When we were in process for our first (international) adoption, our agency offered several hours of adoptive parent instruction. We read about and discussed a variety of topics ranging from attachment to race and culture. We talked about how our child might respond to us, how we might respond to our child, and also, how the people around might respond to a family like ours.
At the time, dealing with other people didn’t seem nearly as overwhelming as all the challenges of bringing a new child into a new home. A few months later, our child was home and we were suddenly surrounded by reactions and responses. Some were postive, some negative. Some were well-intentioned, others were prying, and a few were harsh and judgmental. I realized, in short order, how woefully unprepared I was for all of these reactions.
Now, 6 years later, I still feel ill-equipped to adequately deal with reactions of others. However, as my children age, I worry more about the questions and comments. What will my children think of the questions, and of the persons asking the questions? What will my children think about my response, or the lack thereof? What will they be learning about others, about themselves, and, oh my, about me?
If I were an on-the-spot thinker, I would have been ready with a tongue-in-cheek reply for at least some of these questions:
"Are they really brother and sister?" — "No, we’re just pretending?" (smiling sweetly)
"Do your kids have the same parents?" — "Yes, they do. Why, don’t yours?" (my kids are biological siblings)
"Don’t they love their kids over there?" — "I think it might be against the law." (blinking blankly)
OK, all snarkiness aside, how will and should I respond to these questions? Of course, I want to protect my children from the pain associated with prying and hurtful questions. I want my sons and daughters to learn (from my response) that some questions should not be asked, some comments should never be spoken. I want my sons and daughters to know that I love them enough to speak up for them, even in the most difficult situations. I want them to know I respect them so much, that I am willing to have the tough conversations. But, truthfully, I want more than just this. I believe, that as a Christian, I am bound to educate others through my response. Each of these events is really an opportunity to guide and correct. And, guidance and correction are so much easier to accept when bathed in kindness. If my chief goal is to glorify my Heavenly Father, then I will handle each circumstance with a measure of gentleness, perhaps a measure of rebuke, and certainly an abundant measure of love.
So,if you were looking for a list of "perfect" answers, I must apologize. You won’t find them here. We could each memorize a list of responses, but undoubtedly, the conversations wouldn’t play out exactly as we’ve planned. Instead, between now and the next incident, I think I will pray. I will pray for a heart so drenched in love for my God, my children, and my neighbor, that regardless of the situation, I’ll be able to respond, to model, to educate, to correct only one way…kindly.