From my own family and from my legal practice, I have become aware of dumb questions people ask about adoption. Two in particular stand out.
“Why did you adopt?” is the first no-brainer. One version is the suggestion “You must be a saint to take on these poor motherless children.” Very few foster parents consider themselves saints or adopt because they feel they “should.” People adopt for the same variety of reasons they have children in the usual way. They want a family. Or they have had a foster child and have become accustomed to parenthood. Or they fall in love with the child. The only difference is they have a choice. They are not surprised by a pregnancy.
My parents had three boys in a row. They wanted a girl and adopted one. They had three more boys. They adopted another little girl. Two more homemade children and they adopted my last two siblings. Why? I think they felt the house was empty and they missed babies.
“Which ones are really yours?” is the second dumb question. My younger brother apparently had been asked by a neighbor friend which ones of my siblings were adopted. My brother didn’t know, had to ask our mom. It was so insignificant a fact that he had forgotten. Even though the adopted children had a different beginning, we were all family, brothers and sisters.
An Indiana 2003 appellate court decision upheld the adoption by a foster father of five years over a competing petition from biological relatives, noting that he was the parent “in terms that matter most.” The choice of adoption is as significant as the choice of a marital partner. In fact, there are far more divorces than there are failed adoptions.
On the other hand, perhaps no children, however they arrived, belong to their parents. In the lovely words of the Arab poet, Khalil Gibran: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”