Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Are We Guilty? - The Sequel

My sincerest appreciation to everyone who commented on ARE WE GUILTY? This has been the most-commented-upon post in Swerl's short, modest history. Thanks!

Your comments have spurred me to further refine my own thoughts, and I am excited to share what I hope will be a more reasoned distillation of my point-of-view:

Everyone seemed to react to the idea of "educating people". I think that's important, but it is only a BY-PRODUCT. As a parent (obviously) the well-being of your kids is really your ONLY priority. So, when I say that I will be very open to questions, even potentially intrusive questions, I say that ONLY for it's benefits to my child.

MODELING:

Kids model their behavior. If we're lucky (and if we deserve it), they model themselves after us. They may model themselves after peers. They may model themselves after karate-proficient mutant turtles.

Every encounter, in the presence of your child, in which your child's story becomes a topic -- with strangers, with work associates, with neighbors, with folks at church, with family -- will be a time in which your attitude towards your child's story (and your child's different way of coming to your family) will be viewed and internalized by your child. It WILL BE. Someone asks, you talk, child hears, child MODELS his or her opinion about his or her own story. This will influence his or her self-esteem. It will create an emotion, long before the child can make his or her own decisions.

Because of modeling, I feel the idea of "allowing the child to choose how to tell his or her own story" is a canard. The child's been watching US make that choice for years before we ask it of them, and in this scenario, our choice has been to REFUSE TO DISCUSS IT.

Chances are, they will internalize this, model this, and their choice, too, will be to refuse to discuss it. This is the idea of "shame" to which I had previously referred.

Not making a choice is also a choice.

THE ADOPTION LITERATURE

In a few essays, articles, blogs and forum reports, I see an exchange crafted in the following manner:

QUESTIONER: Where did the child come from? How did you get him/her? Does he/she have parents? (or some variation)

ADOPTIVE PARENT: That's private information, that's my child's story to tell, when he so chooses.

Now, the kid may be sucking on a pacifier. So that's a total dodge. That's a "I'm not answering your questions".

I've read some other accounts where the adoptive parent counters: "What sexual position did you use to get pregnant?" (obviously snarky) or a terse "It's not your business."

To me, "None of your business" implies shame.

TEACHING A YOUNGER CHILD TO OWN A STORY

Since we're on the list for a girl under twelve months, and since the kids we have now are 5 and under, the following is written from the perspective of a parent with kids who can't completely speak for themselves. It is, I think, an effort to parent in such a way that when the child is older, she WOULD feel comfortable speaking for herself.

I agree with Brian that I would never tell anyone more than I would tell her, and that when she feels comfortable talking to adults, she can explain her own story. This is really about how to handle questions from people -- including friends, family, co-workers, etc., prior to that time.

To me, how to model these encounters in such a way to ensure that your child does not associate shame with his or her origins (no matter how horrible) is to make sure that EVERY ENCOUNTER IN WHICH THAT CHILD'S ORIGINS ARE MENTIONED ENDS TRANQUILLY AND POSITIVELY FOR ALL INVOLVED.

That way, the kid learns that his or her origins, no matter how painful, are not a source of shame. The story can be discussed in "polite company". The story is to be OWNED.

People talk all the time about "owning" their stories: Christians discuss "owning" their faith. If Christians don't feel comfortable, in themselves, express their faith openly, do they have it? Strangely analogously, in the early days of the AIDS crisis in America, the rallying call was not for a cure, but "SILENCE=DEATH" Alcoholics always talk about how the first step in recovery is to admit the reality of their situation. In WWI, they learned that the only cure for "shell shock" was "the talking cure", a precursor to all post-traumatic stress therapies (and if being either relinquished or orphaned isn't a cause for post-traumatic stress...)

To own a story is to discuss it without shame.

Now, within that, certainly there are a million ways TO talk about stories, a million ways to direct the conversation, details to be added or glossed over.

I think this is where some of the comments and my post my suffer from a semantical conflict. I'm not advocating volunteering every bit of information. What I am advocating is handling questions in a non-confrontational manner, in the spirit of openness, so the kid and the questioner do not see the parent being defensive or guarded.

One of the essays I read features a woman who would not tell which of her children was adopted. For most of us, that's not a question that needs to be asked. The questions will be variations on "why are you parenting a black kid?" These questions will come from EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE. Some will be more carefully crafted than others. I have black nieces, and when my wife and I have taken them shopping or whatever, we always get questioned -- from black people and white people and Latinos and Asians and old and young, whatever.

