Following yesterday’s post about when your family is a walking ad for a certain type of non-traditional role, I received a lot of comments both on the blog, on Facebook and via e-mail. The main issue people raised was not knowing how to handle when strangers ask rude questions. I can only speak for myself and how I have chosen to handle that situation. I can also speak to what I have found to be the most effective method over the years of trial and error in this regard.
I want to first clarify that I am not speaking about the usual curious questions that families that stand out get when in public. These techniques are for using only when the questions or comments are rude and spoken in a tone that conveys that rudeness.
There are three main ways that I think these scenarios can be handled…by being blunt, by being honest or by being cheesy. I will give several examples of each of these in real world scenarios to give you a good foundation on how they work and then I will tell you which one I have found to be by far the most effective.
“How much did she cost?”
Blunt – “I’m sorry about the look on my face but I am honestly shocked that you would speak about my daughter as though she were a piece of furniture!”
Honest – “There is no price tag on human beings. If you are asking how much her adoption cost because adoption is something you are considering, I would be happy to give you the phone number of our adoption agency.”
Cheesy – “Like all of my children, she is priceless!”
“Where is her real mom?”
Blunt – “Her real mom is standing right in front of you.”
Honest – “It is generally accepted to use words such as ‘biological’ or ‘first parent’ when referring to what I assume you are referring to, however I am about as real as it gets!”
Cheesy – “I am so proud to be her real mom. Aren’t I blessed?!”
“How do you handle being with them all day? If I had to homeschool, I think I’d kill myself.” (yes, all of these are honestly questions I have fielded over the years!)
Blunt – “If I had to homeschool your kids, I’d feel the same way!” (ok, I’m kidding! I would NEVER actually say that!)
Honest – “There are certainly days when it is a challenge but I rely on God for my patience when I get to the end of myself and He hasn’t let me down yet.”
Cheesy – “Their childhoods goes by so quickly and I don’t want to miss a moment!”
“My kids knew better at that age.” (in reference to my then-9 year old tantrumming)
Blunt – “Congratulations on raising your neurotypical kids well!” (I probably couldn’t say that with a straight face.)
Honest – “Some special needs are invisible and compassion goes a long way.”
Cheesy – “It has been both a challenge and a privilege to raise a child with special needs but I wouldn’t trade him for the world!”
I previously wrote more on some of the real world questions we have encountered that are so strange they just boggle my mind and on how I chose to respond to them.
Another way that works to some degree is to speak in generalities like in the case where someone asks:
“Were they orphaned?”
Generalities – “Children come to adoption for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include poverty, their first family being unable to care for them due to illness, the death of one or both parents, war or famine, or a first parent making an adoption plan for their child.”
“Why don’t you just have your own children?”
Generalities – “People choose adoption for a variety of reasons. These reasons may include infertility, secondary infertility, feeling called to adopt, or wanting to provide a home for one of the more than 147 million orphans in the world.”
The benefit of generalities is that it allows you to answer the question without divulging any of your child’s personal story. The negative of generalities is that when using this technique, the answer is usually followed by many more questions.
The most important thing to keep in mind when answering any question:
The stranger standing in front of you will be in your life for a few minutes. Your kids who are within earshot of the conversation will be in your life forever. I tailor every answer so that it builds my kids up and lets them know that I love them, am proud of them and would do it again (adopt them, birth them, homeschool them) in a heartbeat!
The most effective way to end the conversation but keep your kids’ hearts intact:
By far the single most effective way to shut down conversations that are making you uncomfortable is to use either the cheesy technique or to bring God into it because who can argue with God? An example would be:
“Why would anyone choose to have this many children?”
God – “God called me to this and I’m so glad He did. It has been a challenge but such an incredible blessing!”
(Do you see how I combined giving God the glory and the cheesy technique?!)
By using the cheesy technique, you are able to stop the conversation before it starts while at the same time reinforcing to your kids that they are a blessing.
Keep the conversation going in the car.
After a rude encounter with a stranger, I feel that it is important to acknowledge it with your kids afterwards to see if it brought up any feelings in them that they need to discuss. You may choose to say something such as, “you know when that woman in the store asked me why you were brown, how did that make you feel?” It’s also appropriate after they have shared your feelings to share your own feelings about the situation too in an age-appropriate way that keeps the child’s dignity intact. You can also turn it into a learning experience by discussing what sorts of questions are and are not appropriate to ask of strangers.
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