Three Ways to Shut Down Intrusive Questions About Your Adopted Children

As human beings we have a natural curiosity, so it’s expected that as the parent of an adopted child, you’ll at some point be asked a question that you aren’t comfortable answering. Most people don’t realize they’re being intrusive, but innocent as it may be, it is still important to maintain your child’s right to privacy. Below are a few ways to avoid answering invasive questions:

1) Politely pointing out that the details belong to your child is a good way to cue the asker into viewing the question from the child’s perspective, which they likely hadn’t considered. Try using a response similar to this one: “I appreciate your curiosity but I prefer not to share too many details as I’m sensitive to my child’s privacy”

2) Provide a generic but factual answer. For example, if someone asks for specifics in your child’s past, you might respond with something like “Most children in care have suffered some form of neglect, abuse or other trauma”. This satisfies their curiosity without invading your child’s privacy

3) It’s natural for people (especially women) to overshare information, but it’s not often necessary for people to know that your child is adopted. If it isn’t imperative to the conversation, simply leaving that detail out altogether will spare you the uncomfortable questions that follow

Are You Sure?

I have a beef with the question “are you sure?”. It gets under my skin. It sends creepy crawlies up the back of my neck. It makes my eyebrow twitch.

I don’t know that I can speak for all prospective adoptive parents, but I imagine a good chunk of them feel the same way that I do.

OF COURSE I’M SURE!!

I’d always wanted to adopt, but before I submitted my application, I spent months mulling it over. I thought up every possibly life scenario, every horrible outcome, every risk, every reward, I confided in my closest friends and I had many, many sleepless nights. I assure you, I thought this decision through thoroughly. By the time I started telling people I was in the process of adoption, I was well past the point of  no return. My mind was made up and my heart was set on following this path.

Like I’ve already said, I’m not sure I can speak for all prospective parents, but this isn’t a decision one makes hastily. The next time someone tells you they’re adopting, please, please, pleasssse don’t ask them if they’re sure. Instead, squash that little voice of concern, put on a smile, and tell them you look forward to supporting them in their decision.

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

Friday Nights In

In the first months after I made the decision to adopt, I had a lot of concerns; “little bugs” to work out, you could say. I worked through them one by one, I identified and weighed my options, tried to find the best solutions to each. The concerns I had are pretty typical I think… can I afford this? What about the logistics? Will I be able to find after school care or babysitting? Will I have to move into a house with more bedrooms? Should I stay in the city or go back to the ‘burbs? Where are the best schools located? And the list went on…

But my biggest concern in the beginning was when would there be time for me? What about my Friday nights when I like to hit the take-out aisle of the grocery store and curl up on the couch at home in front of the TV, after a long week at the office? I don’t think I could function now without my night to stay in and veg, so how will I function once I have kids? I still wonder this sometimes.

I do not intend to be one of those mom’s who says “once you have kids there’s just no time left for you!”. I firmly believe that to be a good parent, you need to be good to yourself, and that means taking breaks. Lots of breaks. I’m lucky enough to have an incredible support system in the making. My mother will be my after-school care (one down!), but she’ll also be there for me if I need some time off once in a while. There’s no reason my kids can’t go to Grandma’s for a weekend once in a while, or spend the day at the zoo with my cousins, or once they’re comfortable enough, to have sleepovers with friends. I’m certain there’s another mom out there willing to trade sleepovers once in a while.

Any takers?

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

“There is…nothing to suggest that mothering cannot be shared by several people.” – H. R. Schaffer

After submitting my application, my life became entirely about preparing for the arrival of my future children. I was (and am) determined to raise my children in a “home” where they can feel safe and loved. I immediately started house hunting. I went to therapy to work out some resentment left over from my parent’s divorce. I read books about abuse, adoption and attachment. I went to a couple of free courses offered through Alberta Health Services, and I talked about it a lot with my family and close friends.

