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by Abigail Van Buren

Adoptive Mom Writes Rules for Strangers With Questions

DEAR ABBY: I'm an adoptive mother who has had more than my fair share of inappropriate comments directed at me and my children. They usually come from strangers or acquaintances. I'm about up to here with them, so I thought I would write you about etiquette for interacting with adoptive families:

Though we may stand out to you, we think of ourselves as a family like any other. Please do not start a conversation with us that has the sole purpose of pointing out the obvious. Remember that my children have ears.

Please do not ask questions in front of them about them or their adoption. Don't ask in private unless you are a close friend. Better yet, let me broach the subject.

Please do not always comment on my daughters' hair. Yes, it is nicely braided and decorated with beautiful beads. But isn't there something else you can say about them? Maybe just once? And please don't talk in front of them about how hard it must be for me to do their hair. I love braiding it.

Please don't say I am a saint for adopting them. I chose to adopt because I never wanted to have biological children. And please don't say how nice it is for me to love them so much. Why would you expect that I wouldn't love my children?

Please do not pity my children. They have amazing lives, are fiercely loved and have bright futures ahead. And please do not introduce me to others as someone "who has adopted two girls from Africa." Because my daughters are black does not mean they are from Africa! I would much prefer you simply say, "Anne has two 8-year-old daughters."

And last, please remember that you and I are both people who love our families, and we have more in common than you might think. -- ANNE FROM CALIFORNIA

DEAR ANNE: Thank you for a great letter. Sometimes well-meaning people simply don't think about the impact their words can have when they begin a conversation. I hope my readers will take your words to heart because they are valid.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics