all mine

When in public, I am usually asked if the children are “all mine?” I have learned that this question has many connotations–good and bad. I think the questioner most often means, ‘am I the biological mother?’ They are intrigued by the small gaggle of four brown children. Which, as my blogging friend, Wendi, just posted today, is somewhat flattering–because there are times that I wish my sweet ninos physically resembled me. Now, sometimes people mean, ‘am I the step-mother or girlfriend or caretaker?’ In these instances, the person sizes me up just a tad more. The head bounces back and forth between me and the kids a few extra times, wondering what the story is, exactly. And, of course, there are times, depending on how the question is asked, that a myriad of hurtful motives are all but pushing the question out of the person’s mouth. I have become pretty good the past year at discerning such questions.

When the question seems sincere, I typically reply with a Yes, and then continue on by sharing our adoption story. And I can’t think of a single time that I have not been bombarded with sweet compliments and further inquiry. And yet, lately, I have become more annoyed by the question. Why? I have a couple of theories, which I will share in my next post. But last week I decided to try something new. 

The five of us were at the post office. This was the second post office and fifth errand of the morning. The ninos handled it like champs. I had them sitting a bit away from me on a bench where they were talking and reading quietly. The elderly white lady in front of me leaned back, not knowing I had any children with me, and struck up a conversation about how bored she was. We spoke for few moments, and then I turned to check on the children.

When she put two and two together, she asked surprisingly, “oh, are those your children?” I gave a warm, but simple, Yes. She looked at me as if expecting me to elaborate. I said nothing (which is hard for me to do:) She then leaned in and said, “all of them?” I said, yes–and laughed genuinely. She then complimented me on how well behaved my kids were…asking where my big stick was. It was adorable, and super flattering. And then, finally, she leaned in knowingly and whispered, “you know, most children today are not like that. You keep doing what you are doing.” I told her I would, and she turned around. Okay, she stole a few more glances back at the children before it was her turn at the counter. But still, she was the perfect person to experiment on.

Was she wondering what our story was? Probably. Should I have shared more? Maybe. But for that one moment, it felt freeing to have a conversation about my children with no labels attached or assumptions made. In that conversation, with a woman 40 years my senior who was clearly full of wisdom and prudence, the children were just mine. They weren’t my adopted kids. They weren’t foreign born orphans. They weren’t troubled children rescued from foster care. They weren’t even, and simply, someone else’s kids. They were just my kids–all mine!!!


  1. I grew up in a very large family. I remember my mother being asked that very same question over and over. We were all biologically related, but being a child,it never occured to me that people might have been asking something deeper under the surface than that. Probably they were. Probably many many people were judging us and I was clueless. But I always innocently assumed that people were simply asking if we were all members of one family or if any of the kids were just friends or cousins who had joined us on the outing. I was always proud to say yes, we’re one big family. My mother set that tone for us. The way you answered the woman in the post office was exactly the way my mom answered the question.

  2. Good for you Rachel! I know my mom had to deal with the same questions since my mom doesn’t resemble her Mexican babies too much. We definitely have the tanned skin, so people would always assume or ask questions. I remember my mom saying, “Yes they are mine and aren’t they cute!” She didn’t give anyone the opportunity to ask questions in front of us so we didn’t know we looked different from her. I didn’t know I was different until other kids told me. (Another thing you will have to face). I think you did the right thing because they are yours! Good for you!

  3. This happens to us often as well, and depending on the day I approach the questions differently and with differing attitudes. When the three of us are together it is obvious that Truxton is adopted. But about a month ago in the Target line a woman asked me (Truxton and I were alone), “Is he yours?” And I simply replied, “Yes.” I could tell that she wanted more information but with each little “Oh, he’s so cute.” I’d just reply “Yes, he is.” And didn’t give her our story. And yes, it did feel liberating.

    I don’t think we always have to have a disclaimer ready for how we became a family. Heavens we don’t want to know how every cute biological child in a family was conceived. But at the same time I think it is wonderful to show the world how amazing adoption is. Who knows if the pregnant girl that is standing behind us, observing our family, is considering placing her child for adoption. Who knows if all she needs to see is that yes an adopted child is the world to their mommy and daddy?

  4. “Simply mine!” I love it! I have the same problem with not going into details, but I wonder one day, will the children not want to hear the adoption story every time, will they just want to simply “be”?

    Thanks for commenting on my blog! Girl, you know WE could get in some trouble if we were too close! You say everything I want to say on the blog, except you are much more eloquent! I wish I could communicate my thoughts as clear. I had a family member approach me a few weeks ago and tell me she didn’t know why I hated her child because “god blessed me with a baby”— I was so taken back… like “I know she didn’t just go there!” All because I didn’t want to hold her newborn baby, which after the third time demanding I hold it refused and then later explained the difficulty those who struggle with infertility experience… are people just STUPID??? ARGh!!!

    Keep posting! Love your posts!

  5. What a great post! It is fun to see the growth and the insights you share on this blog.

    Jes’ comment was fabulous… about never knowing who may need to touched by your story. Thank goodness for the Spirit that will guide and direct you to share when it is so necessary for someone else to hear it.

    Wendi’s experience with holding the baby is so familiar, of course. And even though I now have a baby of my own, I still find that I am not inclined to hold and cuddle with other people’s children. Perhaps it is habit. Perhaps it is a protective behavior. But I find that those whose identity, self-worth and esteem is not completely wrapped up in their children tend never to even notice or think about other people wanting to hold their babies. I hope I am that secure myself.

  6. I love the outcome of this experiment because that woman, as an outside observer, voiced the most appropriate observation: that your kids are super well-behaved, and that you’re doing a great job raising them. Keep it up!

  7. Because I couldn’t have children for so long I used no birth control and when they did come they came fast. I had 5 kids in 7 years. People were constantly saying: ” are they all yours.” After some lady said that to me my oldest, (Kari) said: ” Maybe I need to die, you have too many kids.” I will never forget the shock and the location when that happened. I was rather happy that we had 5 kids and Kari took it as too many. I wish I would have known what to say to prevent that feeling for her.

  8. We have started doing foster care, hoping to adopt a cute little (okay HUGE) 10 month old boy, Alaska Native. It’s funny to see people try to figure out where he comes from, and I’ve been getting the questions too. One lady did ask me though if I breastfed him, which I just replied no. I almost felt guilty not being able to answer differently, but I was so happy she thought he was mine. I think about your beautiful family often, I’m thrilled that you are a happy family.

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