I recently spent time with writer, Natalie Brenner who asked a series of questions for publication at adoption.com. I felt a sense of respect and understanding about the sensitivity of her questions. Due to her loving and empathetic questioning, I felt able to answer her questions thoughtfully and vulnerably. It was a pleasure to chat with her.
Here's a clip from our interview:
Q: Did people ever ask your parents intrusive and sometimes-inappropriate questions about you while you were right there, and how did your parents respond or how do you wish they responded?
A: Oh, of course! I haven’t met one conspicuous family that hasn’t run into the intrusive questions as it seems to be [inevitable] for transracial families. The comment that we continue to get is from those who call my parents “angels,” or gush about how amazing they are for “taking in all these poor kids.” My parents typically responded with a definitive “No. No. We are just parents, who love our kids.” I loved this, because I knew, after further exploration of this topic that they don’t feel pity towards any of their children’s biological families, and subsequently, they don’t feel any pity on us. The ever-present White Savior attitude was not a narrative that I was familiar with, until society began to place that label on us. My parents did not feel that they were ‘saving’ any of their children, but rather that we would each be afforded a different life, and different opportunities than we would’ve had were we not adopted by them. My parents’ simple answer “No. No,” felt brilliant and honoring.
It’s easy to think that my birth mom, Deborah’s personal hardships led her to sign documents relinquishing her parental rights and that her “decision” to place me for adoption was because of her less than ideal circumstances, but in reality the necessity for my adoption was predicated on the shoulders of her ancestors. It’s refreshing to have parents who know that none of our choices are made in a vacuum. We are all shaped by our place within the context of our time.
There seems to be an expectation for us adoptees to either shell out our private, potentially traumatic life story whenever anyone asks, or to speak for free as a sort of restitution for having been given a “better life.” In reality, some details don’t even belong to me to share! For example, lots of folks want to know about my birthmother. [I get asked] “Why couldn’t she keep you?” “What kind of drugs was she doing?” Assuming that I knew the answers to these questions (which I don’t), it isn’t my information to share. Those facts belong to my sweet, wonderful birth mom. She should be allowed to decide whether or not a well-intentioned stranger gets a glimpse in to this particular time in her life or not.