What I Actually Said…

I am a planner by nature and I definitely function best when I have a plan.  The plan can fail, and I’ll adjust nicely, but somehow, knowing that there is a plan in place is a great comfort.

I definitely do not think I have the corner on what to say to people’s questions {in fact even today, sometimes things just completely dumbfound me and catch me off guard!} and yet being an adoptive family for the last 26+ years, we have definitely heard our share.  I share our life in hopes that it serve to prepare others who find themselves in similar situations.  

When I told the story yesterday, it was recalling the very first time that I had encountered someone who definitely was not going to be appeased until she had the information about our family that she deemed necessary.

I regret I didn’t tell you a bit more, but as I typed it, I was talking on and off with Dw, who weeping off and on while he periodically held the phone up to his mom’s ear so I could tell her how much I loved her.  Her breathing was getting more and more shallow and slowing down substantially until in the afternoon she drew her last breath.   Dw said that for about the last 5 minutes of her life, she was so peaceful.  He was convinced she was getting glimpses into heaven and seeing her beloved Savior face to face.   All four of her sons were around her bed as she drew her very last breath on Earth.

So clearly, I wasn’t thinking it completely through, please forgive me.

Anyway, I should have mentioned how when the woman asked which one was ours, my arms extended to my three treasures and I responded, “They’re all ours.”  To which she quickly replied, “No, I mean, which one is yours?”

When she repeated the question, I sensed that she was making more of a point and her “nosey bone” wanted to be satisfied.

I re-emphasized what I had clearly just stated.

“They’re all ours.”

She then said, “You know what I mean!!  Which one of them is really yours?”

Calmly I nodded in agreement indicating that I knew exactly what she meant, and again, and quite pleasantly I insisted while nodding, “They’re all ours!”

Not to be deterred, she repeated yet again, “Come on!  You know what I mean!  Which one of them is really yours?”

I nodded again,  “I do know what you mean – they’re all ours.”

She would not quit!  “No, seriously, which one is really yours?”

It was uncomfortable.  It was awkward,   Frankly it was obnoxious.  What type of person pushes for an answer from a total stranger when it is clearly not being given freely?  She knew darn well what she wanted and she was not going to quit until she had it.

And all the while, my children’s attention was riveted to this complete stranger who was negating what I was saying and continuing to insist that only one of my kids was “ours.”  As though adopted children are pretend and bio kids are the “real” ones!

When her persistence continued, it became clear that she was not going to leave us alone until she knew what she wanted to know.
And frankly, it was beginning to tick me off.

Although I grew up in a home where boundaries were non-existant, I had been learning that boundaries are actually very healthy indeed.  And around that time I had also been learning that I don’t “owe” anyone an explanation for anything.  And in this case, I definitely did not want to elaborate on anything to this nosey woman.  {It is a definitely a myth that every question deserves to be answered!}

 So at that point, realizing that she was not relenting and knowing that if I had caved to her intrusive questioning I would have lamented for days {or weeks or years}, looking her straight in the eye, as she questioned yet one last time, I responded,

“Ya’ know at this moment, 
I just can’t seem to remember!”  

Her mouth dropped open.  And I turned with the kids and went to find seats.

Dw found a new hair stylist and we found a church closer to the school Dw was attending.

But that day I learned several important lessons.  It’s true, not every question deserves an answer.  And although educating the world about the joys of adoption would be optimal, not everyone is really wanting to be educated.  And protecting our children’s hearts is not only our privilege but it is also our responsibility.

55 thoughts on “What I Actually Said…

  1. I love your answer! I've heard Marie Osmond answer similarly when asked which of her many children were adopted.

    I've had people ask me if my little ones (both adopted from China) are "really" sisters.

  2. Sorry for the loss of DW's mom, your mother in law and the childrens grandma. So glad her boys were all able to be with her at the end.Prayers to all.
    Love your new blog too.

  3. Linny, I'm so sorry for your family's loss in the homegoing of DW's sweet mom. I know you have the joy of knowing you will see her again, but I know how very much she will be missed until that day. Praying for God's comfort to surround you all.

    I've been out of touch this week, and just now came over and saw your new blog design….it's beautiful!! What a beautiful photo in your header! Love, love, love it. =)

  4. Wow!
    A. I can't believe the woman's persistence (well, actually, yes I can). Enuff said.
    B. I'm sorry for the loss of your mother-in-love and for Dw, but rejoice in the fact that we KNOW where she is now!
    C. Great job handling that situation and thanks for sharing with us, so we can be proactive.
    I think I have been caught up in the feeling obligated to give someone an answer. Thank you for giving me the courage to set myself free from that!
    Your family has been in my prayers often lately.

