If you’re anything like me, you usually think of the perfect retort anywhere from five minutes to three days after you really could have used it. Or if you’re anything like I used to be, that is. Something about mothering my adopted children has given me the power to come up with fitting responses exactly when they are needed.
There was the time I had baby E at the hospital for some blood work. A bubbly young woman bounced up to me gushing, “Ohmygod, he’s so cute!” Then, noting the skin color difference between him and me asked, “Is his Daddy Black?” For the first time ever, I knew just how to handle it--I played dumb. “Um…well…I, uh…I don’t really remember, I…oh wait, maybe? Yes. Yes, I think he is.”
Unfortunately she didn’t catch on to the fact that I was messing with her. She smiled brightly at me before bouncing off again.
Then there was the time I was at a small crowded restaurant with my husband, our two biological children and baby E. A couple sat down next to us. The woman leaned over to my husband, tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Where’s he from?”
No small talk. No telling us how adorable he was before diving in to the personal questions.
“New Jersey,” my husband replied with a smile as he tried to turn back around.
But before he could, she asked, “Where’s he from before that?”
“New Jersey,” he said again with another smile while his wife sat silently smoldering nearby.
“He was born in New Jersey,” he said a third time before he turned back around to me.
“Next time someone keeps asking you like that, the answer is A UTERUS,” I said loudly as my husband sat silently dying of embarrassment nearby.
Since that time we’ve adopted two more children. People still ask where they are from but they’ve all taken my word on it that it’s New Jersey. (Surprisingly nobody else has asked if their Daddy is Black.) In a way, I wish we could get back to the cluelessness of the lady at the restaurant. It seems that as more children came to me, the more insensitive people felt they could be.
“Do they have the same mother? How many children does she have? Why doesn’t somebody just tie her tubes already? Is she a drug addict? Do they all have the same father?”
They really ask me things like that, in front of my kids to boot. It can annoy me and sometimes I’d really like to set them straight. But since her story is not mine to tell, I try to tell the rude inquisitors just enough to try to give them a crash course in sensitivity. “Aren’t we lucky to have not had to fight the cycle of poverty and addiction in our own lives? Nobody grows up wishing to have babies and then have them taken away, do they?" Oh, they never really thought about it that way....
The locals are now accustomed to seeing our brood around so we seem to get much fewer questions. Maybe it’s that I’m answering less of them as my children grow old enough to listen and understand that I’m talking about them. Maybe I now emit a vibe that lets rude questioners know if they’re going to ask demeaning questions about my kids’ birth mother they’re going to met with something they didn’t expect: Compassion.
And of course an occasional smart mouth.