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!!!