  5. I LOVE LOVE your new blog header – beautiful!!

    When I de-lurked a while back, I probably didn't mention that I'm adopted from a 1970s closed domestic adoption, a white kid going to white parents. We never dealt with the question you did from this nosy-Rosy, as least not that I recall! However, I too find myself wondering when I look at blogs / adoptive families, who is bio & who isn't. I think part of it is because I'm so visual and enjoying picking up on seeing Mom / Dad's features in their kids. That said, I surely don't care who is bio & who isn't, it's just a curiosity. So I guess I understand her question, though I'd never be so bold as to outright ask, and certainly not to pester for an answer. Just another perspective to offer!

    I'm leaving with my family of 4 & 30 others tomorrow on a mission trip to the deep southern bayous of Louisiana. This is our 6th trip to this community. Would appreciate prayers from all prayer warriors out there. satan has been attacking our team members, which, while it's a bother, is encouraging, as it's another confirmation that we're on God's path with this trip!

    Blessings! Julie

  6. I have to say how much I appreciate this topic. I tend to give too much information, and I appreciate your encouragement to establish boundaries and remember that not every question deserves to be answered.

    I think my favorite response in the comments was from "Are these kids all yours" which said: "step towards her and put myself between her and my children. They are all mine Thank You. Their names are…….- and then introduce them proudly!!!"

    I like the physically standing before my children to intercede on their behalf. I like the "thank you" showing you are proud of them and to claim them. And I like the individual introduction showing that they are PEOPLE (hello! and they have feelings!). I am definitely going to employ this method.

    So glad you are prompting us to think about these moments–they always come up when I'm not prepared!
    (Oh, and love the new blog look!!!)

  7. Right on! But I may have said, "I don't know. Maybe you would you like to share with my children which of them don't really belong to me?"

    I totally get the "slugging" part too. Sometimes we need a reality check as to who we are really "wresting" with and squelch carnality that rises up while we're at it!

    You are beautiful Linny. Thanks for talking so openly with us.

  8. Oh that woman! My goodness, she was relentless! I've experience those same feelings with strangers insisting on knowing whether or not my son's are 'real' brothers. Yes I say and then they start in again with "well yeah, but are they REAL brothers?" and on and on in the same fashion. MADDENING! I've never thought to say that I couldn't remember – I'll have to try that one day! I like this series Linny! I'm always getting back in my car thinking of all the things I should have, could have said!!
    I have to say also that I LOVE your new blog!! My mom emailed me first thing this morning too to say that she found the link to the orphan wares site so we both had a peak! She's so excited to see her bonnets and dresses up on the site and so was I. It looks so professional! Very impressed!!! I can't wait to send all my friends shopping! 🙂

  9. Another mom wrote something similar on her blog (can't remember who), and I thought that was a very statement! In fact, I think it was on her blog header…something like "We have ## kids. Some of them are adopted, but we can't remember which ones!" 🙂

  10. I love your final answer! It made me chuckle. I would have loved to see her face… I'm not sure I would have been that nice… and no doubt I would have thought of the PERFECT answer about 2 hours AFTER the situation!

    We are still waiting for a referral for our daughter from Ethiopia, and I'm sure we will encounter similar situations. People are so funny about wondering about non-matching siblings… I'll have to make sure to have some smart alec responses up my sleeve.

    Strangers can be so nosey! I watched my friend's kid 4 days a week for 3.5 years. I always made a point of NOT contradicting a person who pointed out that "my" boys look so much alike, are cute/etc because I didn't want my friend's son to feel left out. My friend's son is 6 weeks older than my oldest son. People would ask the boys when their birthday was, and the boys would cheerfully answer "May!" "June!" …then the question, "How old are you?" (both would respond with the same age). You could SEE the little wheels turning in people's heads as they tried to do the math and it just didn't add up. Some would follow up with a question, others would just let it go.

    (My favorite story is still my friend's husband being approached in a store by a stranger who felt the need to point out that his African American son couldn't have been fathered by him. He replied: "Shhhh! My wife doesn't know!" and walked away with his wife and son.)


  11. You are my hero. I don't know that I would have been that quick-thinking and able to protect my babies from the prying. (So far we have had no ugly situations in the 2 years my Chinese treasure has been home.)

