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Adoption Blog: My Paperwork Pregnancies

Wearing My Adoption Hat to School



This year I'm trying to be a presence at my children's elementary school by volunteering often. When I walk through the school's front doors, I usually have my "mom" hat on, but, recently, some unexpected conversations with my kids' classmates made me quickly switch to my "adoption" hat.
 
 
Fifth Grade: One day while volunteering I stopped by the cafeteria to say hi to my oldest, Keith. I happened to be wearing a Chicago Cubs shirt, and one girl shouted from halfway down the lunch table, over the loud lunchtime noise, "Keith's mom! Did you adopt Keith from Chicago?" I shook my head and said, "Nope," and hoped that would be the end of it. But she shouted back, "From Mexico?" Again I shook my head and answered, "Texas!"
 
Suddenly, every child at the table was yelling questions at Keith. "You're really adopted?" "How old were you?" "Is that why you don't look like your mom?" "Where are your real parents?" It was a madhouse and I whispered in Keith's ear, "Sorry, Dude."
 
I've known most of these children for the past five years, and they know me as "Keith's mom," so I didn't expect this. I guess some of them never thought of adoption because they didn't care, or maybe assumed that Keith's dad was dark-skinned.
 
At home later that day I asked Keith what happened after I left. He said the cafeteria teacher had to come quiet everyone down and told the kids to leave him alone. Keith said it was "no big deal" and answered his classmates' adoption questions, as they were "just curious." I realized that all of the practice we've done at home to prepare him for adoption talks with peers was paying off.
 
Third Grade: I was volunteering in the library, helping my daughter, Irena, and her classmates check out their books. Irena had walked away when I was suddenly bombarded with questions from about five children. Their questions (in italics) and my responses are as follows:
 
Really? You're Irena's mom? Yes
 
Why are you two different colors? Because I'm an adoptive mom. Irena didn't grow in my belly, but in another woman's belly. Then I adopted her when she was just a little baby.
 
Does she know she's adopted? Of course. She's always known.
 
Did she cry when you told her? I think I would. No, she didn't cry. Being adopted is normal for us, so there is nothing to be sad about.
 
Why didn't her parents want to keep her? Well, it's not that they didn't want her. They couldn't provide for all the things a baby needs, like diapers, food, clothes, and much, much more. It takes a lot of money and time to raise a baby.
 
Does she want to see her real mom? Well, I think of myself as a "real" mom, as I am there for her every day.
 
I have a brother who is my stepdad's, but he lives with us some of the time. It's kinda like we adopted him, right? Yeah, kinda. Families can be formed many different ways. It doesn't matter if you share the same blood. You just need to love and take care of each other.
 
Yeah, I guess so.
 
That night, I told Irena what some of her classmates asked me. She looked shocked and said things like, "Of course I know I'm adopted!" and "Why would I cry? Adoption is a good thing!" It was nice to hear that her responses were pretty much how I responded.
 
Kindergarten: I went to Brent's classroom to read some books to the class. I had completely forgotten that this would be the first time many of these curious students would see that the dark brown boy's mom is white, blond, and blue-eyed. When the teacher nicely announced that "Brent's mom" was here to read to them, I looked at the big questioning eyes which came from the students. I heard a lot of kids saying, "Huh?" and a few asked, "Brent, is that really your mom?" Brent was surprised and annoyed by the questions. He then proudly said, "Yes, she is my mom!" and sat in a chair next to me.
 
As I read the book, I felt a pang of mom guilt. Before my first two children entered kindergarten, I had thoroughly prepared them for inquisitive questions from classmates. Now, here's child number three and, as with many things, he's getting the short end of the stick. Adoption is so commonplace at home and, with two older siblings, for some reason, it just never crossed my mind that Brent would also be asked about adoption.
 
When I asked Brent if those questions bothered him, he said, "No, they just hadn't met you before." I was relieved he wasn't upset. And, trust me, we're now going to do the same kind of role-playing and talking about common adoption questions as I did with his older siblings.
 
Three separate incidents in a short amount of time snapped me back into reality of always needing to wear my "adoption" hat. No matter where I'm at or who I'm around, an adoption conversation can occur. So, when I go to my children's school these days, I enter as an "adoptive mom" who is there to volunteer and answer any adoption questions that may arise.


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5 Comments

Darn cute kids.

By Paul on Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm.

Kids are Kids….....  But you are really a great mom. Mom like you make children life very easy whatever is the situation.

By Judith Bell on Thursday, November 07, 2013 at 6:45 am.

“I enter as an ‘adoptive mom’ who is there to volunteer and answer any adoption questions that may arise.” —You’re like a super hero, Danielle. You beautifully illustrate how important it is to be your child’s advocate and an adoption advocate in general.

By Barbara Herel on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm.

Danielle - could you tell me more about the role plays you do with your kids regarding questioning form their peers?  My husband and I adopted 3 girls (siblings) - now in grades 4, 2, and K and the “real parents” thing has come up a few times recently.  I would love to give them some practice and confidence with handling questions/comments from peers.

By Motherof3 on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 2:43 am.

I always find it refreshing when I volunteer at my children’s school and I get honest questions from children who are not yet restricted by social pressure or political correctness. I think you did a wonderful job handling the unexpected questions - and that you quickly realized that the questions were the result of genuine curiosity!

Rami Amaro
Amaro Law Office

By Rami Amaro on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 2:57 am.

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Meet the Author

Danielle Pennel

Danielle Pennel

Missouri

I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Newborn

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