Questions Adoptees ask about their Adoption
- Where am I from? Many times parents who adopt domestically want to give the easy answer and say things that make them feel comfortable. (Well, at least I didn’t take them from outside of the country…i didn’t need to go outside because there is a huge need here). I think when kids ask ‘where am I from?” they are not just asking about the physicality of the place, they are asking about roots. If your kids are AA/back, then they need to start hearing about their roots. If they are Asian, they need to start hearing about their roots/culture, religion etc. If you adopt domestically and they are asking about where they are from, and the are SRA…they need to start hearing about White America (if their birth parents are American/white). For some parents this will be really difficult to do because I have yet to see/hear about families who have adopted white children, talk about the oppression their ancestors may have been part of…and how because they are white, they will benefit from systematic racism. Be very careful though because being adopted is already traumatic in its’ own right….so talking about oppression, and slavery, and racism to a white child who is adopted needs to be done in a manner that scaffolds and not separates.
- Who is my mother/Father? As adopted kids grow up, this is what is being asked of them and this is what they are asking of themselves. When you talk about their parents, empower their parents. Don’t just talk about all the negatives, or what the agency said to you, or what the birth parent wants you to believe. Empower the parents because after all, you have THEIR child.
- What does my country look like? Here, children don’t just want to see the physical components of their country, they want to feel their country, hear their country…TOUCH their country. Don’t just show them a picture on google images….TAKE THEM THERE. To be honest, if you had enough money to bring them to you, you have enough money to take them back with you.
- Why can’t I understand them when they are speaking to me in that language? This is a person struggle for myself. My APs made no effort to help me keep my language. Instead, they made fun of me for not knowing my language, and that was hard on me. I felt incompetent. Currently our daughter is learning French and she has now just started speaking it a bit. French is what the French people used to control our people and in 1804 our country had the first successful slave revolt of all time. We create Creole-a dialect of French-to revolt. Creole is our cultural language while French is the language that was used to oppress us. But it was also the language that gave us power over the rest. When a child comes to you and said they can’t understand the language of their roots….the language they were meant to speak. You got a problem. My suggestion is to begin talking to them about immersion, about the language they are meant to know also. Many kids lose their birth language because it is not exercised. Find a way to exercise it. This empowers your kids.
- What religion was I before I came to you? Many times new religion is forced on adopted children. It is not hard to find out what religion they were…do a bit of research. Be honest with them. Maybe when they get older they want to claim that religion as their own. Many adoptions are done to erase the “satanic” religion that supposedly would keep your kids down. But religion is part of culture and their entire people group has survived with it. What makes your religion better. Kids born and adopted domestically….Christianity may not be the religion of their family. FIND OUT. Don’t be afraid to do your homework. I episode 3 of roots, George, Kunta Kinte’s grandson wants to marry a beautiful girl who was born on the plantation. Her father is/was a preacher and Izzy, Kinte’s daughter is hesitant to let her be a part of their family. The preacher tries to proselytize and Izzy says something to the effects of “I do not pray to the white man’s God”…..I find this to be so powerful. The white man’s god was ok with slavery, whereas Kinte’s and his ancestors believed in freedom. (Intense stuff)
- Why does nobody look like me here? If your child is asking this, they are feeling isolated. They feel that they are the aliens. Is this the time to move to a new neighborhood…..yes and no. Do not move unless your intention is to be part of the community…not just use the community for your child. Children are NOT stupid, especially adoptees….we know when we are being used for the “look at me, look at how good I am”
- How come I talk like you and not like the people of my own color/race? This is difficult because the issue has to do with nurture. The way people talk has to do with nurture and also with culture. I don’t believe “nature” plays a role in this, but the culture of a person does. Because you are nurturing the child, the child learns how you do things. But a culture may have a different twang, may have different vocabulary, may have different mannerisms that can add up to the way they speak. If you can, focus on nurture. Don’t focus on who is better, who is worse, don’t focus on education, don’t focus on “proper”…(believe me, tons of APs try to correct their kids so they sound “proper”) Focus on nurture.
- Why am I a different color than you are? APs, don’t be afraid to talk about race with them. Don’t ignore their race. Don’t say “but your color is beautiful” because they are not asking you to validate their color or their experience, they are asking why the two colors are different.
