Answering “Those” Questions

When I was in third grade, the boy who sat behind me poked me, pulled my hair and stapled my fingers. Most of the time I just grinned and bore it because I have a peace-maker personality. Most days. Some days I couldn’t take it anymore and I wanted to say something. Something hurtful laced with wit and a touch of logic. I never did. And I don’t have that instant comeback down-pat. It bothers me the most when it pertains to my children. I hear the insensitive question and I freeze, with my mouth agape. And when I can reply, it doesn’t come out right. It comes out more like an insult than an explanation. I am like Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail.

And I love her response (via email) after her breakthrough:  “And an amazing thing happened. I was able, for the first time in my life to say the exact thing I wanted to say at the exact moment I wanted to say it. And, of course, afterwards, I felt terrible, just as you said I would.”

With that said, I am excited to participate in this blog link up and answer “those” questions from a non-threatened position. I’ll try not to stray into insults and anger, but excuse me (and any adoptive/foster Moms) who do. You see, you may just be making conversation, but some of your questions hurt worse than stapling our fingers to our desks.

1. Which ones are your real kids? (while pointing at my kids)

If I had a penny for every time somebody asked me that, I’d go on a big shopping spree. They are all my real kids.

Adopted is a past tense verb. They were adopted. They are now part of the family.

If you don’t understand the true meaning of adoption, then you don’t understand the Gospel.

 Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love.

For He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will [[b]because it pleased Him and was His kind intent]—Ephesians 1:4,5

We were adopted into the family of God. We are siblings of Christ. We have a heavenly Father who sacrified His Son  for our redemption into His family. Family was the first intention of the universe. We (Gentile) Christians don’t walk around calling ourselves the adopted kids. No, because the spirit bears witness with our spirit, we cry, “ABBA, Father.” Never once when my children and I were out in public did one of them preface my name with “Adoptive,” it is just “Mom” or “Mommy.” They are secure in their identity as my children.

Some would say that my theology doesn’t have anything to do with my reality. I can hear the whispers, “Remember when her kids came ‘home’ to the states, I do. She didn’t birth them.” So, true, but I remember sister, when you came into relationship with Jesus, and what a glorious celebration that was. You are now my sister in Christ. My children are ALL my real children.

Or maybe you are not a Christian and this just sounds like religion to you. Maybe you have a different perspective. Let’s find a definition of adoption we can agree upon.

adopt-to take and rear (the child of other parents) as one’s own child,specifically by a formal legal act. (dictionary.com)

Adoption is a formal act. Once the papers are signed the child is legally part of the family. He was adopted. He is a real part of the family, not some outsider or pretender.

2. Why didn’t you let your children maintain their native language?

I often tell the story of when I laid down the law and made my children stop using Polish because they were only using it for cursing. It was never my intention for them to lose their native language. It was theirs.

At my step-father’s funeral dinner, a Polish priest had approached my newbies and spoke to them in their native tongue. Some of them hid behind me while others ran to cower under a table. I have talked to other parents who have had similar experiences with their internationally adopted children.

“Some parents have sought out native speakers to help their children communicate or feel more comfortable, only to have terrified youngsters on their hands. For some children, hearing their native language or seeing people for their country of origin is frightening. Though familiar, these sights and sounds may remind them of painful times, and some be worried they are about to be sent back.”- Lois Ruskai Melina, Raising Adopted Children

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When my kids got a bit older and had some healing under their belt, I purchased Rosetta Stone and several of my kids plowed through two years of Polish, but it didn’t stick. Truth is, as my son Gregory pointed out to me a few days ago, “I didn’t want to learn it, so I didn’t.” We switched to Greek and Latin studies.

3. What are you doing to maintain their culture? Do you celebrate Polish holidays?

And then the friend launches into a list of festivals coming up in the nearby area. Truth is, my kids didn’t have any of that sort of culture in their childhood. They lived in an orphanage. They didn’t go to museums or restaurants. They didn’t sing folk songs around the campfire. You can read more about that in my post, Take that (adopted) kid away from his culture, please.

One of my sons was talking me through some of this post and he said, “If you ask a stupid question, you’re going to get a stupid answer.” I’m just quoting. He said it, but I thought I would take it a bit further. Bear with me.

I could take my kids to a local orphanage and let them spend the day there. Maybe someone would steal something from them. Just like it was in the good old days. Or maybe, I could feed them smaller amounts of food, so they remember what it was like to be hungry.

I think I just ran down that road I said I wasn’t going down. Sorry. I feel horrible. Not enough to erase everything I just said, just kinda like I got a good right hook in.

As far as heritage, my kids have enjoyed studying the history of Poland and get excited when they see news pertaining their country of birth. We participate in a World Cultures Fair at our homeschool co-op and we have represented the country of Poland twice. It requires research, food prep and my lovely Polish pottery for serving strong coffee. Ania just followed a snapchat event that took place in Warsaw recently. Pretty cool stuff.

Polish pottery

To recap, and to give you a handy cheat sheet with shorter answers because if you ask me these questions in public, my mouth will drop open and I will stare at you blankly. I might just pull  out this cheat sheet.

1.  Which ones are your real kids?

All of them.

2. Why didn’t you let your children maintain their native language?

Their native language triggers some nasty memories and they don’t want to remember it.

3. What are you doing to maintain their culture? Do you celebrate Polish holidays?

They didn’t experience the culture you are thinking of (art, holidays, birthdays, outings). They don’t want to celebrate their culture. They want a new one. They like the new one just fine. 

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5 thoughts on “Answering “Those” Questions

  1. I have heard about trying to keep adopted children connected to their country of birth, but had not heard about reasons not to do so. Thanks for providing such a valuable perspective!

    I’m with you on answering the awkward questions. When people ask about my foster sons, I either freeze or start saying nonsensical things to be regretted later. Maybe I should come up with a cheat sheet, too.

    1. I know! I hate freezing up! As far as my kid’s first culture. I took cues from them. It is not a popular stance, but it is my kid’s opinion that counts.

  2. Our son didn’t want to keep his first (or second) language either, and he was old enough when we adopted him that we felt we should honor his wish. He can still communicate when he hangs out with kids who were adopted from the same country, but he is much more comfortable with English now.

    1. Yes, I totally understand and shouldn’t that be up to them. There are so many other circumstances out of their control. My eldest son has beautiful pronunciation, but he still prefers English.

  3. We definitely get the first one, and I love how clearly you verbalized it. Since our kids were adopted locally we don’t get the other two, but it seems like a common thing that my friends have mentioned about their kids. It definitely makes sense when you consider the memories they have.

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