopt a Penguin” program. In our house, when you adopt something, you take it home and then you care for it and love it forever. My daughter was thinking it was about time we flew down to Antarctica and brought that penguin home, just as we’d flown to China to bring her home. I’m relieved that my daughter’s school didn’t adopt a highway. I don’t think it would fit in our living room.

My daughter has been home for nearly eight years now and one thing I’ve learned in all that time is that people can be pretty darn stupid when it comes to adoption. Actually, people can be pretty darn stupid about a lot of things, but adoption really seems to bring out the insensitive jerk in a whole lot of people.

We may get more than our share of stupid adoption comments because my daughter is Asian; my husband, my son and I aren’t. If you have eyes that work, it’s pretty evident that our daughter was adopted. My son is particularly annoyed by people who, on seeing him with his sister, ask if she was adopted. “No,” he likes to say, “my parents converted to Chinese after I was born.” I will admit, with shame, that I have used a similarly smart-assed response to one too many questions about how I came to be the parent of an Asian girl.

Actually, asking if my daughter is adopted is annoying to me because no one ever asks me if my son is born. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? My son was born, of course, but I’m really glad he isn’t born over and over again. Adoption, however, is something that many apparently believe happens repeatedly, as if my daughter wakes up every morning and we have to become a family all over again. She was adopted. It happened once, just like being born. Let’s move on, people.

I’m pretty sure people who adopted children from the United States that look like their parents don’t get some of the super stupid questions that we who adopted internationally do. I was once asked if we planned on teaching our daughter English. English, for crying out loud! Chinese, I could understand. I don’t speak Chinese. My husband doesn’t speak Chinese. Our son speaks some Chinese, but didn’t then. I wanted to say, “Of course, we’re going to teach her English. Are you going to stop being an idiot?”

When my son was born, a switch in my brain was flipped and I became vigilant about protecting him. With my daughter, the protection factor went into overdrive. Perhaps it’s understandable, given the moronic comments adoptees must endure. Because society forces it on families built through adoption, we see potential adoption-related issues in every situation. Recently, a friend’s daughter confessed that she was very worried about being labeled different at her school. She was in tears over her anxiety. My friend assumed, of course, that her daughter’s adoption was at the root of the problem. Nope. Her daughter didn’t want the other children to know she doesn’t like pie.

The real stupidity about adoption comes out over reality. I like to think of myself as real. I’m pretty honest and down to earth. Plenty of people have complimented me on how real I am. But when it comes to parenting my daughter, I become an imaginary being. Apparently, some people believe my daughter was adopted by fairies because I keep getting asked where her real parents are. Her real parents are right in front of you, Ding Bat, and we’ve got the papers to prove it.

As put out as I get when someone asks the real parents question, it really ticks me off when I note that I am her real mother and I get, “Oh, you know what I mean.” No, I don’t know what you mean. I refuse to know what you mean. Because what you mean feels pretty mean to me. It feels particularly mean to me when it’s said in front of my daughter.

Imagine telling a little girl that her father really wanted a boy. Or walk up to a kid and tell him that his mother wasn’t really sure she wanted to have a baby. Even if you know that little girl’s father really did want a boy and that mother really wasn’t sure she wanted to have a baby. You can’t imagine it, can you? But children who were adopted hear how their real parents didn’t want them all the time. They hear it from adult strangers and strange adults. Those are the easiest comments to deal with because I’m usually there when it happens. School, however, is another story. So I’ve given my daughter words to use in response. She lives with her real parents; her birthparents couldn’t take care of any baby so they made a plan for her to be adopted.

I feel pretty good about my daughter’s attitude toward her adoption. On a routine car pool trip recently my daughter had this conversation with her best friend:

“What would you say if someone asked you who your real parents are,” she asked Best Friend. (I swear I did not prompt this discussion.)

“What?” her friend asked. “That’s really weird.”

“Yeah,” my daughter said. “My real parents are my parents.”

We’ll continue to get stupid comments about adoption. We’ve heard them all from “Didn’t you want your own children?” to “How much did she cost?” Usually, I ask why someone wants to know because there are lots of people who are considering building their own families through adoption. But, every now and then, I have to let loose with a snide reply, something along the lines of “She cost too much? Well, how much did your car cost?”

I hope you’ll excuse me now. I have to go feed the penguin.

© Copyright 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.


7 Responses to “Adoption–and Stupidity–are Forever”

  1. anjobanjo22 June 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I think that it’s wonderful that your family adopted. When I was still a single parent, I had told my mother that I really wanted to adopt another one. But then I got married and the hubby and I had our daughter. Now that I have two kiddos, the subject of adopting still comes up when the hubby and I talk about more children. Actually, the funny thing is when it is just my son, my daughter, and me out doing errands, I think people think my daughter is adopted because of her blonde hair and pale skin. lol Poor child.

    I’m not sure what the future holds for us but it is always so nice to see families taking in children. Love it! 🙂

  2. Amy Dixon-Kolar October 25, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    Janice – Karin Evans sent me this link too. Are we living parallel lives or something? Our daughter is 9 (almost 10), adopted from China, goes from giddy with pleasure to wailing uncontrollably in nothing flat, and doesn’t like pie. And we get all the stupid adoption questions too. I actually love your son’s answer. Will have to share that with my 17 yr. old. Snarky answers aren’t the best, but they sure do feel good sometimes…

    Thanks for your writing. As I said on Facebook, it’s nice to see that others are going through the same things we are!

    • jmlindy422 October 25, 2011 at 9:39 am #

      Amy, we live for snark here in our house. It does seem like we are living parallel lives. Is it you that Karin said attends DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church or is that someone else. I get so confused, probably from living with my daughter. Where is your daughter from in China? Ours is from Guangdong Province, Dianbai County. Our son is from Mars.

      • Amy Dixon-Kolar October 25, 2011 at 9:48 am #

        Don’t attend DuPage UU, so that’s someone else. My hubby, Bob, and Karin work together at COD. We received our lovely, unpredictable daughter in 2002 from Jiangxi Province. She’s from Yong Feng township. I think maybe our sons were born on the same planet as well. But I think almost every teenager is from Mars, at least some of the time.


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