Based on those life experiences, I imagine I will handle questions this way:

Is she yours?

She was born in Ethiopia, but, now, she's our child -- one of the gang!

Is she adopted?

She's adopted. We adopted her from Ethiopia. Ethiopia is an amazing country. Did you know it's the only area of Sub-Saharan Africa never to be colonized? It's a great culture...

Is she an orphan/where are her parents?

IF SHE'S AN ORPHAN:

Sadly, her birth family died. Ethiopia has had a rough time of it, and the United States hasn't done enough to help. As a culture, Ethiopia values children tremendously and are going to amazing lengths to ensure that every kid in Ethiopia has a loving family, no matter what's going on.


IF HER BIRTH MOM IS ALIVE:

She has her first family in Ethiopia, but because of conditions over there right now, her parents loved her enough to relinquish her to be raised by us, but we're doing everything we can to make sure she knows her family there and knows her culture.


IF SHE'S NOT AND WE DON'T KNOW THE BIRTH MOM:

She has her first family in Ethiopia, but because of tragic conditions there, her parents loved her enough to relinquish her to be raised by us. We're trying to honor them by doing everything we can to connect with, and, within our power, help all the other kids in Ethiopia.


I think politics is important. I think it's important for kids to feel empowered in our great democratic society. I feel that politics can be part of the explanation. I also know people hate hearing folks with causes, so it seems like a great way to conclude a line of unwanted questioning without conflict or discord. Any questions about why the child was given up can be countered with the real facts on the ground -- the number of orphans, the toll of diseases that we find manageable, the fact that the Clinton administration helped support drug company patents over human life, the fact that the Bush administration made a number of showy promises towards meeting Millennium Development Goals which have gone unfunded, etc. Heck, maybe I'll just carry ONE bracelets around and pass them out if someone is so interested. That would at least model engagement and empowerment to my child. Also, it's suitably boring to enough people that they'll probably disengage politely at that point -- without having my child see me refuse to talk about her entry into our family.

AIDS

Amy asked a provocative (good) question about HIV status. We are not adopting an HIV+ child at this time, so none of my imaginary projects dealt with that reality. After a lot of mulling, I think there's a way to address that honestly in front of your child as well. Again, it mixes the personal and the political. I think you can say that your child is HIV+, but, thankfully, the viral count is low and she will live a long, healthy productive life. Furthermore, she's no danger to anyone else.

From there, I'd say that it's tragic that a dollar a day could prevent this. That life in Ethiopia is just as valuable as in the USA, but while we've almost eliminated mother-to-child infections and have allowed this disease to become a manageable, chronic condition, in Ethiopia and much of the less developed world, there is still a lot of needless infections and a high mortality. I'd talk about the Lazarus effect these drugs have (a great picture in THERE IS NO ME WITHOUT YOU), and the fact that the "cocktail" has been refined into a twice-daily pill.

If the child is around a group consistently, say in church or school, explain it to everyone at once, maybe.

BIG CAVEAT: RACISM

All of the above is said with the understanding that the questioner is not racist. If the questioner IS racist, then that person needs to be corrected firmly, and then the conversation must end. Part of modeling is also teaching how to stand up to racism.

WHERE IT COMES FROM

I'm a joker with a blog. I don't know anything. I know I'm in the minority, here. But I've had the experiences of being in public with my nieces. For the HIV thing, I've known people who've died of AIDS and I also know, as a close friend of our family, a man who has lived for 15 years with it, who went from full-blown AIDS, with dementia and the whole bit, to now being back to working a demanding job and being the dad to four kids. I also have a sister who's adopted, who has struggled with issues of identity her whole life.

From my sister, I've learned that a close bond and a happy childhood does not guarantee a happy adolescence or young adulthood. My parents are in primary education. My dad has a Masters and was on the verge of getting his Doctorate in childhood development. They did everything "right" -- as of the 70's and 80's. The two things they didn't do were to embrace the fact that she was half-Puerto Rican, and they did not help her own her story prior to being adopted. (She was adopted as a newborn). It was a closed adoption, but she did reunite with her birth mother(with sadly disappointing results). She, too, was allowed to tell her own story, to judge what she wanted to say... and she never wanted to talk about it. My parents thought that was proof of her attachment and proof of their good parenting, until she hit 16 and the world came crashing in. She's 30 now, and she has kids of her own, but I think she could've had a happier 16-27 if she didn't feel that there was a social stigma being a "drug baby". To our family, empowerment would've been teaching her from the first, not just that she was loved and wanted and "meant" for our family and "chosen", but that her mother was a junkie -- and that does not define her. That last bit, that her "story" doesn't define her, that, although it is a fact, it is only one of a million, and will not be her summing up -- that was never modeled for her. She was the guardian of her "story" and it quietly tore her apart under all of our noses.

