Most likely, no one who has approached my family and asked us personal questions has meant any harm, but they do assume that an adopted child's background is available for public discussion, and not subject to the same sensitivity or restraint due any child. My girls are not immune to the self-consciousness all children feel being scrutinized. The best expression of support for my family is to respect our differences by not calling attention to them. There are many adoption agencies and adoption Web sites with tons of information. Unless you are a friend or relative of an adoptive family, it's best to look there for answers.
Someday, I hope, we'll live in a world where racial or sexual or familial differences don't matter because we'll have achieved the understanding that one kind, or one way, is not necessarily better than another. As for now, I fear we routinely call unneeded attention to these differences. For example, why are Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise's kids described as their "adopted kids"? Why aren't they just identified as "their kids"? Or why did the press write that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were expecting their first child when they already have a son and a daughter? What's next? "Angelina and Brad's biologically born child joins their adopted son and adopted daughter." Or "So-and-so's donor-egg-born son joins their gestationally carried, IVF-born daughter." We don't refer to how biological children become a part of their families, so why do we point out adoption?
There are exceptions. A few weeks ago, Willa was a flower girl in my sister's wedding. At the beauty parlor where the bridal party was having their hair done, I introduced Willa to the hairdresser. She looked at my daughter and said, "Hey, Willa, are you adopted?"
Willa answered, "Yes, from China."
I touched Willa's shoulder protectively to remind her that, if needed, I was there to help navigate the encounter.
"So am I," beamed the hairdresser. "Isn't adoption the coolest?"
Willa looked at me and smiled. "Yep. It's totally cool."
Elizabeth Cuthrell is a screenwriter and producer living in New York City.
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