There comes a point in every adoptive parent's life when she has to decide just how open she will be toward curious strangers. In fact, there are often several such points, as things change - our children get older, we have more children, we get tired of old approaches or find them ineffective. I decided early on that I would be quite open and friendly, unless I had a reason not to. I would be an educator when people needed to be educated, and a pleasant conversationalist when they were just trying to chat.
It's worked out pretty well so far. I was worried, at first, that I'd have to work hard to rein myself in as AwesomeCloud got older and understood more, but as it turns out, fewer people grill me when he's around. The vast majority of people act as if they barely notice that Cloud and I are different races. Or they ask if he's adopted, or if we're related at all, and stop there.
We live in a good area for this. In general, people in our region are wise to interracial adoption, domestic or international, and often they know someone who has adopted. Or, at least, they know enough about adoption in general to be satisfied with my vaguest answers.
I haven't run into anyone who has wanted to discuss the politics of Tibet and/or the One-Child Policy in a long time.
Today at kung fu, one of the other mothers showed a particular interest in the fact that AwesomeCloud was adopted. She soon revealed that she was considering adopting a child herself, and wanted to discuss the possibility with her husband, but wasn't sure exactly what to say about it. Someone she knew was trying to adopt a little boy through DSS, and had run into some systematic difficulties, as well as having certain difficulties with the child himself. The woman knew that one adoption story wasn't nearly enough information to go on, so she wanted to hear my story too. She was heartened by seeing Cloud laughing and thriving. The kid can really brighten a room, I'm telling ya!
I described the stunningly positive experience we had with the China Special Needs program, and gave her the usual warnings about never quite knowing what your child will be like. She seemed undeterred by that - it was, apparently, the only thing about adoption she really knew ahead of time - but was very thorough about asking questions and considering my answers. I have faith that she'll be talking to some other people, too, which is important. It's not a great idea to make a decision about adoption after only talking to me.
I don't wish to be an advocate for adoption - it's not my place to go around telling people that they should adopt, because as far as I know, maybe they shouldn't. I can't use my son's wonderfulness as evidence that adoption is always great - Cloud is Cloud, and whoever a family adopts may also be a wonderful kid, but it won't be Cloud. Also, as my sister-in-law said, the parameters that we jumped so eagerly at would scare off a lot of prospective parents. Cloud's age, his special need... maybe we were just too stupid and naive to think of him as a risk. But we risked, and we won.
Actually, I think what we did is we came to the conclusion that our risk assessment skills were inadequate to reliably navigate the murky waters of adoption. So we went with choosing a child that was adoptable with no ethical obstacles, who was not in very high demand by other waiting families, and left the other factors to chance.
And we won.
I think our story is worth telling. I don't mind allowing myself to be used as a representative of one possible outcome of adoption. There are still tragic stories out there, and stories involving a lot more struggle before the success comes. Stories in which success has to be redefined before it will come. Those are important too. Every adoption story involves loss and trauma, including ours.
But... well... here I am. Here we all are. So we may as well talk.