When it came to my family, I knew I was going to need their help and support. I called my mom, my aunt, my cousin and my best friends and I asked them outright if they would be able to support me. I hadn’t ever really shared my plans with many people before (probably because I hadn’t really thought of it as something I was going to do but as something that was just going to happen), but every single person was as thrilled about my decision to adopt as I was (albeit some of them were caught a bit off guard).

My mom is just delighted at the idea of being a grandparent. That probably has something to do with my telling her for years that I wasn’t going to have kids (I didn’t want to turn a certain age and get nagged about it all the time). She’s already prepared to help me with before/after school care and I’m so grateful that she just lives down the street.

One of my best friends is a social worker turned parole officer as well as a mother of three, and has a wealth of knowledge about anything and everything I can possibly think of to ask her. She also lives just a few minutes away and I know will be there for me in a pinch.

Watching my brother get on board is pretty cool, too. He’s just 20 so I don’t expect too much from him, but in the last while he’s been spending a lot of time with our family and seems to really be growing up. I can’t wait to see him as a proud uncle; I think he’ll do a great job.

I’ve always been lucky to have a close family and a small group of amazing friends. Having that support in place really does make all the difference when you’re adopting as a single person. Even though I’m doing this on my own, I really don’t feel alone.

“There is…nothing to suggest that mothering cannot be shared by several people.” – H. R. Schaffer

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” –Win Borden

Finally deciding to pursue adoption was pretty scary. I’d always imagined having adopted children, but I hadn’t ever realized that having adopted children meant I actually had to adopt them. Doesn’t a stork just drop them off on the doorstep?

I spent a lot of time browsing the internet for information on adopting in Alberta. I read everything I could find so many times that it was nearly memorized. At some point I landed on the government site with the profiles of the cutest damn kids I’d ever seen. I’d been to this site a few times over the years and I noticed that a lot of the profiles hadn’t changed during that time. There was one sibling group in particular that caught my eye; they had been on the site as long as I could remember and it broke my heart that they still didn’t have a forever home. That was the day I picked up the phone and called the head office in Edmonton for more information on the adoption process. I talked to a very helpful woman for nearly an hour, and I gained a lot of information. I knew right then and there that I was going to submit an application, but there was one thing I needed to figure out before I did.

I was in a relationship at the time. It wasn’t a particularly serious one, but still it brought up a lot of questions about adopting as a young single person. I wondered if I was giving up something I might one day regret. I wondered if I was willing to put my love life on hold for at least a couple of years until my kids were settled, and I considered that being a single mother might make me less desirable to potential husbands in the future.

It was a tough situation to be in, and one I thought about for a few months. What I concluded was that adopting was my dream and not one I would ever be willing to give up, so if that made life more complicated in the future then that would be okay. There are only so many things you can control in creating the life you want for yourself. I couldn’t force “Steve” to show up before the time was right, but I could go ahead with the rest of my life, anyway.

“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” –Win Borden

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

The gentle, sensitive, artistically natured, little diva that we are so proud to call our eldest daughter.

We have built our family through adoption.  It’s definitely been an interesting process…  We went from zero to three children in just under a year.

The gentle, sensitive, artistically natured, little diva that we are so proud to call our eldest daughter.

Our eldest daughter joined our family less than a month after her younger sister.  She had been the foster sister of our son, and from the moment we had met her, my husband was swept off his feet by this little girl with an amazing genuine giggle.  Our son was also very attached to this beautiful young girl that he considered simply to be his sister, and talked about her often in our home.  As we were lucky to remain connected to their foster family, we were able to continue visiting with this little girl until the placement for her adoption was approved.  Now we maintain the connection to their foster family as they are simply part of our extended family.  Our kids all refer to them as “Auntie” and “Uncle”, and they are an important part of our world.

