Who Gets to Know What: OAB Roundtable #34

Heather, our overlord at Open Adoption Bloggers, posted a new question today:

It is likely that we’ve all had that experience at some time: someone asking us to speak to the choices or feelings of others in our adoption constellation. Perhaps it is someone asking a first parent how their child feels about being in an open adoption. Or someone asking an adoptee why their adoptive parents chose to adopt. You get the idea.

How do you handle such questions when they are asked of you? How would you want the other parties in your open adoption to handle those questions when they are about you?

I’ve become a touch less tactful in my old age. At first I didn’t really talk much about our adoption at all; mostly introversion, but usually nobody questioned my being Anabel’s parent. At least not to my face. Now I ask directly why they need to know.

Our questions came mostly from our extended family. My mother asked whether or not her first family could come and reclaim her (a remote possibility in some states, but not in ours). We had a good conversation about that, and that they’re more like extended family. They also asked why C & J (M’s parents) wanted to have a relationship with us. I still can’t answer that question, so I said so. I don’t think DadGoth’s family ever really asked about our adoption. There were some snide comments from certain corners, but we’ll just ignore that for now.

When Anabel went to kindergarten, we talked about the subject coming up. DadGoth and I allowed Anabel to make her own choices as to who to tell about her adoption. There’s a whole raft of other things that make our family a bit unusual, and adoption is the smallest part of that. Her closest friends know, and it’s not a big deal. I didn’t really know the circumstances of when or why they asked. I don’t think it even came up in her dreaded Family Tree assignment in 1st grade. It turned out that her teacher’s mother was adopted, and the tree itself was a giant lollipop-like object that each child could attach pictures of their family in whatever way they wished. Anabel did choose to share her information with the class, and introduced the people as “Mom’s side, Dad’s side, and my side” of her family. As she gets older, she does know the standard answer for just about everything to do with us: “Why do you want to know?”

Sometimes the answers to that question are illuminating.

My sister did ask, not long after our adoption was finalized, how much it all cost. When I asked, she said she’d wondered if it was more than the twins’ birth (that included an overnight in the NICU). “If we hadn’t had insurance, that’s how much (twin nieces’) experience was.”

As far as other people in our extended family, I think M introduced us only once to anybody we were with – her current boyfriend/roommate – as Anabel’s parents. He and I talked a little while A and M were hanging out together. He did mention that this was kind of unusual. I said that this was, for us, the right thing.
I was asked only once from another adult if Anabel was adopted was by her BFF’s mom. She and her husband had been investigating adopting from foster care at several points in their marriage. It seemed that every time they had gotten past the home study part, she got pregnant.