This week we were having the interior of our home painted, so we decided to spend the night relaxing in a local hotel with a kid-friendly water park. For those of you who have followed my blog posts, you may remember that our family is rather large by today’s standards. We have a total of 10 children at this moment—three adult children, six children who we adopted through our program and one foster son. Since it was our adult children who were painting our home, my husband and I set out for this great adventure with our seven children ranging in age from 8 years to 3 days.
It is obvious that our younger children are not biologically ours as they are all of various races (my husband and I are the minorities in our family). Needless to say, we stick out in public like nothing you have ever seen. In fact, it seems never an opportunity is missed by someone in public to comment on our family. Usually it is just a passing pleasantry. “You have a beautiful family,” is what we hear most, but other times I am appalled by what is said, or overheard, by people who feel the need to comment.
During this particular getaway we received all sorts of comments, so I thought I would discuss them on this blog, get tips from families in our “situation” (as we were once called) and give you a glimpse of one 24-hour period in our life.
It began at breakfast
During breakfast at a local restaurant that morning (yes—we take all the kids out to restaurants, yes—it costs a ton of money and yes—they are well behaved), the well-intentioned hostess hovered over our table asking all sorts of questions. No, not about how we wanted our eggs cooked, but questions as to where our children are from, if they are foster kids, where their “real parents” were, and others. Then, the hostess proceeded to try to pick up the newborn, attempting to show him off to her boss.
On our way out of this barrage of inappropriate questions, we were stopped by two older ladies wanting to see the baby. After chastising me for having a baby out before it was 6 weeks old (if I followed that old wives’ tale, each of my children would be spending their childhood indoors since we always have a baby), she asked if all the children were ours. When my husband answered with an emphatic yes, she looked at the children and asked them, “Do you love your mommy and daddy?” The children said yes, they do love us. She then said, “Do you REALLY love your mommy and daddy?” Needless to say, I bit my tongue (it gets bit a lot these days) and wished her a good day. I then took the children to our van while my husband paid our bill (yes—it is a 12 passenger van, no—it is not hard to back up and no—the foster system did not pay for it since we adopted so many of “their” kids).
The water park
Proceeding to the water park, I had two women follow me around while I was carrying the baby, asking if they can hold him (no—he is a person, not an object for you to enjoy, yes—his mother wants him and no—I am not going to share information with you regarding why he is in foster care, even if your cousin used to be a social worker). One of these woman asked if every brown child they saw in the park was my child and, “How do you keep them all straight from everyone else?” (They are different people who look completely different than every other child in this water park. I can tell my children apart from other people’s children just as you can yours.)
The other woman then asked if they were all “crack babies” (not a one of them) and if they have violent outbursts. I wanted to say they do not, but their mother does. However, I didn’t want to open up the “who is their real mom” can of worms at that point, plus I was trying VERY hard to be the face of fostering to these women.
Couple this with another well-intentioned mother saying my daughter’s hair is just “gorgeous” (no it was not—it was in its natural state without any product, sticking up all over the place while she enjoyed her 2-year-old self, yes—I do her hair, no—it is not difficult to do, yes—I use regular shampoo, no—the “stuff” does not stain my couch when she rests her head on it and by all means NO—you may NOT touch it).
She may be a toddler, but she deserves personal space.
It can get exhausting
I was completely exhausted by the time our little get away was over, not from the lack of sleep from having a newborn, not from chasing our kids around a water park all day, not from breaking up numerous fights that night from overtired children in beds not their own, but rather from the adults asking questions that tired me out just thinking about them.
For those of you interested in fostering, do not hesitate to ask me anything about fostering (nothing is off limits). But for those of you who just want to make my children’s business your own business, please be respectful. Some of my children have lived through things you cannot imagine. All of my children have experienced some form of trauma in their little lives. Help me make the rest of their lives the best possible.
Share your experiences
For those of you blessed to have a family such as ours, post a reply and share your tips on how you have dealt with comments. Share the comments you have heard or things you have experienced.
For those of you with questions about families such as ours, you have free reign via this blog post to ask me anything you want to know, from do I love my adopted children like my biological children (by all means I do) to what do you do with an adopted teenager who gets in trouble and doesn’t listen to you. (Rejoice—you have a normal teenager, so love them through it. You can’t “return” them. They are people, not a blanket you bought at Target).
Now that we are out of earshot of the kids, go ahead and ask me anything. Let’s get it all out there!
Paulette is a foster and adoptive parent. She works at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin as a foster parent liaison, providing support, offering encouragement and advocating for foster parents throughout all phases of fostering and adoption.