Our first visit with our son, was also our first introduction to the little girl that would one day be our sweet daughter.  Though we were there to meet the beautiful little boy that we had been matched with, it was a day full of giggles, many children and the spark of a relationship between my husband and his “soon to be” daughter, though at the time, we had no idea.  I remember watching them on the swing set in the backyard, calling each other ridiculous names and giggling.  I think that the favorite name at the time, was “pickle face”.  This darling little 6 year old girl had shouted it out, and could barely keep herself on the swing as she was doubled over giggling.  To this day, that memory remains a favorite!

I remember the day that she finally gave me a real, genuine, squishy kind of hug.  I was on my way out the door at the time, and she ran up to me and reached out her arms.  Up until this point, hugs only happened when prompted and consisted of leaning her shoulder into my side for a few seconds and then she would dash away to continue her playing.  When she reached out her arms for a real hug, the kind when she wrapped her little arms around me and squeezed like she would never let go, it took every ounce of composure I could muster to keep from bursting into tears.  For me, that meant more than the first time she called me “Mom” or even than the first time she told me she loved me…  In that hug, I could feel the sweet, gentle, terrified little girl that finally trusted me enough to allow herself to open up, even a little bit.  Now, I look forward to those kinds of hugs every day and I need to remind myself that it took a lot of hard work and patience to get there…but we made it.

Our beautiful daughter with a big heart pushes us every day.  She will always be my reminder that we all need reassurance and a push to allow ourselves to be genuine in every moment.  We all need a soft place to fall when things don’t go quite according to plan, we need to take small steps to conquer our fears even if what we’re facing doesn’t seem so scary to anyone else, and we need to know that even when we get hurt that the people that love us will still be there.  Even when we test that love, we need to know that it won’t break.  My amazingly brave but sensitive little girl, on the verge of becoming a young lady, has helped me to remember that love, patience and respect are all things that come with time and are treasured once achieved.  Every step we take together with her becomes more and more exciting to see the truly amazing soul that she is.  We are so lucky to be part of her journey!

Working on attachment with our sensitive daughter has taken us down a bit of a different path than the one travelled with our other two children.  Though our family’s “ground rules” are the same, we take a bit of a different approach.  With our eldest daughter, much of our focus is on creating a sense of self and working through emotions before regulating.  This means that we work hard to stay completely neutral and calm in her hurricane of emotions.  There are many strategies that we use to create a safe place for her to put all her angry, negative and self-destructive thoughts out into the open and then once we have been able to regulate our breathing and emotions, we will tackle each of them one at a time.  We talk about where they come from, how they are working for us, what kind of reasons do we have to back them up and if maybe perhaps, we could be looking at things a little differently.  The concept of choice and that each choice comes with a consequence (good or bad) seems to be one that is sinking in, though impulse control can be difficult in the chaos of emotion.  This seems to be especially true on the many occasions that my and husband and I make ridiculous requests (like turning off the lights and earth-shaking music when leaving a room, cleaning up toys, wearing a jacket and toque in a blizzard…) that is received with impressive eye rolling and grunting!

Our gentle, artistically natured daughter shines brightest when it comes to our family pets.  She giggles when the cat tries to chew off each of her hair elastics that she has carefully created into a full, arm length bracelet (leaving me to wonder where all the hair elastics have gone!), she will cuddle with the smelliest of dogs, allowing the dog to crawl all over her in search of the last piece of dinner that is sure to be hiding somewhere on our daughter’s face, and she will spend hours playing catch outside with the dogs throwing snowballs that mysteriously disappear once they hit the ground.  Our beautiful girl will pour over books about horses, dogs, cats or bats, working hard to discover all of the animal’s secrets.  She spends time with each animal every day, stroking their hair and gently telling them how special they each are as she rubs their bellies.  When it’s time to watch a movie on the couch, she takes up most of the couch herself, with two dogs draped over her legs and a cat in her lap.  During the summer, every bike ride or walk has multiple stops along the way to allow the ladybugs, crickets, ants or spiders to cross the path safely.  She is an amazing little girl with a heart of gold.  We are so proud to call her our daughter!  We love her so much and are so honoured to be walking through life with her!

Posted by: Cara

The feisty, funny, dramatic, little social butterfly we are so lucky to call our youngest daughter.

