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What do you tell people?

(23 Posts)
Italiangreyhound Thu 30-Oct-14 19:09:02

After ds arrived I decided not to tell people he was adopted unless I really needed to.

This was based on reading on mumsnett adoption threads from some people (whose opinions I respected) that children who joined families through adoption sometimes resented random people (e.g. friends of their parents) knowing they were adopted.

I think the reasoning also went that because adoption nowadays (as opposed to some years ago) often meant children were removed from birth parents because of issues such as drink/drugs/neglects etc. This meant when children said they had joined their family by adoption it could lead to a lot of questions about birth family which children did not always want to answer/or felt they should not have to answer. Perhaps, especially in their childhood and teens, they really wanted to fit in and be like other kids.

Before we met our little boy I was very open with friends and strangers that we were going through the process of adoption. I am pretty gobby, confident and extrovert so I liked talking! And it was talking about me. Now talking about adoption means talking about ds and I am reluctant to do this.

Now I feel I do not want to tell new people we meet about our son's adoption unless it will be beneficial to him, (doctors/teachers etc). I am amazed some people who have known me very casually for a long time had not realised ds was adopted until I told them (I had assumed they would know!).

OK, on to my question. When meeting new people and they ask any questions that could be hard to answer without saying ds had joined our family by adoption, how do you answer them?

What kind of questions are impossible to answer?

I racked my brain and all I could think of was questions about the birth or ds's habits as a baby or perhaps stuff like 'who does he look like in the family?

EG I could honestly say I think ds looks like his mum and mean me or his birth mum, although he does not look very like me! I could even say the same for dad! Both of them! To some extent! I guess I am worried I will be 'caught out' and people will be bothered thinking that I have misled them.

Just looking for ways to avoid or deflect!

Thanks. grin
PS - to those who have chosen to tell anyone anything, I am not criticising anyone, just saying how I have chosen to handle things. If and when ds chooses to tell people, it will be his choice but I will still guide him as I feel he cannot un-tell people and he is still only 4.

Italiangreyhound Thu 30-Oct-14 19:13:58

PPS for those who do not know me I have a ten year old birth dd so am quite well known around school etc and people who know my dd know my ds joined our family by adoption.

Barbadosgirl Thu 30-Oct-14 21:22:42

I was asked who my pixie looks like the other say. I said I was not sure and that he had a "unique look" grin

drspouse Thu 30-Oct-14 21:50:50

Random strangers - no - "who does he look like?" well, himself we think! "Oh you can tell he's yours, you have just the same hair" Thanks, I'll tell my hairdresser!

Mum friends - yes - hard to avoid with a baby as they were all talking about their births (first DC) or noticing who was pregnant again (subsequent DC, don't think I could have concealed that I wasn't pregnant from my mum crowd).
Our two are from overseas and DD has a birth father of a different ethnicity to us/DS, so both on the grounds that we want them to conceal where they are from, in fact we want them to be proud, and on the grounds that DD looks different to DS, it will be hard to conceal.

But the background is theirs to know and share if and when they wish. People sometimes assume that adopting a baby means everything is rosy but everything we know means there are a lot of hard facts to share.

Italiangreyhound Thu 30-Oct-14 23:31:05

Barbadosgirl good answer.

Italiangreyhound Thu 30-Oct-14 23:33:30

Thanks drspouse.

TheFamilyJammies Fri 31-Oct-14 00:55:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Italiangreyhound Fri 31-Oct-14 11:00:45

Thanks TheFamilyJammies

TrinnyandSatsuma Fri 31-Oct-14 12:19:56

People assume our son is ours, as he is very similar colouring (skin tone, eyes, hair) to my husband. We are fairly open with those who need to know - teachers, doctor, dentist etc. These are people who need to know because of the role they play in his life.

However, other people don't ask, we don't mention it. However, he is quite open about the fact he's adopted. It's not a taboo subject for us so it's quite possible he has told friends at school etc. As time goes on and he gets older, I suspect he will face difficult questions from friends, so we will support him to answer them.

We share virtually nothing of his story and our stock answer when people say stuff like "was his mother a drug addict?" Or "do you know much about his history." is, "that is his story to tell, not ours". My mother in law digs for information often! "What was his birth father like?" "was he foreign?" it used to rankle me, but it just give a stock answer and that helps.

I think because he was older when he came to us, we missed the baby or early years questions. If asked, I would answer honestly based on what we know. We have a copy of early medical records, so know he wasn't breast fed, has had immunisations, had chicken pox etc etc.

