Shit Not to Say to Adoptive Families

Shit Not to Say to Adoptive Families

November is National Adoption Month. You may see stuff in your Facebook feed about being “chosen” and “born in my heart, not under it.” Those are wonderful sentiments. This isn’t an article about wonderful sentiments, so hold on, k?

My sons did not enter this world via my vajayjay. If you see me at the store with two almond-eyed, sticky-fingered boys trailing behind me whining for Fruity Pebbles, you may assume I’m married to some hot Asian guy or that I’m the nanny. Who am I kidding? I am waaay too old to be the nanny. But seriously, we get loads of questions about adoption and being a multiracial family from total strangers.

Sometimes these questions are annoying or straight-up rude. My reaction is determined by a complicated equation factoring in current caffeine level multiplied by number of dumbass drivers I’ve encountered that day. Sometimes, it’s just best not to ask me questions that aren’t “May I refill your wine glass?”

People ask nosy questions about my kids in stores and waiting rooms. Anytime I’m not moving and make accidental eye-contact, I apparently emit invisible signals that scream “Yes, please! Ask me something that’s none of your damn business!”

For example:

1. “What’s he mixed with?”

This question interrupted my deep thoughts about whether I could get another week out of my boxed hair-color root job or if I needed some Nice n’ Easy time. Seeing my look of confusion, the asker whispered:

You know…his race.”

He’s Chinese,” I whispered.

I have no effing clue why we were whispering but I went with it so I could get back to worrying about important stuff, like my hair.

2. “He’s so smart! It’s in his genes, right?”

Asked while my four-year-old was licking the screen of my phone. Sure, lady. He’s writing an app with his tongue. MIT is all over us.

3. “Do they speak Asian?”

No, they speak Klingon. Seriously, who doesn’t know “Asian” isn’t a language?

Even though curiosity gets old I try to err on the side of nice when responding to adoption questions (when I’m well-fortified with coffee, chocolate, or booze ). I have no trouble (semi-nicely) letting someone know they’ve gotten too personal; but the straight up MYOFB is reserved for:

“How much did they cost/why didn’t their real parents want them/aren’t you afraid they’re going to turn out crazy/can you give them back/is it different than adopting a dog because I adopted a dog and that was really hard/are you still trying to get pregnant/they’re so lucky/where are they from no really where are they from?”

Yes. People really say this stuff.

Aside from the fact that I don’t like interrupting my regularly scheduled programming to hold a Q & A at Target, I usually choose not to answer these questions because they’re not my questions. I have no idea how my kids will view the story of their beginnings once they’re older and have a better grasp of things. Besides, I’m not an exclusive source of adoption information. Google, k?

Parting shot: Grocery store.

RELATED: 10 Things Never to Say to a Mom of All Boys

Lady stops to admire my boys as I hoist a 10-pound bag of rice into my cart. (This was during the 15-minute window of the day where shirts were clean and nobody had hanging boogies).

“I imagine they eat a lot of rice.”

Would you walk up to a Mexican family and say, “I imagine you eat a lot of tacos.” Would you???

Resist the urge to comment on stuff in people’s carts. Unless you routinely say stuff like, “Ooh pads, that time of the month?” or “Lactaid? Milk gives me the squirts, too.” But seriously. Just because “Hey, I wonder . . . ” pops into our heads doesn’t mean “Can I ask you . . . ” should fly out of your pie hole.

You might meet me in your local supermarket on a day when my coffee light is low. Things could end badly.


Thank you SheKnows Media for choosing this piece as a 2015 Voice of the Year! 



This original piece by Jill Robbins was written exclusively for In the Powder Rooma division of Hold My Purse Productions, LLC. 

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Jill writes about post-adoption life and other random stuff at Ripped Jeans and Bifocals with the goal of making you laugh or roll your eyes. She enjoys running, dry wine, swear words, and the Lily Pulitzer wrap dress (because it hides crap her kids spill and her imperfect abs). She has a college-age daughter and two preschool age boys and although she is aware of the large age gap between her first and second children, she loves it when people point that out. When she is not losing her mind or wasting time on Facebook and Twitter she works on her collection of adoption stories called “My Own” which you can read just as soon as she snags a publisher. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @JillinIL.

Keep the conversation going...



  1. says

    This just proves that truth is WAY stranger than fiction. These comments and questions are beyond ridiculous, not to mention plain old rude.

    • says

      Truth IS stranger than fiction! Stereotypes are a powerful thing: right or wrong. My bandaid solution is just not to look at people in the store.

  2. says

    Seriously? That last one? I’d haul off and deck a person. What the eff?

    I wouldn’t ask anything, if we were friends I might say, hey, do you mind telling me about the whole process – or do you feel like talking about it – or something. But who ARE these people? Ugh.

    • says

      Answering a friend’s questions isn’t the same thing as a strange who is “just curious”…there are still boundaries, especially if my ids are present, but it’s a different dynamic. Thanks for reading!!

  3. says

    People are unbelievable. I admire your restraint. I had someone ask me, when pregnant with my first child, “Oh, look you’re pregnant,” which first of all, made me want to say “Oh, shit, I am?” and then she followed it with “Are you married?” I couldn’t help myself. “Oh, no, it’s my brother’s.” That shut her the fuck up.

    • says

      “Are you married?” Really, people?!?! Ugh. I have been guilty of word vomit a time or two in my life but dayum!

  4. says

    Oh boy! How I relate!! I have a Korean daughter and when she was six months old, my friend lowered her voice to a hush (they always do that just before foot insertion!) and said, “she’s adorable, but how will you understand anything she says when she starts to speak?” I looked at her like “What??” And she explained, “I suppose you can take a crash course in Korean to keep up with her.” Ha! Like she’s been preprogrammed to speak the language of her birth country.

    • says

      That’s cray cray! I can’t believe someone would think she’d start babbling in Korean after being exposed to English. Oh, people.

  5. Jane says

    We actually had someone ask us (we have adopted 3 via foster care), “What’s the matter, your husband shooting blanks?” I had to pick my chin up off the floor on that one. I think my answer back was something like, “Were you born rude, or do you work on it on a daily basis.” and walked away!

    • says

      Oh. My. Word. I think I’d have said “so, you want to talk about hubby’s Johnson, eh?” Some people say kill ’em with kindness.. I say dazzle them with oversharing. But gawd. Really. How rude.

  6. says

    “I’m sure they eat a lot of rice”–OMG. I’m sure that person eats a lot of her own foot, what with it entering her mouth so frequently..

  7. says

    I personally love the fact that he licks the screen of your phone. People need to stop and think before opening their mouths sometimes.

  8. Mallory says

    I noticed you have a college age daughter. I’m 27 and have a 4 year old sister who was adopted from Russia. My mom also enjoys being informed that there is a big age gap between us. I have a 2 year old which really gets the questions going when were out in public together. People are always perplexed when they ask if the two little ones are sisters and the four year old says “nope, that’s my niece!”

  9. says

    Unbelievable!! I Also admire your restraint. I’m fairly sure I’d tell some nosy fool to fuck right off were I asked something so rude & so none of their business! On the plus side, you do have 2 lovely kids that hopefully you can teach to laugh at such stupidity. At least you know one thing for sure. They will never be so rude or forward when they’re adults!