We have built our family through adoption.  It’s definitely been an interesting process… We went from zero to three children in just under a year.

 The feisty, funny, dramatic, little social butterfly we are so lucky to call our youngest daughter.

Our youngest daughter joined our family officially, just ten months after her brother.  Biologically, they are half siblings.  In our family however, they are simply brother and sister.

Our first meeting with our daughter was filled with anxiety.  We had known about her since our first meeting regarding her brother, but there were a number of challenges in actually moving forward with the adoption.  We met her when she was two-and-a-half.  She was full of “piss and vinegar” (I hope it’s okay I say that here!) even then.  She was also meeting her brother again after having been separated for 11 months.  At this time, we were simply facilitating the relationship between siblings.  There were still many battles to come regarding adoption, though that was always the long-term plan.

My first memory of meeting our littlest girl was watching her walk into the coffee shop, stop, check everyone and everything out around her and then the biggest smile came over her face…she had found the cookies!  She was a little girl that knew exactly what she wanted and proceeded to charm and visit with everyone in her path to the cookies.  She then moved on to creating a clear, itemized list of all that she would like to have purchased for her, flying through the shop on her tiny little legs.  It was quite the visit…and it was the first of many, though I did learn quickly to avoid shops and stores for a while.

We visited with this little social butterfly regularly for the next 7-8 months, but I clearly remember driving to pick her up from her foster home for the last time.  We filled the van with her many clothes and toys and then finally it was just the two of us in the van for the trip to the house that would be OUR home.  She was buckled in her car seat and I turned to look at her before I pulled out of the foster home’s driveway.  She looked up and made this determined little face and said “I will call you Mommy.”  She took a deep breath, and asked “Did you bring my coat?  Did you bring my blanket?  Did you bring a snack?  Did you bring my toy?  When I get home I will play with my stroller.  I will play with my doll.  I will go to the bathroom.  Then we will go to the zoo.  Did you bring my stuffie?  Did you bring my pink shirt?” and it went on and on for the 45 minute drive home.

Our sweet, funny little girl loves life.  She is full of enthusiasm and looks forward to every new adventure.  She will spend hours hunting for ladybugs or just cuddled up on top of me.  She will lean down and talk to her younger 3 year old cousin and try to carry him around even though he towers over her, being twice her size.  She is basically talking to his hip, but she doesn’t notice as she’s so busy “taking care of him”.  Even though she is five years old now, when she’s sick, tired or scared she will come running and will leap onto me and wrap her little arms around me as tightly as she can.  It is one of my favorite things about her.  It’s one of the ways that I can see that she needs me.  She can be so fiercely independent sometimes, proving to the world that she is her own person and doesn’t need anyone.  It’s nice to know that she lets down her guard enough to need me sometimes.  We love her so much and are so proud of her.  She makes us laugh every day, and we are lucky to be sharing each day with her as she’s figuring out this world around her.  It’s such a gift to look at things through her eyes and it makes me smile.  We argue about whether the ramp turning off the road is called a “turnip” or a “turnoff”, and the genuine moments that we get to share with her are ones that we will treasure forever.  She’s an amazing, bright little girl who grows so much every day, it makes it easier that she credits her aunt with teaching her letters (because they talked about them once) or my uncle with teaching her how to build a puzzle (because they built a puzzle together once).  She has told me that she will still let me play with letters, numbers and puzzles with her, even though I didn’t teach her about them…(for those of you that don’t know us, these are activities that we do together every day!)  Our little girl.  All of that feisty attitude wrapped up into this tiny little package.  I’m excited to see the young lady that she’s going to become!