For these reasons, I feel the child's story should NOT be arbitrarily held back, and then dumped on a 10 year old (or whatever the age), passing the buck of the responsibility, the weight of that story to the child.

The child should grow up knowing that difficult truths can be de-fanged, made commonplace, to the point where the situation of their birth and adoption are normalized -- not a "story" placed in their lap like a gift or a curse, but just common facts -- with their TRUE "life story" -- the story of how their lives turn out -- yet to be written.

I'd love everyone's input on this. Once again, I'm just trying to sort all this out, myself. I greatly appreciate everyone who stops by and I welcome a very healthy discourse!

12 comments:

jayme & jon said...

In your post, regarding your sister, you said:

“To our family, empowerment would've been teaching her from the first, not just that she was loved and wanted and "meant" for our family and "chosen", but that her mother was a junkie -- and that does not define her.”

That’s absolutely true. Her background should have been discussed and normalized within your family. Having open, honest conversations about even the most difficult topics helps to equip children with the self-efficacy and confidence to chart their own life course, even perhaps in the face of a difficult history. As I mentioned in my previous comment, I think we should be telling our children their stories from the very beginning, so that it is “normal”. We shouldn’t be refusing to discuss their story with them, but we should be deflecting very personal questions about our children until our children can decide whether they want those details to be shared with strangers.

Again, I think we need to look at *why* the person asking questions is asking them, and make decisions about what information we will share based on the situation.

Where I think we may differ is that I do not believe that presenting those details of her life to people outside of the immediate family before the child has the opportunity to discuss, process, and form his/her own thoughts on them is helpful or in the child’s best interests.

As adoptive parents, we do take on the role as educators of people whose lives have not been touched by adoption. We will receive both thoughtful questions, and completely ignorant ones, and it is up to us to determine how we will handle each situation as it arises. I think it’s also important to remember that although there may be a “teachable moment” for someone else, our children may not always want to be the subject of a lesson. While it’s great to model appropriate responses to difficult questions, I also think that parents have an obligation to model ways to get out of a situation that may be making their child uncomfortable.

I think it’s fantastic that you’ve already put some thought into how you will address certain questions, and I think your answers are good ones. As a rule, I tend to speak in generalities. If I am asked directly about my childrens’ Ethiopian family, I will say that they do have family in Ethiopia. However, if pressed for more information, I say that the specific details of their story are for them to decide whether and how they want to share. There is a lot of educating and normalizing that can be done without making our childrens’ lives an open book. You can certainly talk to people about the different types of situations that adoptees may come from, but I don’t see the need to “advertise” that my child was…(born addicted to drugs, abandoned by the side of the road, or whatever the case may be).

I agree that in this country, the idea of being different often comes with either a positive or a negative connotation. Very rarely is it taken for what it actually is: something novel. Again, I feel that it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children that *everybody’s* story is different. Maybe not everyone was adopted, but lots of people were, and that’s just one way to create a family. Maybe not every family is transcultural, but here’s why our family is so cool….

With regards to the question of whether our children are HIV positive (or have any other infectious disease for that matter), I would not be comfortable sharing that information with anyone who is not on a “need to know” basis. My response to questions like this is to say “all children who come into care in Ethiopia are tested for a variety of things, and adoptive parents make the decision of whether to accept a referral based on those results.” Depending on the context of the situation, I will provide more information on HIV and its treatment. I like that you’re also including politics in the discussion.

On a personal level, I think it’s important to remember that children may test negative for certain things in Ethiopia, but test positive once they arrive in America. From my understanding it’s rare, but it does happen.

It comes back to the issue of control, and once you let something out, it’s hard, if not impossible, to get it back. Their story is one of a few things that I have of their time in Ethiopia. I want them to be proud of their background and understand how much love their family had for them in order to make the heartbreaking decision to allow them to be adopted. But I also want them to have time to process all of that information, ask questions, and define their own identities before having to answer to other people who may have heard a detail here or there.

