"It can cost a lot of money to have a baby in a hospital, or even at home with a midwife. And there are also other tests and things moms and dads have to pay for before the baby comes. Sometimes parents have trouble making a baby, and they have to pay the doctors a ton of money to help them, and on top of that they still have to pay a big hospital bill." Willa got out of her chair and sat on my lap. "So if anybody ever does ask you that question, you can tell them it always costs money to make a family. And really, Willa, kids who ask things like that are just misinformed and have to be educated. I'm sorry you have to be their teacher. It must get exhausting."
"It's a little tiring," Willa said. "But not so bad."
Since that initial Babies "R" Us incident, I've learned to handle strangers' questions with a breeziness and body language that usually informs the stranger that I'm uncomfortable answering personal questions about my kids, but simultaneously reassures my girls that I'm proud of how we became a family. Sometimes it works better than others. Recently, at the airport waiting for a flight, I noticed a woman staring and smiling at my children. After a while she came over and told me how beautiful my girls were. She asked, "Is their father Chinese?"
"Their biological father is Chinese," I said, "but their daddy is German and Russian."
"Do they speak English?"
Willa sighed loudly and slapped the page of her book. I think the slap was meant to draw the woman's attention to the English words that were clearly written across the page. "Of course," I said.
"How long have you had them?"
"We've been a family for a long time," I answered and turned my back to her.
"Did you get them through an agency?"
I turned back around and looked into her eyes. "Why do you ask?"
"Just curious," she said. "I think what you've done for those children is so great. They're so lucky."
I gathered up our bags. "What I've done for my children is minor compared with the joy they've given me. Come on, girls, we have to use the restroom."
"We just used the restroom," Willa complained, then shut her book, zipped up her backpack, and rolled her eyes.
"You're one lucky little girl," the woman said to Willa. "I hope you know it."
"No," I said, "I am one lucky mama." I guided my girls to another section of the gate.
"Why are people so nosy?" Willa fumed.
"Sometimes rudeness, sometimes racism, sometimes ignorance—there are a lot of reasons, but mainly it's because our family is interracial and that makes people notice us and want to know all about us."
"It's annoying!" Willa said, stomping her feet.
"I know it is," I said, and took Willa's hand. "It's the downside of being so interesting."
"I'd rather be boring."
"Sometimes I'd rather be boring, too, but I wouldn't want to change a single thing about us, so for now, or until the world gets its act together, we're stuck with being fascinating."