We are still working on attachment, everyday.  Our little girl is one of the most stubborn individuals that I have ever met (and I am frustratingly stubborn myself!).  We have days that she will refuse to do a “time – in” and the screaming will go on for twelve hours, just to resume again the next day.  These days will often remind me of the battles with her brother that we used to deal with regularly.  There are so many similarities, but so many differences in how her anger and rage come out compared to her brother.  Though there can occasionally be an element of physical aggression, typically it will look more like complete defiance.  If asked to take a seat beside you, she will create a path through the entire house to lead her to a seat just in front of you, if asked to use an “inside” voice she will loudly repeat “What?” at the top of her lungs.  While waiting for a special snack or lunch, I would often let her know how proud of her good choices I  was, so she would reach down onto the floor, scoop up some garbage and eat it and ask me to repeat myself.  She will ask me for a different “mom” regularly when she’s angry with me.  She will spit on any surface, herself included and smear it around simply because she was asked to clean something up.  Though we still have many of these days, they are becoming less and less.  We spend a lot of time talking about choices and consequences, good ones and crummy ones.  We work really hard so that she gets to make her own choices and learn how to cope with the consequences with our support.  Sometimes this strategy works really well, other times it takes us down a long and rocky path.

Our little girl is full of personality.  She has introduced me to so many new people that we come across on a routine shopping trip, a walk to the park, stopping at the gas station or even waiting at a doctor’s office for a check-up.  It usually starts with her batting her eyelashes at her “target”.  Then she’ll giggle and look away.  She will tell the people waiting behind us in a line up what she ate for breakfast that morning, the name of our cat, if Mom is feeling tired, what she would like for her birthday and it goes on and on…  Sales staff offer her free toys, little bags and purses and stickers in almost every place we venture into!  I am not a social person, so she is certainly helping me step outside my comfort zone every time we leave the house together.  Occasionally she will also tell these random folks that “Mommy hits me.” “I’m so sad today because Mommy yells at me all the time”, “Mommy doesn’t let me play.  Only sit on my bed” or “Mommy only gives me yucky oatmeal to eat”.  On these trips, she will look at me for a reaction as she announces these stories (they are stories, they are NOT true) to the folks in the store.  She will have her lips pursed in a pout and her eyes are welling up with tears.  It truly must be heartbreaking to see this sweet little girl with this terrible ogre of a mother in the stores some days.  Once we have left the line-up and the store full of glares to see if the police or children’s services are waiting for us in the parking lot, she will grin and look up at me and exclaim how she LOVES shopping and maybe we should go have lunch in a restaurant…nope.

Though we have some challenging days with our daughter, every time she comes down the stairs from her bedroom and announces at the top of her lungs, “There’s a beautiful girl coming down the stairs right now!!” starts our day off with a smile.  When she reminds me that I forgot to thank her for offering to help eat the rest of my lunch or for noticing that she chose not to throw the toy at the cat, I have to grin.  That’s our daughter.  Our littlest girl.  One day she is going to make heads spin, just like she does for us each day.  We love her so much and are so proud of her.  She’s an original and we love her for that!

Posted by: Cara

The charming, quirky, full of energy, little comedian that we are so lucky to call our son.

We have built our family through adoption.  It’s definitely been an interesting process…  We went from zero to three children in just under a year.

The charming, quirky, full of energy, little comedian that we are so lucky to call our son.

From the time that we submitted our first batch of paperwork applying to adopt, it was just under a year before our son moved into our home and we became an “overnight” family.  He had just celebrated his fourth birthday with his foster family when we met him for the first time.  I remember thinking what a beautiful little boy he was and when he came up to me, proudly riding his bike, he paused for a moment, looked me over and exclaimed “That’s my Mommy!” and rode off with his foster brothers.  It’s my very first memory with my son and I treasure it.  Now, he’s going to be turning seven years old soon and he’s still a beautiful little boy and he will still stop, look me over and exclaim “That’s my Mom.”.  It sounds different now, but it’s filled with the familiarity that comes with living in the same house, fighting the same fights over and over again, saying “I’m sorry”, the bedtime hugs and kisses, the goofy things that happen each day, our hands that clasp together when we are facing a new situation and the knowledge that no matter how crazy things may be during the day, when we wake up the next morning we are still a family full of love and laughter.  We are a forever family.