- Why can’t I be the same color as you? This one is a bit more complicated. This is where you need to be honest with yourself in asking why didn’t you adopt same race..would it have been easier to adopt same race? Why are you putting your child through this life where there will be a lot of criticism. Be prepared to explain to your child how color DOES matter….maybe you do not have the answer. But you better come up with a good, honest and logical one soon because these questions do not end.
- Why are the children at school saying you are not my parents? Here you can talk about how you are not their real/birth parents. You can talk about the family dynamics. But you need to also be honest with what it means to be a parent.
- Why are children at school calling me names? All children are called names but children who are adopted for some reason are singled out. There is this stigma in adoption that says we are supposed to be made fun of. I don’t know 1 adopted child who was not made fun of at some point in time…but I know MANY non adopted kids who were not made fun of. Why are kids calling them names? You can’t ignore this question. Face it….sit with it, cry with them…be with them. And then ask yourself…..is it worth this pain they are going through? Was adopting them worth the pain they go through?
- Why do I get followed when I go to a store in the mall and my white friends don’t? Kids around the age of 5 or 6 from different cultures begin to experience this. This is where prejudice and racism needs to be talked about. You see, when you as a white parent, adopt a child who is a minority…your WHITE PRIVILEGE does not magically get handed down to them. You try and try and try and pretend they have all the rights you will have, but what happens is society pushes back not on you, but on them. It’s like feeding a full baby more food. They don’t want it because their body is full but you still try to force them to eat it. Be honest with your kids and don’t try to force your privilege. Work with the privilege they have and work to empower them…so that they can be strong and happy kids. Honesty will guide them into many different directions. Are you willing to go there with them?
- Why does my teacher have no faith in me? First, FUCK the teacher….not literally…but seriously..in today’s day and age, prejudice and racism permeates every single corner of our being. We live on stereotypes and we live in generalizations. Teachers are taught to have low expectations of children who are part of a minority group. And those teachers who don’t have the low expectations are the ones who are the “saviors”. We’ve seen it in different movies where the one teacher does something special to save a black school….or a teacher goes to another country to “educate” a group of poor unfortunate souls. So what do we say to our kids who ask this question…..first, NEVER tell the child to “prove them wrong” because this puts too much pressure on the child who is a minority. Say to your child “that teacher is fucked up!” yes. If you want to use a different word for it, then do so…but hit home with this. Your child NEEDS to know that they are not going to be subject to an endless age of oppression in the classroom. And they don’t have to prove themselves to anyone. They are worthy. (and then as an AP…..go to the classroom and have an intense chat about that teacher’s racism…not just for the sake of your child….but for the sake of others in the same position).
- Why does my heart hurt so much? You want to ask whether this is a physical pain, spiritual pain or emotional pain. Please tackle every aspect of the heart here. And when necessary, seek therapy.
- Where is the rest of my family? This is a difficult question because you may not know. DO NOT PRETEND you know and DO NOT GUESS. It was so damaging for me as a child when my APs pretended to know. Because I grew up, and their pretending or assumptions were ALL WRONG. DO NOT PLAY GOD when it comes to answering your kids questions. BE a parent. Be a friend.
- Where did I get this talent? DO NOT CREDIT YOURSELF as an AP. too many times APs want to take credit for things that are inherent in their child. They want to say “well, because of us, you can sing. Or because we paid for music lessons, you can play the instrument”. NO. Always re attribute talent, and ability and intelligence back to the real family, to the roots, to the life they had before.
- Do my real parents love me? Before you EVER answer this question, define what love means. Does it mean giving up a child? Does it mean sacrifice? Who is really sacrificing here? How many times has love failed you? In what way is “love” being a reason for abandonment?
- Why did my real parents give me up? Research the answer with them. Call around. Help them begin to process the idea of being given up. Ask yourself what it means to be given up. Ask yourself how you would feel….or maybe you too were given up. Maybe it could be a borrowing situation….maybe their parents lent the child out for a period of time but the hope is to reunify.
- Why are you my parents? This answer has to be given based on age appropriateness. As kids get older, details become more appropriate. As they get older, consider going through the adoption papers with them, if they want to read them on their own, let them be, but they may want to read them with you. Be there for them. Help them do the research. Support them. There is a reason you are their parents, and usually it is NOT just because you wanted them.
When we think about these questions, and we answer using honesty, we open the world up to our adopted children. We give them a voice, we help them find their passion, and we empower them to empower others.