Rule 1: Be pleasant. “Yes, we are comfortable talking about adoption—why wouldn’t we be?”
Rule 2: Answer to my children’s ears. “No they are not all from the same place, but yes they are all from China, no they are not biologically related but became siblings the day they took our last name for their own.”
Rule 3: When questions become too intrusive, change the venue. “Gosh, it’s getting late. We’ve got to be going. Let’s chat again sometime, it was great meeting you.”
In the course of our nine years as an adoptive family these rules for public conversation have developed. Thankfully, friends in our adoption community have given us strength, grace and humor to handle these situations with very few bumps. We’ve learned that “outsiders” are usually curious in the good ways and only occasionally strange or rude in ways that we chalk up to them not having learned their manners!
This incident reminds me of a wonderful Children’s book (for children ten years and older) titled: Rules (2006, Scholastic Press). The main character in the story, twelve year old Katherine, longs for a friend close enough to send Morse code messages to at night….but her quest for a friend is shaped by her relationship with younger brother, David, who has autism. Katherine lives with public situations and questions that have forged her need to keep a sense of order for herself and brother. Some of her rules are just funny: “pantless brothers are not my problem!” Some rules are heartbreaking: “Sometimes people joke with you to be fun….sometimes they joke with you to be cruel.” In the unfolding of Rules, Katherine does make friends…unexpected friends that force her to evaluate being rigid or flexible when deriving rules. By the end of the story, readers are happily cheering for Katherine’s growth as a sister, friend and young adult. Rules, while not directly about being and adopted child from China, addresses how young people grow into a comfortable acceptance of self and others.
Rules is a 2007 Newberry Honor book and winner of many other literary awards. Lots has been written about this heartwarming story and it’s a staple in most libraries. Cynthia Lord’s website has wonderful discussion questions and activities related to Rules, new books and the writing life. www.cynthialord.com
How about you? What rules has your family developed in your history together?
Associate Education Director