We had heard many things about our son, all gathered through the social services team, before we met him.  We heard about some of his successes and some of his challenges, but there was nothing that could have prepared us for bringing him into our home and getting to know and love him.  He had (and still has) some significant behavioural challenges.  We worked hard on attachment for a long time and it is still an ongoing process, though I think that he is fairly secure in his place in our hearts and family.  He struggles with dealing with his anger still, but I remember the time that he was first able to describe how he was feeling “all squeezy” on the inside.  We were so excited that he was able to identify how he was feeling.  He has come a long way since then, but it hasn’t been without it’s battles.  For a long time, everything was engaging in battle with this tiny little person, or preparing for battle.

He worked hard to control the environment around him and that included us.  His “forever” parents.  It happened through conversations through the day, where he would ask the same question hundreds of time just to engage you, unpredictable tantrums and screaming, bolting through the neighbourhood so that you had to give chase, flinging food around the house that he had begged to eat, physical aggression, unbuckling his car seat and grabbing my hair while driving, hitting the dogs, throwing objects at preschool or attacking other children, using the bathtub as a toilet, smearing feces and/or blood, but it also occasionally took a different path.  He would cuddle up to me to block my face from anyone I may have been interacting with, he would act like a baby – especially when we were around other people, clinging to me and needing to be carried.  He would wait outside the bathroom door if I was inside and would reach under the door, screaming until I came out.  Even understanding that his behaviours were coming from a place of fear, and a degree of an attachment disorder, most days felt like a battleground and it was hard to figure out how I was ever going to feel attached to this child.

Bed time would trigger another battle every day, where he would scream, spit and bite any person he could find (though apparently I tasted best).  We walked around with bite marks on our arms and legs while saliva dripped from our faces and walls.  Even looking back now, I’m impressed with his spitting accuracy…  He would throw his toys, blankets, books and even try to throw his bed out the room or windows.  He would dart out of his room to try and push me down the stairs.  Bed times were terrible.  Eventually, bed times became Daddy’s domain.  By the end of the day, I had little to no composure left and things seemed to calm down significantly once Daddy took over.

We quickly became very structured in our days and focused on natural and logical consequences.  We worked hard allow him the control that he fought so hard for, within parameters that were safe for everybody.  We created his own “boss” corner, where he made all the decisions.  We found an ANGRY bird/pillow/stuffie that he could “fight” with so that his angry didn’t get him into trouble.  We had secret signs that he could show us when he was feeling “squeezy” so that we could give him a bear hug, because the deep pressure and deep breathing helped him regulate.  We had to become very creative, fast.

We still use a lot of the same strategies today.  We can often see the meltdowns coming now, and we can talk with him about it.  We are more aware of his triggers, like the month of November and cement sound barrier walls along the roads.  Even though we don’t always understand his reactions to things or the depth of his anger, we walk with him through it.  I’m not sure that we will ever understand, but we will always love him.

Looking back, that first year was really hard.  Now we see his quirky little personality grow each day, and his sense of humor evolve as he takes great pride in calling his Dad an old man and asks why Dad’s hair is shrinking.  He hides shoes from people when they come to visit, or his sister’s plates of dinner if they dare leave the table during meal times.  When helping with the dishes, he asks his sister if she can “feel the burn”…  He does it all with this impish little grin and a twinkle in his eye.  He holds my hand to walk through a parking lot, and builds puzzles with such precision.  He starts snowball fights that he knows he won’t win and tells me “That’s okay, Mom.  It’s still fun.”  He will take his little sister’s hand and show her how to go down a toboggan hill as fast as he can just to fall out of the sled at the bottom.  He carries his big sister’s books home from school so that they aren’t too heavy for her.  That’s my beautiful son.  My son who was recovering from one of his huge meltdowns and asked “Why did I have to be such a fast baby, Mom?”  We are so proud of the little man that he is becoming.  We are so lucky to call him our son.

Posted by: Cara