Hope that helps smile

TrinnyandSatsuma Fri 31-Oct-14 12:22:44

Just realised the clumsy use of words in my post above! He is ours! he couldn't be any more "ours"! What I meant was our birth child.

Italiangreyhound Fri 31-Oct-14 12:41:11

Thanks TrinnyandSatsuma I knew exactly what you meant.

KristinaM Fri 31-Oct-14 15:11:38

Try to not take these questions too literally .

Most people are asking , not because they want to know, but because they want to introduce a subject for discussion .

Or because they wish to draw you into a conversation if they feel you are left out .

Eg is a women asks " did you have Jane at st Mary's maternity hospital ? " , what they mean is " I want to talk about maternity hospitals in general or St Mary's in particular " .

So if you just say " no , he was born at St. John's" they will go on

" because my sister just had her first at st Mary's and had a terrible time " etc etc

They don't actually want to hear " well actually she's adopted and she was born in London but I can't tell you where because it confidential etc "

Because them they will have to pretend to be interested in the adoption when in fact they just wanted to talk about their sisters experience

Does that make sense ?

KristinaM Fri 31-Oct-14 15:19:07


What she bottle or breast fed ? Just answer bottle . If they ask why she wasn't BF like the others , just say " medical reasons"

Ive never been asked this about any of my children . Ever .

" how was she after her innoculation s?

I don't remember her reacting badly to any of them . How was your little Jonnie ?

Who does he look like ?

He's got his dad's brown eyes and my sisters musical ability . who does Jonnie look like ?

( This one is easy, just make up anything .)

Seem one assured me last night that one of my bio kids is the image of one of the adopted kids .

On issues of heritage

Yes, her grandmother was from Indonesia . Do you know much about your family history ?

flightywoman Fri 31-Oct-14 17:07:19

Our daughter came to us at 4, almost 5, and went to school after a few weeks at home. Mr Flightywoman and I had a long talk about how to handle it, and because she was older there just wasn't really an option to not tell people at school - she talks about her foster family, she talks about her sibling (who is not with us), it would have been impossible. PLUS there were all the questions about whether we had just moved to the area etc - because no-one had seen us at playgroups when she was younger.

We didn't stand on a box in the playground and announce "This is our daughter, she's adopted", we just told people as subjects came up that couldn't be answered other than by saying she is adopted. I guess most of them probably know now - certainly all of our regular parent friends do, they've been nothing but supportive and admiring, which has been a really good experience. And I think most of them generally forget that she is adopted now!

Strangers is a whole different world of course, I really don't tell strangers, unless there is a really good reason to - but I do seem to have a bit of an adoption-radar and often find myself talking to strangers who turn out to be adopters or fosterers. Not sure how it happens, it just does!

Strangers tend to assume that children are birth children, I have sometimes just lied by omission and let them have their assumptions uncorrected - our daughter is tall, so is my husband, they assume she gets her height from him, I let them do that.

The majority of our friends haven't asked probing questions, and when they have I have usually said I can't really talk about because it's personal information that belongs to her not to me.

Generally it's not too much of a problem for us, and if anyone was to be rude or inappropriate I think I'd just walk away and ignore it.

ChoccyJules Fri 31-Oct-14 17:19:41

I was talking to a close relative the other day about the fact that we won't be sharing details of our AC's history with family. She was a bit hurt and said, but I'm (insert family relationship here) and know everything about BD. What's the difference? That was 'BD's story to tell' and you told it. Etc

She wasn't being confrontational, just confused. Looking back I can understand this. So how so people deal with family who feel this way?

KristinaM Fri 31-Oct-14 17:28:35

Choccy - I'd be tempted to say " the social worker said we are not allowed to tell anyone "

Also I'd be amazed if your other child has a " story " before they came to you, before they were a member of your family . Does you relative want to know about your birth child before they were conceived ?

Because I'm assuming that she DOES know about your adopted child's story after she became part of your family . It's someone else's family story she wants to know isn't it ? About another couple and their families and the shitty mess they made of their lives . It's a complete breach of their confidentiality , as well are your ACs.

I can't see how the two things are the same at all TBH

KristinaM Fri 31-Oct-14 17:41:25

If it's any consolation, we has one relative who was so angry that we would. not tell her anything, she actually approached the adoption social worker herself to try and get it. She was of course shown the door .

She then started to make up stories about AC to tell people , she loved the attention. We once caught her telling someone in a shop that the bio parents were drug addicts .

We ended up going NC with her

Italiangreyhound Fri 31-Oct-14 17:47:35

Thanks Kristina excellent as always.

flightywoman thanks for sharing.

