DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have two children through adoption, and am in the process of adopting the biological sibling of my younger child.
These siblings were born into the foster care system. Their birth mother grew up in foster care. That, together with her family's extreme dysfunction, led her to addiction. I have enormous sympathy for her circumstances, and have seen her weep for her losses and what her life has become.
Aside from her addiction issues, she is a sweet, likable and respectful individual. While clearly the circumstances of our children's births are not ideal, we are so grateful to have them, and I make sure to tell our children how much she loves them and how wanted they are.
My problem is with people who ask me if she has heard of birth control, or proclaim that the authorities should just tie her tubes, or offer other simplistic solutions to a very complex issue. I know I have a far deeper understanding of the situation and have tried explaining some of it, but this takes time and often reveals more of my children's stories than I might wish.
Does Miss Manners have a kind and gentle response that reminds people that until they have walked a mile in her shoes, they are in no position to judge?
GENTLE READER: It would be tempting to respond with something like, "Birth control? What's that? I've never heard of it, either." But don't.
Rather, Miss Manners recommends a cold "I beg your pardon, but I must remind you that are talking about the mother of my children." That should at least confuse them enough to be rendered speechless.