Something to Talk About


A couple of weeks ago, another mom stopped me in front of the school with a big smile. "You're Gobez's mom, right? My son was on his soccer team last year."

"I recognize you," I said, before introducing myself and asking for her name. I sheepishly explained that with three kids in three classrooms playing on six different sports teams, I have trouble keeping track of all the parents I meet.

"I understand," she said sweetly. "I've been wanting to meet you officially, because I've heard such beautiful stories about your family."

Um, okay. Where exactly was she going with this?

"I understand that you adopted Gobez," the woman continued, "and then you unexpectedly found out he had a sister, and you went all the way back to Africa to get her."

"No," I said. "That's not true."

"Really?" the woman said, a confused look on her face. "But Mrs. Hart told me."

What the heck? Would you believe that Mrs. Hart is a teacher at our school?

"No, Gobez and Lemlem are biological siblings, but they've always been together and we adopted them together. I also have another daughter adopted from India ...I really don't know why anyone would say that."

Somehow, the woman and I managed to get past this awkward hitch and parted on friendly terms. That evening, my husband and I speculated about the reasons why Mrs. Hart, who has never taught any of our children, might be talking about us, and where she got her bad information, but ultimately we just laughed it off.

Then, yesterday, a friend sent me a surprising message. She'd overheard two moms from school talking about my family. She wrote:


One of the moms said Didi is a Rock Star on the soccer field, and Gobez is also. She said that her daughter complains that she can't draw as well as Didi...She goes on to say with 3 kids in soccer you have the patience of a saint...all good, then she says "John was in Africa and they decided to adopt all three kids from Africa, I think two are related...Just like Angelina and Brad...that's what we call them!" REALLY??? I was...infuriated, and about to say something to her about the Africa and Angelina Brad part when my husband gave me "the look" and I retreated.


Wow. I immediately recognized the identity of the chatterbox. Her comments were hardly a surprise, but still, the news knocked the wind out of me. Suddenly I remembered that other mom who'd also heard false stories about us. Last night, long after my husband grew tired of analyzing the incidents with me and drifted off to sleep, I lay awake trying to decide how I should feel about it all.

The great Dorothy Parker said, "I don't care what anybody says about me as long as it isn't true." My husband and I have made it a point to guard the personal histories of each of our children, believing that the details about how each one came to be with us belong to them alone. It is the right of each of them to decide who they wish to tell those stories to; not even the members of our extended family know everything. Maybe I should take the gossip about the origins of our family as a sign that we have protected their privacy well, and let it go. Nothing said has been truly malicious; people just need something to talk about, right?

At the same time, I can't help but wonder what other tales might be floating around campus. What happens when a nosy parent corners one of my kids to ask about one of these stories? Or when a classmate overhears the grown ups and then passes on the rumors to others? I can easily conjure a half dozen stress-inducing scenarios along these lines, to no good end.

Confronting the gossips, who may believe they're only saying "nice" stuff, feels like it will only stoke the fire. Human beings are hard-wired to gossip. We are also hard-wired to protect our children. I want my kids to learn to shrug off muddy rumors. I want them to know how to protect themselves from gossip with confidence and laughter. I want to be better at these things myself, and I will be, tomorrow. I just need a little time.

5 comments:

  1. The great Dorothy Parker said, "I don't care what anybody says about me as long as it isn't true." My husband and I have made it a point to guard the personal histories of each of our children, believing that the details about how each one came to be with us belong to them alone. It is the right of each of them to decide who they wish to tell those stories to; not even the members of our extended family know everything. Maybe I should take the gossip about the origins of our family as a sign that we have protected their privacy well, and let it go. Nothing said has been truly malicious; people just need something to talk about, right?

    I quoted you above because I think you've hit the nail on the head. You and your family have decided to not tell so now people are creating their own reality. I don't think they're doing it to be harmful, but rather to understand. I think often for others to feel that they can connect with another person they want to know where they're coming from (not physically, but life story)...I speculate that these adults wish they were more able to do something like you have and therefor have filled in their dream of what they would have done. It doesn't sound like they're being hurtful, but rather over speculating.
    I am adopted. However, I look like my parents and therefor nobody knew. I didn't talk about it, neither did my parents...but I wish they would have been more open about it with our family as I felt it was a bit shameful, I grew up feeling like it was a secret that my biological family couldn't keep me. I grew up feeling like inside I was hiding this truth that if said aloud would make others look at me weird. But I learned as I was older that it wasn't true...too bad it wasn't until my twenties that I became more comfortable with it.
    But hey, that's just my story and my 2 cents. You know your kiddos. You know what they need.

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  2. Sarah, Thank you for reading and sharing your own experience. I went to a great workshop for adoptive parents a couple of years ago that looked at privacy, which is keeping something special for yourself, vs. secrecy, which can prompt a feeling of shame like you described. And I think you're absolutely right, people may be filling in blanks for themselves to try to understand. It is hard for me personally because I like to fly under the radar when I'm going about my daily business. Each of my kids is different and her his/her own unique experience with being "known" in the community. This took me by surprise though because this is our 4th year at the school -- I thought everybody was past wondering about us, but apparently not.

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  3. Thank you for this post! I struggle with this so much with my brood of 4 adopted kids, two look just like us and two don't. People generally just want to know and don't realize they are being intrusive, but it amazes me how often well-meaning people forget that children have ears!!! I do appreciate people who ask instead of assume or judge (or gossip) and try to use the conversations to educate, but its exhausting. I do worry about how all the attention will affect my children down the road. What works best for me when the conversation gets a little tricky is to completely change the conversation to their kids, and that usually takes on a life of its own.

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  4. Hey, I noticed art as one of your interests, I started a new art blog maybe u'll like it! Thanks and keep up great work.

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