Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Where's he from?"

This morning Dylan and I took the train to work. We scored a seat in the front of the train which Dylan loves. He was flashing his smile to all of those around us including the conductor of the train. "How old?" the conductor asked. "9 1/2 months" I tell him. "He's absolutely beautiful" said the conductor. "Thank you" I respond. "Where's he from?" I pause. I had decided the next person to ask me this question I would say "from (insert home state here)". Instead I just said "Guatemala". Let's be honest here. Dylan looks absolutely nothing like me. People are going to assume that he's adopted. It doesn't happen when we are with Marc because he's darker and Dylan does resemble him but I have red hair and fair skin. I really don't know how to feel about this. I am proud that my son is from Guatemala. I think it's a beautiful country with beautiful people. Should I be offended that a complete stranger would assume that my son is adopted? How do families with parents of different races cope? What if their child resembles one more than the other - do they get these questions? How do they handle it? So tell me readers.... should I be offended by these personal questions?


  1. I am not offended but very few people ask because our son is very fair skinned and looks a lot like my husband. Our son will come right out and tell people he's from Guatemala when they comment on how handsome his dark eyes are.


  2. Well, as someone who hasn't adopted, I can't really answer from experience. However.... my un-experienced assvice says that if it offended you, then you should be offended. If it didn't, then you shouldn't. Yeah yeah yeah, that's a lame answer but honestly, your feelings are your feelings. When my lame friend nonchalantly offered me her eggs (without even knowing what we were going through) I was deeply offended although some people would have laughed it off.
    Would I be offended? Hmmmmm depends on how they ask. If it's just an honest curiosity, i don't think I would be. If my kid doesn't look like me, people may ask. If they are rude and assholian, well hell yeah i'll be offended.
    My cousin has a baby who's father is african american. She had someone in the store ask her who the baby's mother is (she is lily white - practially see-through!) she laughed and said "I am, thanks!"... where as I would have been offended.
    Either way is right. :)
    Next time someone asks where Dylan came from you can say "he's an angel straight from heaven!" (just like in Raising Arizona) or you can say, "oh he crawled right out of my heart and into my arms".
    That'll shut em up.

  3. I think it depends on how the question/comment comes across. Obviously, this man was enchanted by your son's cuteness (who wouldn't, right?) so you responded in kind with kindness. No offense was probably taken.

    If you were ever to get the question from someone who was obviously being a busy body, you may have to come up with someway to shut them up, or just out-and-out tell them you are offended.

  4. Anonymous12:25 PM

    I agree with what K & DD said. I think a lot of it comes down to tone of voice- is it curiousity, becuase perhaps they are thinking of adopting too, or is it just voyeurism, they think its weird that he doesn't look like you? Its a tough issue though and its one of the reasons I struggle with international adoption. I guess as long as it doesn't bother you, or him when he's older, then it doesn't matter. But if it does bother you or if you worry that it will bother him when he's older, its probably best to come up with a standard line you are comfortable with and stick with it (eg, he's from home state or some other vague answer).

  5. Anonymous12:46 PM

    I get some looks simply because my daughter (who isn't adopted) has my husband's great olive-y skin and super curly hair. They look at her, then at me, and say "She has such beautiful color!" Then they look back at me.

    It bugs me sometimes, but I just try and ignore any awkwardness. Of course, that's without the unfortunate stigma that goes along with adopting.

    I'm with the others: if you judge the person asking to be yucky, then be as offended as you please.

  6. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Hey....I think I agree with the others in regards to it being how people ask...he is a gorgeous little boy! I guess it depends upon your day on how you respond as well. Just my 2-cents...bet it happens to me since we have a surro...I guess I'll let you know how I feel!

  7. Anonymous2:38 PM

    Me personally, it depends on the person and the situation. In that instance I'd probably say, "We're from Menomonee Falls, but she was born in Guatemala." I think it's cuter when the kids answer for themselves! A friend of mine was approached in church by an elderly couple. She has her then 4 year old girl and 2 year old boy (both Guat - actually has 4 Guat kids total) with her. This old man comes up and tells the girl "you sure are a pretty girl - where are you from?" to which Hannah replied "Menomonee Falls" as innocent as any one of us would say. And the old man said "well I suppose so" and walked away. I just LOVE that story!

    I think people ask 'cuz yes, they look different, but I don't think that gives them the right. I get semi-upset about it. One of these times I'm going to say "We're from Menomonee Falls, she was born in Guatemala and I was born in Wisconsin" duh!?! Ya know?

  8. Anonymous4:20 PM

    I agree, I think it depends on the circumstances. We haven't been asked all that much. Usually, people just comment on how cute Gabe is and leave it at that. It is obvious he's adopted since both of us have blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. Typically, if people ask I will just answer quickly and leave it at that. However, I will probably stop doing that once Gabe can understand (which is soon really). I don't want him to feel invaded by the questions.

  9. Anonymous1:41 PM


    I just found your blog, and I was wondering what agency you used for adoption. My husband and I are starting to look into adoption, so if you have any suggestions I would love them. Thanks.

  10. Hi Denise - you didn't leave me a way to get in touch with you. Leave me your email address and I will be happy to email you the info off line.

  11. Julie,
    This is off topic, but could you email me? I have a question for ya.



  12. I think that was a very odd question to ask. I'm not sure how I would respond to it. It is very sweet that your son captivates those around him & there's nothing to hide surrounding his adoption but what if Dylan was your nephew, your godson or your babysit charge? It's not entirely impossible to be in the company of a child that holds little resemblance to you...does it warrant "Where is he from?" I'm sure the conductor was being inquisitive & not rude. I just felt like he was implying that obviously Dylan wasn't biologically yours? Maybe I am feeling defensive of you & Dylan? Tricky...although I'm sure you will learn the best way to deal with these innocent questions. I don't think I would ever ask that question. Perhaps rephrased to "Isn't he adorable...is this little one your son?" Then you can disclose details if you choose.

  13. I'm not a parent, let alone an adopting parent but the part of the question that bothers me is that it's anglo-normative. How can people assume that a child isn't biologically yours just because that child doesn't fit the "norm" of the mother sharing physical characteristics? It seems to me that anyone asking a parent who is without their partner there where the child is from is assuming that if you are anglo in appearance then the NORM is that your partner is also anglo and hence your child musn't be your biological child. Did that make sense? Cause I'm tired! Basically it strikes me as odd that they wouldn't stop to think that your partner may be a person of colour and thus your child would be also - they instead assume that only your child is and therefore must be adopted.

  14. I have thought about this and how we will react since our daughter will look different from us. I don't think I will be offended because I think adoption is wonderful so why act like it is a bad question. On the otherhand, I saw twin girls about 7 yrs old this weekend that looked Guatemalan with a caucasian mom at a plant show. I was going to say something to the mom (because we are waiting on a guatemalan girl) but stopped myself because I felt for the girls and thought "just leave them and let them have fun without making a comment that draws attention to how they are different". So there it is, a conflicted answer. This is something adopting parents prob deal with a lot, and I think the only thing I am solid on is don't treat it like a bad question. But also hope people are considerate when my little girl is old enough to know when people are talking about her.