Pet Peeve of the Week

Most of you know that Ayub and Lucy are biological brother and sister.  I can share that with you because we’re friends.  (Actually, I’m friends with a handful of you, and have no idea who the other few hundred are because you don’t leave comments, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to pretend like we’re friends.)  However, if you were a stranger, I would think it would be very rude for you to ask “are they brother and sister?”  Yet I am getting that question more and more when I’m out in public with the kids.  The woman at in line at Target, the mom at the library, and the woman in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

There are, of course, variations on the question.  My favorite is “are they real siblings?” said while Eleanor was also with us.  Ummm…how to answer that.  “Yes, these two are, but that one isn’t?”  Really?  Did she really think I would say that?  And, I don’t want to seem overly sensitive, but would people ask at all if they were white kids?

So, here’s the quiz for the day.  Which do you think is the best response?

A.  (Educational Response)  “Yes, they are biological siblings because I worked with an ethical adoption agency that only allows related children to be adopted at the same time?”

B.  (Confrontational Response)  “None of your damn business.  How would you like it if I asked if those were your real boobs?”

C.  (Advoidance)  “I don’t really remember.  I have so many kids that I have kind of lost track.”

Please vote.  Then I’ll know what to do AND I will know who you are.

Does it really matter?


21 responses

  1. That is a hard question to answer. I would have a hard time not saying, “These are my children so of course they are ‘real’ siblings…all of them!” But I suppose I am more likely to just say “Yes” to whomever the nosy person is and move on. I wouldn’t even go into the same detail that you have in your Educational Response… because it really isn’t anyone’s business and yet some people are insensitive about what could be considered a private matter. They are all your kids, they are all brothers and sisters, so who really needs to know more than that?

  2. Can you say something like, “All of my kids are real siblings. We’re really proud of our family.”, and indicate that there’s no difference in your eyes?

  3. Although I can’t say I’ve had the same happen to me, I can empathize. People often as who my “real” parents are. Or they ask where I am from, when what they mean is why is my skin dark and why am I part of a white family. I also wonder sometimes which type of response I should give, and for me its situational. If I feel like investing the time and energy to help “educate” whoever asks the offending question I will give them the whole shpeal. If not I say something like, “No, I’m an alien and was spawned, these are just my human care takers” or something similarly snarky.

    One of my adivsers in college told me that I should never feel like I have to explain myself to anyone because of their ignorance. I sometimes feel obligated to because I want more people to be sensitive about these topics, but its not your duty.

    I liked your post and would vote for “C” personally. Also, I’m a little curious if you actually include in your “A” responses the part about “an ethical adoption agency”?

    Thanks for writing. P.S. I also like your cover photo a lot! I also wrote a similar post covering my similar experience if you care for a read:

    Hope you keep writing!

    • I guess I do feel somewhat responsible to educate people because I want the world to be a better place for my kids to grow up. I like your post on the topic, although it makes me sad to know they will have to continue to deal with these same questions their whole lives.

      • Yeah,

        I agree that I feel responsible as well to educate people, but I sometimes its gets so frustrating I just dont want to. And I think feeling that way is ok, meaning when I don’t take the time to explain to people what I mean I don’t feel guilty. I want to have the patience to explain to people what I mean and how I feel, but I don’t always and I try not to beat myself up over that. You are probably right that they will have to deal with these questions indefinitely, but on the upside they will probably be able to articulate what is important to them about family, identity…etc much more clearly than they would otherwise. These questions pressure me to re-examine my owns beliefs, which, however frustrating is a good thing.

        Also, I’m still curious about your “ethical adoptiona agency” comment. Thanks for checking out my stuff.

      • The ethical adoption comment is my subtle way of lashing out at people who use unethical adoption agencies. Those agencies promise healthy infants with incredibly short wait times. This is usually possible because they are brokering babies who are not (or should not be) legally available for adoption. They also allow families to adopt non-related children because it makes them more money. Unfortunately, because of agencies like these, many countries end up closing their international adoption programs. When that happens, many children are left to languish in sub-standard orphanages, or worse yet, they die from lack of care. I strongly encourage people to do their homework and use ethical agencies so that this does not happen. I think that eventually Ethiopia will close its doors to international adoption, and I have seen firsthand how many kids there are in need of a loving home. It will be a sad day, one that could be prevented if people would not continue to support agencies who mislead birth families, falsify documents, lie to adoptive parents, or even worse, buy babies (whether with money or other enticements).

