November is National Adoption Month, a time to recognize and raise awareness of adoption issues and the need for adoptive families. To honor this month, LGBTQ+ parents share their stories.
My husband and I have three daughters. We don’t have three “adopted” daughters; just three amazing, exhausting, funny, crazy-making, beautiful daughters.
I have been a dad for seventeen years now and I’ve had plenty of time to wonder why the word “adopted” seems to creep into so many places where I don’t think it needs to be. Pre-fatherhood and while working for an entertainment wire service, I wrote my fair share of celebrity obituaries. Even then, it seemed strange to me that my editors insisted I distinguish someone’s surviving offspring as “adopted.” “So and so is survived by two sons and an adopted daughter,” was the kind of phrase that I still find jarring. Why does that aspect of how a child came to a family matter? It shouldn’t, but for some reason this odd practice persists in our culture.
Over the last dozen or so years I have learned a lot about the concept of adoption and how it can sometimes flummox even the most well-meaning among us. I cannot count the number of times someone has approached me at Target, at a table in a restaurant or even on line for a ride in Disneyland to ask what I consider to be extremely personal questions about my family.
“You have a beautiful family”
My husband and I are white and our girls are biracial. That fact has opened the door to countless people expressing their approval of us by saying something like, “You have a beautiful family.” It’s a lovely gesture and I do not take for granted that people were not as accepting of families like mine in the not too distant past and, quite frankly, even in some present locales. I appreciate the sentiment and the support, I really do. However, more often than not the statement is followed by the question, “Are the girls biological sisters?” or, the one that really gets me, “Are the girls real sisters?”
Here’s the thing: they couldn’t be more “real sisters”. They love each other, drive one another crazy, bond over their annoying dads and share their lives together as members of our own personal party of five. So yes, they are “real” sisters.
It’s such an odd question to me because I don’t understand why anyone would feel entitled to this information. The dicier part to me is that the question was almost always asked in front of my daughters, being talked about as though they weren’t even present. It has happened to us enough for me to understand that there is no malice intended. It is a crime of inconsideration, of thoughtlessness.
I don’t mean to sound like I have a chip on my shoulder because honestly, I could not feel more blessed or lucky to have these innocuous problems to contend with—especially at a time when there seems to be a resurgence in pushback against families like ours. Being a proud dad, I love nothing more than talking about my kids to anyone who will listen! I’m just looking to keep some boundaries in place. I’m sure couples who took the surrogate route must routinely get equally probing questions as do those who underwent IVF.
I, however, can only speak from my own experience and attempt to let people know that it’s okay for them to have some of the more prying questions left unspoken regarding my family (especially at Target). I, in turn, promise to remain an open book regarding my adoption experiences, continuing to share everything I have learned about the process with anyone who is genuinely and seriously interested in following in my parental footsteps.
Art Q. Smith
Writer, husband, and dad living in New York
Art Q. Smith is a stay at home dad to three amazing, bright and very funny daughters (and a dog) he is raising with his husband and partner of 28 years. He loves writing, gardening, going to the beach and considers himself to be a gifted whistler.