Some people are rude. This is a truth that exists no matter home many wonderful, polite and respective individuals we may have the pleasure of interacting with on a daily basis. Though nosy, well-meaning strangers can find a way to target almost anyone, this type of invasive, behavior lacking boundaries seems to be lavished dis-proportionally on non-traditional families.
These questions and comments can take on many forms. In a best-case scenario, they might involve hopeful parents via surrogacy, egg donation and/or embryo donation making assumptions about a child who looks ethnically different from you and asking if you’re comfortable talking about your own experience with the process of infertility treatment, leaving you to awkwardly discuss IVF and egg donation with a stranger in the dairy aisle of the grocery store. In a worst-case scenario, they might involve someone approaching your family at a softball game, leaning down toward your girls – one adopted through embryo donation and one from traditional birth- asking if they are “real” sisters or turning to inquire about how much your child cost.
The worst offenders can elicit our own rudeness, and for this reason, it’s good to prepare ahead of time for the kinds of things people say and have a few pre-planned responses that will allow us to quickly put up a boundary or exist a conversation with grace and aplomb.
This might be executed through cheeky humor, “Both my children are quite real,” or “What do you mean? They’re identical twins,” before you make a swift retreat to the checkout lane. But the best way to handle this type of unwanted attention is to respond without anger with this simple catch-all statement: “I’m sorry, I don’t know you.” This is sufficient, nearly across the board, in pointing out to someone that they’re being invasive without making a scene or huffing off yourself.
Modeling confidence, grace, and good boundaries is important because these are lifelong skills that our children will need to practice as well. Regardless of what others may throw at us, it’s helpful to practice empathy and kindness in front of our kids. It’s equally significant for them to witness their parents answer questions about their origins without becoming flustered, defensive, upset, or angry. This type of response, even one that’s meant to protect them, instead may serve to stigmatize their origins, whatever they may be, and might make them feel upset about their differences, regardless of how loving and supportive their family is otherwise.
As your children get older, they may come up with their own perfect, insightful wisdom for warding off the inappropriate remarks from strangers, and as long as they aren’t being nasty, it’s good to encourage this resourcefulness in them. Using those types of interactions as tools for learning later can also be helpful, role playing possible dialogues with them or deconstructing why they think someone might ask rude questions or say hurtful things is a good way to help your child(ren) make sense of the world around them and feel prepared to respond appropriately to the actions of others while holding their heads high.
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