I also recognize that most of the big questions and hard stuff won’t come out until adolescence, when the kids are able to start thinking critically about their life experiences. I can only hope that by then I’ve given them the tools to work through it, and I hope that they will feel comfortable talking with someone (it doesn’t have to be me, though I’d love it if it were) about it.

I really appreciate this dialogue, and look forward to hearing other people’s perspectives.

Swerl said...

I greatly appreciate your comment. I just wanted to point out a few places where my intentions were mis-read, probably the fault of my long post.

My central tenet is this:
ANY form of OBVIOUS, OPPOSITIONAL deflection "I don't want to talk about that", "that's for her" "she'll tell you when she's older if she chooses" or "It's none of your business" could be construed, BY THE CHILD, as "I don't feel comfortable talking about it" -- and that when the child is "given" her story to tell, she will REMEMBER this form of oppositional deflection and also, like her parents, feel uncomfortable "owning" her story within the context of normal human discourse.

2. My sister DID know her origins. She also knew that my parents didn't talk about it with anyone else -- just with her, and IN HER MIND,not through their actions, she felt too intimidated to talk about it with anyone EXCEPT my parents. As you allude to, sometimes parents are not the person a teen needs for perspective.

3. I don't care about teaching moments for other people. I care ONLY about SHOWING to my child that such questions can be handled with decorum and pride. That's IT -- modeling for my child how not to "get out of" a situation, but to address a situation confidently.

4. I never suggest "advertising" anything. In fact, I discussed at length how to guide the conversation AWAY from personal details -- but in a way that doesn't result in an obvious brick wall. Again, I've NEVER advocated "advertising", I've just advocated moving off of topics without being NAKEDLY OPPOSITIONAL (even in a kindly way), but to use generalities, politics, etc.

5. Strangers. While I made a few references to strangers, I'm mostly talking about acquaintances, people close enough that they feel comfortable asking, but we may not feel comfortable telling: (as I stated above) people at church, neighbors, co-workers, extended family and social friends.

6. "Why" people are asking: I gave the racist caveat. If someone is dismissive or demeaning (not just awkward), all bets are off.

7. People can best "control" their stories by owning them. Look at celebrities -- how successful are they at "controlling" the dissemination of the details of their lives? Not very. The ones with REAL control are the ones who proactively discuss their stories openly, diffusing the curiosity.

In our town, these kids will be objects of curiosity their entire lives. Walking around saying "none of your business" (however kindly) is only going increase the curiosity, whereas open dialog that I'm suggesting, where details are omitted WITHOUT BLATANT DEFLECTION, but with SUBTLE deflection, so that the questioner feels satisfied AND HAS HIS OR HER CURIOSITY SATISFIED is the best tool to demonstrate to your child, as he or she develops, that you don't have to go through life "deflecting" everyone.

One way I'd do this is to always use "RELINQUISH". I may know that "relinquished" means "found on the side of the road", but the word will infer to the questioner the American equivalent of a hospital hand-off. It answers the question, but doesn't say "found on the side of the road". The person has a picture in their mind, had his or her question answered and will be satisfied with it. The child's story doesn't become a source of contention in front of the child. Mission accomplished.

Hopefully, this further clarifies my point of view.

Thanks again for joining in the discussion! Your responses are always so thoughtful, I appreciate you gracing these pages with them.

Waiting for Iyasu / Esperando a Iyasu said...

Wow, really, you have an amazing blog, Swerl. Especially nice how everyone in the adoption blogworld is being respectful. You know, the hardest part I think is simply articulating our points of view; when it comes down to it, really, I think we are all mostly on the same page. I'll definately be back for another visit! (Because of the bilingual thing, it looks like you have me twice on your blogroll, right? No big deal, just thought I should let you know.)

Anonymous said...

I also want to say what a great blog this is.

I agree totally with your answer to number 3. I don't care about teaching people either, I just want my daughter to be proud and happy and if in the process people learn from it great. I've also felt uncomfortable with the common wisdom that questions should be deflected. I have not done this, I answer the questions kindly and move on. I know that I have an advantage in that I am black and my daughter is black so strangers don't ask questions, but friends and acquaintances who know that my daughter is adopted do.

Monica

Brian (dad to 3) said...