    I am so sorry about DW's mom. I am thankful that all of her sons were able to be there. How are they doing? I am especially concerned for Uncle Mark. I will pray for God's grace to be all over you all as you face this loss.

    One last thing: your blog makeover is GREAT! Love the pictures. The group picture is wonderful and so are the individual ones (especially Miss Elizabeth…what personality!)

    Praying for you!

  12. WOW. Great response to a bizarrely rude situation. Unbelievable!

    Love the new website!

    We extend our family's sympathy to you on the loss of your precious mother-in-law, and our congratulations to her on her birth into eternity in God's presence.

  13. I LOVE your last paragraph there; it just says it all so perfectly! Sometimes when people ask questions that exposes their stupidity, I just laugh one big guffaw!
    Also, so glad to hear that your husband got to spend those last moments with his mother. So sorry for your loss!

  14. I LOVE what you said! I also LOVE your new pictures up top! GASP! So beautiful!!
    I'm going to steal that line that you said back to her- once our treasure comes. This has recently been a topic of discussion on a adoption group I belong to. I was getting ticked off just thinking about future convos with strangers, when reading what some group members have encountered. People need to learn some manners!

  15. Beautiful reponse Linny! And sometimes I find that is true…we forget that some of our children grew in our hearts and not below them…..Our second oldest daughter always tells people she knows God created her to be our child but just used someone elses womb to carry her to us…love that.

    So thankful Dw's mom had her boys with her to say goodbye. Thank you Jesus..

  16. I couldn't help but chuckle at your answer. I *love* it! I probably would have gone into to an uncomfortable lecture about the indecency of her question or caved and said, "They're all ours, but if you want to know how they entered our family, I'd be happy to tell you." I think you're right. We don't always have to answer. I appreciate this series so much, as well as your experience and wisdom!

  17. I've also learned this the hard way, from interactions with people similar to the lady you encountered. I used to think I needed to educate people about adoption; but now I know it can't be at my children's expense. Your response was perfect!

    I've faced similarly intrusive questions about my son's limb difference, with him standing right with me – outside of a department store dressing room – and it was an employee doing the questioning! After trying to politely answer one woman's questions (What happened? Was he born that way? Did something happen to him?), I finally told her those were terribly personal questions to ask someone she didn't know. I then sought out a manager to discuss disability awareness and proper etiquette for discussing issues with customers (he was apologetic and horrified).

    One thing I learned from adult mentors on the I-CAN limb difference support group is that they felt that they'd done something wrong when a stranger was rude and their parent or friend reacted angrily, like it was their fault. I've tried to bear this in mind as I've thought/prayed about how to handle intrusive and inappropriate encounters, whether about adoption or other differences. I love that your response validated ALL your kids and I'm sure made them feel as treasured as they are.


  18. So thankful to hear that God answered our prayers for DW to be with his mother as she walked into eternity. I'm sure she was very proud of DW and your entire family.

    I'm glad you found a new church. MERCY ME! I can't begin to imagine.

  19. Thank you for sharing. Though we haven't experienced this yet (our son should be home SOON) we have already had some insensitive comments and it always surprises me (maybe I need to be less surprised, but it's hard, I just don't expect people to be rude). Good things to think about and rules to live by. Thank you.

  20. First, I have actually used the same comment as you when being "harassed" for an answer as to "which ones are really yours?" I have responded, "I don't remember."

    Secondly, this is along the lines of your post so please bear with me. I am 52 years old with 2 treasures from China, ages 6 and 7. Today, I spoke with an elderly lady that I had not seen for some time. This lady knew we had adopted 2 children, but had never seen them until today. Anyway, this lady introduces me to her sister, and I tell the sister that the 2 girls are my daughters. As my girls move on away from us, this lady tells her sister that my girls are adopted, but not to say that they are adopted in front of them. I had to suppress a giggle. First, I thought how sweetly old-fashioned that seemed, and also my girls do share the same red-curly hair and freckled complexion that I have:) I then said, "that they know they are adopted as we openly discuss this with them. Also, how wonderful adoption is since God, our Father, created adoption by adopting us."

    You know, now that I think about it, adoption really is "Plan A" for having a family instead of being the "Plan B" that many assume.

    Thanks for keeping it real with us and letting us keep it real with you!

    I am sorry about DW's mother. I know of many sweet people being called home to the Lord lately. There must be a big party going on!

