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Thursday 27th of April 2017

"Is Her Father Chinese?"

None of the inquiries I've received from strangers have been anything other than curious; no one has ever been rude in their questioning or at my response. My daughter Kimberley is now 3 years old . When she was an infant, I found it much easier to handle those tough little situations. Now she is not only more in tune with my reactions, but she certainly understands much more of the conversation. My list of difficult questions, comments and reactions is below:

 

Situation #1: Stranger: "Is she yours?"

Me: "Yes she is." Stranger: "No, I mean is she REALLY yours?"

Until Kimberley turned two, my standard answer was to sweetly smile and say "from the very first moment I held her." That usually left the stranger standing there trying to figure out what that meant while we quickly exited from their presence. It was every bit the truth and I am left with such wonderful feelings about that moment that Kimberley would hear nothing but positive in my voice and expression. I do not know if it is the number of times I have gone through the same situation or if it is that Kimberley is now older that the line has become more difficult to deliver. When she was a baby, it was a cute, quick comeback. Now, for whatever reason, it's just more difficult for me. My feeling is that any answer at all is an invasion of Kimberley's privacy; it is her information and no one else has the right to it.

Now I try to reply with a response that I came across in one of the books that I read, "Why do you ask?" It is a splendid return, especially if the stranger responds that they have a friend interested in adoption and they were just wondering if that was our situation. I am more than happy to share with them my phone number to talk with their friends. I gladly share my experiences with adoption but refuse to go into Kimberley's background because again, that is her information. It is private and belongs to her.

However, if a stranger replies, "Oh I was just curious," I can't figure out what to say. The books suggest saying "Oh, I see" and walking off. For some reason, that line doesn't seem to roll right off my tongue, and even worse, I can't think of anything better. The battle is how to cut off someone who is clearly asking questions that are none of their business without making Kimberley feel as if I am not proud of how she joined our family. Only others in this same situation can understand that statement. I'd be very interested in how others respond.

 

Situation #2: "Is her father Chinese?"

As a single mother, this one particularly bothers me because I'm left not knowing what to say. In my bumbling, I end up replying "Yes, he is." I need suggestions on this one as it will be more of an issue as she gets older. When confronted with this type of question, one of my single friends who adopted from Latin America always replies "I don't know, I never saw him." Now when she tells this story at adoption meeings, we all just howl with laughter. I admire her nerve but am not sure I could really pull it off.

 

Situation #3: "Does she speak Chinese?"

Just recently, Dear Abby had a column on transracial adoptions in which she commented on the question of what language the child will begin speaking. Several people at work were appalled to hear that I had really had that question asked of me. They loved the response, so I'll pass it on. When people say that it sounds just like she's speaking Chinese, I look at them in all seriousness and say "Well, you did know that she's teaching me, didn't you?" You see them stand there and try to figure that one out. It works every time because we slowly exit with big smiles.

 

Situation #4: "Isn't what you've done wonderful!"

This is not so much a difficult situation as a sad one. It deals with those people who simply have no clue about adoption. It is the person who elevates me to sainthood because I adopted a child from a foreign country. I usually reply that Kimberley has added much more to my life than I could ever hope to add to hers. But it is very sad to me that folks just don't get it. I can't wait to hear what other families have to say. I'd love to find a book that really talks about this issue from the child's point of view.

 

 

 

Anne Brittle lives near Dallas and is currently celebrating the arrival of Kimberley's sister Jennifer from Viet Nam. This article was originally published in "Little Treasure" the newsletter of FCC-Seattle.

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