There has been only one time in my life when I wanted to beat up a first-grader. That was when a boy approached my younger brother and asked, “So, who’s your real mom?” Evidently, his curiosity had been piqued at school, earlier that day, when he heard Justin say he was adopted.
When I heard the boy’s question, my face turned deep red, and I glared long and hard at him. Then I scooped up my five-year-old brother and pulled him away to safety.
Several years earlier, my parents, sister, and I had traveled to Bulgaria to adopt Justin. He was 17 months old at the time. From the moment we saw him, sitting wide-eyed in his orphanage, we knew he was the missing member of our family — and we’ve been telling him that ever since. So it was no wonder that Justin simply stared at the first-grader that day, confused and a little troubled. It was clear that he didn’t understand the boy’s question.
Today, I’m older and wiser, and I know that my anger at that curious child was misplaced. When I hear such questions now, I see them as opportunities to educate people about adoption. If I had that moment to relive, I would explain to the child that, although she didn’t carry him for nine months, or bring him home from the hospital, Justin’s real mom was just outside the school in her minivan, waiting to take us home.