  21. Oh, I love that answer. Here's a question I get a lot, some well-meaning and others not so much, but no matter how I answer it, I don't like the question to begin with so i never really like my answer. Maybe that's what i need to start saying when they ask me, "Are your daughters really sisters?" Maybe i can just say, "I really don't like your question." That's actually not a good answer either, though. Linny, do you have any ideas for me?

  22. Too True! Some just don't "want" to understand. I believe most of us are "able" to understand! We are in the middle of adopting our second sweet girl after raising 3 wonderful sons that have favored us with seven lovely grandkids and I too, have been on the pointy end of some questioning. My favorite so far is "Wouldn't you rather be RV'ing at this stage of your life?" Hmmm, what 'stage' would that be? I still live, love and listen to my Father in heaven and there are still little ones that need to have mommies and daddies. And who says they can't RV with me! She actually loves our roadtrips!

  23. Amen Linny! I would have said exactly the same thing ~ though I'm not sure I would have completely kept my composure as she persisted to ask her question.
    Also, btw, LOVE the new blog look.
    in WA

  24. Love your response to the nosey lady. It's sad that there are so many people that do believe that biological kids are your "real kids." We have some of those in our family. By the way I love your blog make-over. It looks so fresh and clean. And last but not least I really adore your new banner photo!

  25. Love the new blog look!!! I know you love purple and it's perfect!

    Sorry to DW and rest of the family. Thankful he was with her to escort her to her Father!!!

    Yeah, I had an annoying one like that the other day. Marissa spoke up and said "We are just a family!"

    Made my heart happy for her to speak up like that and so appropriately!

  26. Linny, I love following your blog–but this post, THIS POST, spoke to my deepest heart! I LOVE it. So many times I'm asked, "Which are your real kids?" I'm so tempted to respond, "You mean some of them are fake?!" Love your heart!

  27. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your new makeover. Purple is my all time favorite color. It makes my heart happy just to click open your blog and stare at your beautiful family. I never ceased to be amazed at what people will let fly out of their hearts and mouths. I am praying around the clock for your family these days. You are always in my thoughts.

    Much Love!!

  28. Your new picture is amazing! Such a beautiful family full of love! People are something else sometimes but you gave a wonderful response Linny!

  29. Your new blog look is bringing me supersmiles and gobs of JOY on this rough, (very rough), day for me. Your family has reminded me (again today) how BEAUTIFUL God's design is for family. Love you!

    (and I think you responded well to that woman… some people!)

  30. People can be nosy and some can be rude. I have had my share of rude this week and I've called upon God and protection of angels at one point to help me through a stressful situation. Good answers, Linny. All your children are yours of course and there's no need to explain. If the lady couldn't figure it out, then duh, she doesn't need an explanation! I like your new blog design! Have a great weekend even though there's a sadness in the air of your mother-in-love's death. May God keep you all in the palm of his hand right now, comforting you all. Hugs and prayers.

  31. Great response! Let me echo others comments- the blog is beautiful (can't wait to see little Charlotte up there too!) and I am praying for your family as you grieve the loss of Dwight's mom. My little sister and I think it's kinda funny how our parents foster parent manuals refer to us as their "natural children" (as opposed to the "foster children") We have yet to figure out what is "unnatural" about our baby foster sister!

  32. I'm so glad you shared the rest of this story and I'm thrilled I found your blog today.

    I DO want to be educated! God's been growing a desire in my heart and my husbands heart to at least be open to adoption. We have no idea what it means. And we have five children already. Maybe just aware, compassionate cheerleaders for our friends who want to adopt. Or, and more likely God has a big crazy cool plan for our future. But however He chooses to further change us, I DO want to know and grow!

    Thank you for sharing!

    Jessie at JessieGunderson.com

  33. Sometimes I don't really have much to say or add, today is one of those days and I wish that your blog were kind of like facebook with a 'like' button, so that I could just acknowledge that I have read your post and affirm your thoughts with my 'like'.

    I have been sick and offline for several days I am trying to retroactively catch up with all I have missed.
    I am so sorry about the loss of your mother in law, I think it is wonderful that you had so many good years with her and a good relationship. (I'm a little envious; mine is not necessarily a "mom-in-love") Happy 57th year to DW I ache knowing that his mother's death came the previous day; but I pray blessings on this new year for him.

    I guess I had more to say than I realized, I should just click on the comment button more often and let my fingers run wild.
    hugs from Arkansas

  34. I'm in LOVEEE with your response to her!!!!! It reminds me of the story in John 8: 1-11 when Jesus responds to the Pharisees and they were going to stone a women for adultery. I guess your response reminds me of how Jesus responded.

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