I think you're on the right track. Modeling is good, but there's going to come a point that your child is going to want to tell (or nor) their story, and it's likely to occur in the blink of an eye, and change back and forth a few (hundred?) times. Getting permission at an early age, is probably best.

Also, I'll caution you that having a plan is good, but dealing with it in the moment can change things. There will be times that you just don't want to deal with the stranger.

Dan said...

Bravo. I applaud and respect your intellectual process. Talk! Tell them everything you feel like! You seem informed. Embrace your knowledge and trust your instincts.

It seems you are itching to be an agent of change. And yet your anonymity on your very fine blog implies that you may not be 100% comfortable owning your opinions.

There is more than one right, and it’s good to see people taking a stand in which they understand they may be wrong from someone else’s point of view. (I’ll qualify everything I say by adding an IMHO…that way nobody can assume I'm generalizing…which I may be...but oh well.)

Haven’t we learned anything from the PC era (aka the "Dark Ages of Liberal Thinking")? People voiced PC proclamations related to race and identity, yet rarely talked with others about their own feelings...they just tended to talk at people…or worse, not say anything at all out of a fear of sounding ignorant…as if ignorance is a bad thing (when you are willing own up to it).

I firmly believe that GUILT should be reserved for those people that a) choose to remain ignorant by not seeking or not listening to other perspectives or b) will not change their minds when presented with better information. You appear to do this.

It seems that people (with obvious exceptions, including those that have adopted transracially before us) talk often of racial understanding, give advice, and advocate...yet rarely do they get the opportunity to live among and experience the differences that surround them. This is so sad.

Where I came from, and among my friends, we talked openly about our differences. Compared our religions, debated them, made light of our own cultural peculiarities, and experienced other cultures by going next door to a friend's house to eat a meal made up of pieces of animals we couldn’t identify.

I miss this "nice-place" (did it really exist?) and the social norms that seem (in my experience) to have only existed there. It’s too bad that my family and I are not likely to be able to afford to move back to Nice-Place, USA. But then again, maybe it wasn’t" all that"...or maybe, I just didn’t know any better.

But I do believe that we can help establish, nurture, and/or propagate nice-places by, as you say, modeling interactions where "EVERY ENCOUNTER IN WHICH THAT CHILD'S ORIGINS ARE MENTIONED ENDS TRANQUILLY AND POSITIVELY FOR ALL INVOLVED."

Perhaps, if we are not advocates for something that we believe in, than our opinions have less value? Egotistical as this is, I want my opinions and time spent thinking to matter to someone other than myself.

To some, it may not be important, but to our children it will be...social norms need to shift. We can take a part in this and model it in our actions. Or we can be a witness, for better or worse. And you are right Swerl, not choosing IS a choice.

Amy said...

I love your down-to-earth point of view. I agree with everything you said, and I really appreciate this approach. This is how I've seen it, but I've wondered if I am doing my child an injustice by being so open with her story, before she can tell it. But it's not something to be ashamed of, so I will answer questions about it, just like I talked about my pregnancy and birth story! :)
I think parents are very protective of their children, and therefore often take offense too easily, or are hush-hush about their child's origins, but most people are genuinely curious, not meaning to be rude. And aswering such questions with confidence (and modesty - not "advertising") teaches our children an invaluable lesson.
Thanks for this perspective!

Swerl said...

Thanks for your comments!

Dan- with all due respect, the paragraph about guilt and it's definition- I've read it 5 times and I literally don't understand what you're trying to say. I would love for you to clarify, so that I may understand your point.

As for my relative anonimity, I feel my motivation differs from many. Most adoption blogs seem to serve as either diaries or updates for family and friends. Opinion-oriented blogs tend to be expressions of someone's entire ego - their opinions about politics, faith, taste in music, etc. The purpose of this blog is to be a vehicle for transracial parents to work out issues and find resources and to develop a sense of community. To the extent that this blog is from my point of view, is only because I am the only person working on it currently. I want this blog to take off beyond my opinions. This is about building a community around the thing all of us have in common - our children.

I look forward to more comments!

Dan said...

Swerl, thanks for your response. There's no easy way for me to explain my ill-conceived "paragraph on guilt". But I'll try.

My last post is what happens when one pounds out an email in 10 minutes with lunch in one hand and the phone ringing in the other.

