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.
DEAR ABBY: While separating photographs after my divorce from my wife, I found some photographs of relatives’ and friends’ weddings. Is there any protocol on what to do with them? In some cases, the marriages (and friendships) have ended, so I assume I should just dispose of them, correct? I will send my ex-wife any photos of her and her family, but none that include my family. Is this the right way to go?
We don’t live in the same area anymore, and our families were never close. I would be interested to hear what you think should be done with family photos that include me, my ex-wife and our children. Should they go just to the children? I am in a new committed relationship, and I do not wish to keep any photos of my ex for any reason. Can you please help? — NEEDS TO KNOW IN NEW YORK
DEAR NEEDS TO KNOW: Send the family pictures to your children and instruct them to share them with your ex IF she would like to have them. If you still have a relationship with the friends and relatives, inform them that you found the photos and ask if they would like to have them. That would be the considerate thing to do.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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