Three Things to Say to a Conspicuous Family

As I’ve mentioned before, because I chose to adopt transracially, I am part of a conspicuous family.  As such, I have read many, many articles and blog posts about “what not to say to adoptive families.”  I want to add my two cents, but since I am a kindergarten teacher, it is hard for me to make a list of things NOT to do.  That sounds so negative, don’t you think?

And so I give you…

Three Things to Say to a Conspicuous Family:

  1. “Hi, I’m _________.”  This one is my favorite.  I think it’s a great test of motive.  Would you normally introduce yourself in this situation?  Standing behind us in the grocery line?  No.  Watching our kids play together at the park?  Maybe.  Introduced by a mutual friend?  Yes.
  1. “Your daughter is so kind/helpful/(insert other adjective that describes your genuine observation here).”  Everyone wants to hear this about their kid, right?  So if you’ve seen something great that she’s done, by all means, tell me about it.  Cute is the wild card here.  If you have a relationship with my daughter, by all means, tell her (and me) how beautiful she is.  If you are a stranger telling me how cute my daughter is, when you say “cute,” I hear “different.”
  1. “I’m really interested in adoption.  Can I ask you a question?”  Yes, yes you can.  Obviously, it helps if we already know each other, but I am so passionate about adoption that I am not above discussing it with strangers when it’s approached in this way.  Ask away.  Just know that while I am more than happy to share my experiences, the details of my daughter’s story are hers to share when and with whom she chooses.

Honestly, common sense wins the day (doesn’t it always?).  Usually in public, a smile will do just fine.  And if we’re friends, there’s no need to walk on eggshells.  Relationship trumps etiquette.  And I will tell you if you say something crazy, I promise.

Are you part of a conspicuous family?  What would you add?

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4 thoughts on “Three Things to Say to a Conspicuous Family

  1. Sarah

    I would echo number one the most. Primarily because the best thing to say to a conspicuous family may be nothing at all. If we are out to eat, or at the mall, or at the store, we are there to accomplish whatever task we came to accomplish or spend time together, not to help strangers understand our family dynamic.

    I agree completely about cute, or any other physical compliment. It’s tricky because kids can be legitimately cute. But it is often code for different.

  2. Jenni

    My favorite is: you have a beautiful family. I think it opens the door to any conversation than “what happened to his mom?” or something like that.

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