        [Stepping off my soap box now…]

      • I sort of thought it was something to that affect. I know absolutely nothing adoption agencies. I don’t even really know anything about the two that my parents used to get in contact with me…etc. I have no doubt there are very sketchy adoption practices that happen. I suppose if I decide to adopt I will probably learn much more about how these agencies and this “industry” functions.

    • Ok, I might actually respond a little less confrontationally (but I love it!) with: “Why is it important to you to have asked that question?” or some variation thereof.

  4. I would love to see how people respond to B, but I would say what Penny said. They are all siblings because they are all my children. Then you can educate them about adopting from Ethiopia. I understand about wanting to explain/ educate others. Though on a completely unimportant level compared to yours, we are always asked what kind of dog we have. My response is always, whether they are 2 or 102, I say, its a Boykin Spaniel, the SC state dog!

    I love reading your blog. Wish I could meet the kids, but I enjoy getting to know them through facebook and your blog. You are remarkable taking on all you have have.

    Davis “Ellie”

  5. I have thought about how I will respond to a lot of these questions, although of course I’m not receiving them yet. I know I will probably get flustered and it will be hard to stick to my script, but I plan to say something along the lines of, “Why do you ask? That is a pretty personal question.” It puts the question asker on notice that perhaps it wasn’t an appropriate question, but it also could give me some helpful information. Perhaps the person is asking because she, too, is interested in adopting siblings? You never know. But, like I said, we’ll see how it goes for me in the heat of the moment. Good luck in figuring out your best approach.

  6. Hmmm. I think it would depend upon the tone and the person who asked. But I’d probably go with C because I’m a cynic who believes if people are either stupid or rude enough to ask that question then no amount of education will help them.

  7. Glad to see you covering this topic. As the grandmother, almost everyone to whom I have shown pictures of our new family, asks if the two are siblings. I guess I considered it a normal question. However, no one has put the “real” word prior to siblings. I could certainly speak to that one by telling them what a cohesive family I’m seeing develop.

  8. I like the simple yes, and move on. If they’re gonna make a big deal out of it, let them. Eventually they might be trained to stop asking rude questions.

  9. First off, I vote for C.
    Now, I think your situation is different from ours, because we don’t have other kids. I don’t mind the “are they siblings?” questions, which we do get a lot. I look at it as small talk, like when I ask a parent at the park, “How old is your son?” I don’t give a crap how old their son is, I’m just making noises with my mouth to be social. So I see the “are the siblings?” question along those lines. I say yes, they say, “I thought so, they look alike,” and we move on. But if I had other children who didn’t look like them, then I can see how I would feel differently about this question.

  10. ‘B’ is very funny, but I wouldn’t really say it. I do worry about being too defensive in our responses to others because I have noticed with most people who are not in someway really involved with adoptions that they just really don’t know. The what happened to their parents question is the one that makes my eyes bug out and puts that lump in my throat and makes me want to fall to my knees. I can’t even make an audible sound with that one, so that seems to be my “answer”. As for, are they real siblings…we obviously wouldn’t pick the real word, but I think “yes” is good enough or whatever most respectfully puts all children present first. You don’t really want to say anything so enormous that kids are awake in bed thinking about what mom said at the park today. AND if you adopted a sibling group, then you also think it is special that they are biological siblings or you wouldn’t have sought that out. It is ok to honor that. Our children have a past and they will always have two families

  11. oh my gosh! i loved the boobs answer! i HATE that question! my boys have now been home for 7 years and i STILL get that question and i still HATE it! 🙂 oh, i hope i have the nerve to use the boobs answer just one time! loved, loved, loved your options! you are a great mom! humor is the only answer! your children are blessed! did i used enough !’s? 🙂

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