Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The right not to tell

From the New York Times Motherlode blog, a post by adoptive mom Ilie Ruby about sharing -- and not sharing -- her children's stories:
Everyone wants to know the story of how we adopted three children from Ethiopia. But do I have a right not to tell it, existing as I do right out here on the front line, looking as I do, a Caucasian mom with three African kiddos? Taking my children to the grocery store or to the library without announcing where they came from? Do I have a right to live in the world, fully and enthusiastically and not announce my history or that of my children? I think, yes.

* * *
When we started talking adoption, especially interracial adoption, with other adoptive parents we were told that we would be shocked at the number of people that would ask about our child’s background, effectively his or her life story.

I naively didn’t believe that this would happen. After all, you wouldn’t randomly knock on someone’s door and ask them to share with you private traumas and personal struggles. . . . Still, not a week goes by that I am not asked if my children’s parents are dead, if they are orphans, what happened to them, whether they are “related,” how we “got” them, whether they suffered starvation or other forms of trauma or abuse and how long they were in an orphanage. I am routinely followed by a well-meaning librarian throughout our local library as she tells me stories about orphans. I am stopped at least twice a week by strangers who ask if my kids are “mine.”


Von said...

The joy of Transnational adoption and how is it for the kids?

Jessica said...

Regarding the experience Ilie Ruby describes. Yep. That about sums it up. Every day a new challenge.

Although, as my children have gotten older (8 + 6), we get fewer questions, or maybe we've lived long enough in the same place that people know our story. But questions from strangers are still hard, especially the ones about 'real' brother and sister.

Unknown said...

This is one of my pet peeves too. If you think about it, we live in a paparazzi society where there is no privacy for the conspicuous or those in the spotlight. I think media has kind of blurred the lines of etiquette, and created a kind of "entitlement to know" as they splash info about everyone everywhere. I think some people lose a sense of proper boundaries because of this. It drives me crazy.

Anonymous said...

Ilie Ruby says it so well, that one's story is to be shared by the one who truly owns it. It is shocking how many people think it is perfectly fine to ask if your child is adopted, what happened to the parents, etc., with the child standing right there! Maybe that's not a big deal with an infant, but by the time the child understands language, it IS a big deal.

Saying that all parents get questions and advice shows a lack of understanding. Asking how old the baby is or what her name is does not have the potential to hurt or embarrass the child or to cast doubt on the family relationships. We have every right to silence nosy, arrogant people who think for some reason they have a right to know anything. Sometimes I don't want to be polite in response. My hat is off to Ms. Ruby for maintaining her decorum in front of her children (and yes, they are hers - I bet they even fight in the backseat.

Anonymous said...

We never get asked. I am told it is because most think my husband is Asian-- especially when I am with my son who has medium brown hair. (We live in a diverse area that has many interracial marriages.)