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Adoption Blog: Familia Means Family
“They Aren’t Really Your Children”
My husband, Matt, our kids, and I were sitting at the counter of an ice cream shop licking away, trying to keep the sweet cream from running down our arms, and enjoying watching people hurrying up and down the busy avenue. A woman walked into the shop and without stopping to buy anything said to me, "Those are not your children, are they?"
I turned to face her slowly, appalled at the rudeness of that question. So appalled was I and so busy thinking of a response that it took me a second to process two important things about my situation. First, the question was asked in Spanish, which meant I was probably not in South Carolina, where we live. Second, the street was too busy with pedestrians to be the Small Town, USA, I had left just a few hours ago. Once I remembered that we had just arrived to my hometown of Quito, Ecuador, the night before, I was able to understand this question better and be more compassionate toward the intruder.
You see, in Ecuador, adoption is simply not the norm. The economic situation and the cultural understanding that families take care of their own make formal adoption a rare occurrence. Transracial adoption is even more of an oddity. Add that to the fact that, in Ecuadorian culture, people are much more inclined to ask questions and make comments to strangers that would appall people from other cultures, and it is understandable how this conversation started.
I replied that yes, my children are my children, hoping the woman would let the issue drop.
"OK, maybe they are yours, but they are not his!" she insisted, nodding toward my pale-skinned, green-eyed husband.
"Yes, they are ours," I insisted over and over again for the next few minutes, stubbornly refusing to give more explanation than what the question was requiring.
"Come on, they are not really yours. You are lying!" she insisted.
"These are my children. All mine," I refuted.
"But they must be adopted then," she pursued.
"Yes, they were adopted, but they are still mine," I said. I had gone from being frustrated to being amused at the unbelievable conversation I was having in the middle of an ice cream shop with a total stranger.
"Ah, well, then they are not really yours."
"Yes, they are really mine. When you adopt a child they are yours, completely yours."
"You love them like yours, but they are not really yours."
By this point, I was getting tired of the discussion and my ice cream was melting, so I turned my back slightly, hoping she would get the hint and move on. And finally, she did.
Later, I wondered why I had allowed myself to get so caught up in that conversation. I wish I had just ignored her after the first few back-and-forth exchanges. I think it was because, while I get strange questions and comments in the USA, never had anybody so openly stated what I think many people think about adoption, no matter where you are: that your children are not really yours if they did not come from your body. It is not politically correct to say so in the United States, but I hear it when people ask questions like: "Do you have contact with their real mother?” or "Why could you not have children of your own?"
The woman in the ice cream shop was honest, albeit rude, and I felt a deep desire to defend my family’s ties. We belong to each other. We are each other’s, even if we don’t look alike, even if we don’t share DNA, and even if it took a paper, a court date, a judge, and a whole slew of people to make it so.
Has anyone ever tried to debate or disparage your family's relationship? How did you respond?
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