Chocy my sister and an old friend were both a bit put out that they would not know ds's back story. Actually as time has gone on it has been very hard not to let anything slip to my sister but really once they understood why I could not talk freely they accepted it. I was just about to say that the sorry of your child in your family is quite a different thing to their story before they came to you, and Kristina beat me to the post!

And of course when adults want to know about kids lives from their past life it is about the adult's desires and not about the needs of the child. Adoption teaches us that what is done in adoption should really be done for the benefit of the child.

So the only exception I would make is if a relative needed to look after ds and he had a crippling fear of spiders or whatever, I would tell the relative, so they could look after the child better. And if that crippling fear of spiders was a crippling fear of being hungry then said relative might guess some of the past.

I also think telling adults before the child comes that you can't tell them about the child's past when they are here is harder for the adult to understand. A bit like explaining some things to kids before it is really time, they cannot grasp it. Once the adopted child arrives the other adults should have a better understanding of why confidentiality is important because suddenly it is not about some nameless, faceless child but about little Mary or Joe and of course they want to do all they can to safeguard that child from prying eyes etc! IMHO!

KristinaM Fri 31-Oct-14 20:48:42

I think it's a symptom of our Jeremy Kyle /daily mail culture.

Things that used to be not mentioned at all, or only in a discreet whisper, are now what people enjoy reading about on a daily basis . Sex abuse, grooming, adultery , violence against women and children , addiction, mental illness , self harm, suicide - it's all just a bit of fun gossip to consume with your morning cuppa.

People are desperate for a juicy tit but to share with their pals , it's gets them a bit of attention .

" look at me, I'm so wonderful, I look after my niece /granddaughter /friends child/neighbours child . Her real mum was a prostitute and a junkie and her boyfriends beat her up . You wouldn't know, would you, she's such a sweet little thing.

" of course, bad blood always comes out later, they'll need to keep an eye on her as a teenager

" would you like a chocolate digestive ? "

It makes me sick to the pit of my stomach, they are vultures who prey on others pain .

Italiangreyhound Fri 31-Oct-14 23:52:41

I think the concern about what to say or not say is very true for my dh. He just feel unsure how to dodge questions! He is not as quick on his feet in conversations as me. Ironically, as a marathon runner, he is much, much quicker on his real feet than I am!

We are lucky that most people we meet are really lovely and I have rarely felt people want to get 'gossip' out of me. Although once or twice I have felt there was an ulterior motive to questions.

I think Kristina you are right that most people (aside from those like my husband, who is not a big conversationalist) are actually wanting to talk about themselves and to find a link to their own life.

As someone who talks, a lot, I have had to try very hard in real life to learn to listen and to encourage others to talk, so this is a good way of dealing with the questions I might find hard.

I have also noticed that nature abhors a vacuum and so if you pause for long enough in a conversation with an 'ummm I'm thinking of an answer' face and maybe make noises like 'mmm ....well.....', or perhaps simply look blank, someone else may well chip in their opinion before you have 'time' to reply.

I am going to try this next time there is a suitable question I want to dodge and see what happens.

I did use that tactic when a friend commented on ds's hair (its different from mine). I just left the comments hanging, they were not a real question but I sensed they were said to prompt a response! as in, 'yes, that is because he is adopted.' She has known me years but only by sight occasionally and to say hello to and I think she genuinely was not sure if she has missed a birth a few years back or not. When I was thinking about ds before he was a reality I might have felt I 'owed' her an explanation. Now I know I do not!

mineallmine Fri 31-Oct-14 23:58:42

Italian, we told my sister everything and told her where dd's box of info is. A lot of the info we received about dd was verbal and I've never written it down but what if aliens abducted me and dh and the information was lost? I'd want dd to be able to get the information. Also, you could tell my sister the third secret of Fatima and she would never reveal it to anyone.
My rule of thumb now (having made mistakes earier through not being prepared for the nosiness) is that if it's for dd's sake that I share, then that's ok but I don't answer nosy or intrusive questions.

Italiangreyhound Sat 01-Nov-14 00:05:29

Thanks mineallmine that's interesting. I have a great many fears but the alien abduction thing was not on my list! wink

he's only been with us 6 months so the social workers are pretty much still on the scene. It feels like there are a lot of people who know his story but maybe when all the fuss and noise has died down we will need to tell someone else. His story is not that extreme or unusual. We just had it drummed into us so much that it was private, tell no one, that it is hard to switch around that thinking. If we did tell anyone it would be whoever would look after both our kids and that would be my sister.

Italiangreyhound Sat 01-Nov-14 00:06:23

whoever would look after both our kids in the event of both of ours deaths - of course.

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