I reread my comment...to be truthful the GUILT paragraph was--as was much of the post--a stray thought that I typed in haste and that was really a bit off topic. As I wrote, I was bouncing back and forth between your topic of sharing a child's story, and unorganized thoughts on the concepts of shame, guilt, racism, and adoptism.

So I guess the ramblings were self-indulgent and a form of self-therapy. Sorry guys.
I'll try to be brief and thoughtful if I comment again...except this comment.

The original "Are we guilty" post, stuck with me overnight. I had a sort of unexpected visceral/emotional response to the post that triggered a memory of a situation in my own experience...and today--unfortunately--I streamed a rationalization for my own "guilt".

In the past, I had faced this sort of waffling about guilt with respect to my own racist tendencies...now I'm having to deal with adoptism too. We're all at different points on the spectrum of understanding I guess. So it goes.

So, the situation was: In a store, I saw a kid with a cool Hawaiian shirt and was admiring the shirt's pattern of motorcycles and acoustic guitars...I looked up, saw mom with a "look" I didn't understand until the boy turned around and I noticed he was of a different race than mom. (oops, race is something we notice...race matters, dangit) My primary thought was "cool, a transracial adoption in my cow town," and I nodded and smiled at mom, told the kid he had a cool shirt, and walked away.

Last night I experienced some ex post facto guilt. "Oh, geez, was I staring. Did I offend her...I should feel bad, right?"

If I hadn't been reading adoption blogs, it never would have occurred to me one "should" feel guilty about violating this piece of "adoption etiquette" in the first place. It didn't occur to me that someone that would choose to adopt a child of a different race would be offended by being "noticed." Isn't this something that our homestudies prepare us for? I was ignorant. I learned more, felt a tinge of guilt, learned how to be more aware, and decided that there is no reason to feel guilty about my ignorance.

So maybe, in that paragraph on GUILT, I was concluding that there is no reason to feel guilty for a situation in which you acted inappropriately out of ignorance. So long as you are willing to make a change when you learn better.

At any rate, thanks for what you're doing here. It's great to have a place to find thought provoking posts of this caliber.

Swerl said...

Dan, I agree with you. The Oprah article and other literature suggested that it was rude to notice or engage transracial families. I think that's unrealistic and silly. As long as people are not racist, even if they are a little awkward, I can't imagine ever having a problem talking with someone about my family. I imagine the fewer transracial families you have in your area, the more you will be noticed and questioned.

I'm not going to let "the common knowledge" of adoption literature make me feel unnecessarily guilty or awkward on this issue. I'm focusing my energy on becoming a better "anti-racist parent" and person.

My wife is focusing on becoming a better "anti-racist parent" and hair braider (we just got Kinky Kreations from Amazon - review coming in the next weeks)!

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments! This is an interesting dialogue!

A Voice said...

Again very well written, Swerl. I find many of your points to be exactly what I have been thinking, but I had not yet got them in to so many words! :) Also, thank you for sharing how this issue has effected your sister! Very thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

I think your point to "shame" is valid - but it is completely different than "private".

When we adopted our daughter from China, our agency made us take a class on adoption, from a psycologist who had adopted three children. What I remember MOST IMPORTANTLY is that you never share the cirumstances of your child's adoption with anyone - that is there story to tell. A few things I have heard since that time - openly in conversation - from loving, highly educated parents. "Their mother is in prison in Florida because she was a drug addict." "They found her on a bus in Shanghai." He was in an orphanage in Moscow because his mother could not support any more children." These things may sound innocent now - but they are crippling to a 7th or 8th grader. (A day is successful to a middle schooler if they haven't been embarrassed today!) Once they are out of your mouth, you can almost guarantee they show up from some cousin or aunt in 10 years. Think would think very carefully about anything before you share it with your closest friends and relatives. I am so glad I took that class!

That is not to say that I am not a very positive person when it comes to answering questions - I keep it brief and polite - and often humorous. "Do you think she'll know how lucky she is?" (Forget the one "we're the lucky ones") How about: "Neither she nor my son (my own birth child) had any say so in where they landed on this earth - I only hope that when they are teenagers, they come downstairs each morning and kiss my feet, but I won't hold my breath - she's no more lucky than my son - I'm hoping to instill some gratitude in both my American children".

I also get "It is horrible what they do to girls in China" I answer - "I found them to be very nice people - and somebody obviously loved this child during the first year of her life or she would not be so amazing" Those kind of answers are good for my daughter to hear as well.

Hope that helps.