Thursday, June 11, 2009

Deflecting Intrusive Questions

I mentioned in my ranting post the other day that usually questions don't bother me- even questions that are intrusive/rude or personal. I will tell you why- because I have a way to answer them (usually).

I view questions about our family as a way to educate people. I don't want to just get offended and not answer, because it may be the only or one of limited exposures people have to adoption. I want it to be portrayed as a normal, acceptable, and not something to get in a wad about. Especially when the kids are listening, I want them to hear me talk about adoption with laughter, smiles, and positive energy, rather than getting upset every time someone asks me something.

Here is what I do: I answer questions as if they asked about adoption in general, rather than about my family in particular. Spurred on by all the comments in my post about giving birth after adopting, I wrote a Deep South Moms article called "5 things never to say to an adoptive mother". Here is how I usually respond to those rude/intrusive/offensive comments:

"How much did they cost" This is a great opportunity for deflection. And education. First, I want to correct them asking if my children cost money. So I put a big smile on, laugh a little, and say, well the kids themselves were free, but adoptions can cost anywhere from just a couple thousand to 30k or more. Most people pay somewhere around $15k for a domestic adoption.

See what I did? I corrected them, gave them the information they were probably looking for, and I didn't give them any information about myself or my own particular situation.

"What do you know about her real mom?" Same deal as above, I start by correcting the language "We know a lot about her birthmom, it is an open adoption, so we have met and we know a lot about each other. Some people have a lot of contact and interaction with their birthmoms, and some are in closed adoptions with no contact. There are all different ranges in the adoption world". I used to feel the need to tell them things about our birthmom- I wouldn't want to tell them, but I would feel like that is what they were asking. But, really, most people don't care to actually know details about our particular birthmom, they just are curious about the adoptive mom/birthmom relationship.

I basically do the same with all questions. I keep thinking about the comments from Marchet in the above linked post, whose son has Cystic Fibrosis. She has had some doozies of comments, and I just keep thinking about how I would respond if those things were said to me. My usual response technique would probably work for most things. If someone asked something about her son that she didn't want to answer, she could answer about CF in general instead of specifics about her son.

As for the two comments she mentioned, this is probably how I would answer, depending on my mood. "There will be a cure" I might say something like "I certainly hope so, and there are certainly a lot of fundraising efforts dedicated to finding a cure." If I were feeling irritated and bold, I might ask right then and there if they wanted to contribute some money. :)

And the worst one, "At least he'll live to be an adult". This one still baffles me. I think I would go with Jennifer's idea, to let them know that what they have said is not ok. I would probably say something like "Wow, that sure isn't much consolation, I'm surprised you would say that." or, following my usual formula, you could give statistics about CF. But I don't think I would go there for that one. I would have to just let them know they were out of line!

I read a blog of a woman who has triplets who are 5 and one more kid who is 4. She is hilarious, and I love her post about how she answers questions. Basically she just uses humor and grace, and doesn't worry too much about people saying the wrong thing.


Chosen Mom said...

LOVE the one about "What do you know about her "real mom"? I need to learn to reign in my temper and look at it as educating others. Thanks for the perspective!

Marchet Butler said...

Thanks for your thoughtful post about adoption/CF questions. Those are good responses and I got lots of fun ideas from the comments your rant post. I'm pretty good about explaining CF to people now, and it is not as hurtful when they say ignorant things. Fortunately, there is a lot better education about CF out there. Many people I know have been touched by CF: a friend, a family member, a coworker, etc.

I think of all the questions I have to deal with, the hardest ones are yet to come when I have to tell my son about his disease as he grows old enough to understand.