adoption, family, fostercare

“But They Don’t Look Like You”: Adventures in Explaining our Mulitcolored Family


I am a white mamma. I am blindingly, florescently, practically translucent in my white skin. I have to wear SPF all year round, and I apply 70 in the summer. There, I have told the truth. So now you know. But let’s face facts; I have a mirror. Therefore, I also happen to know that I am white.

I also happen to have eyes. Therefore, I can see my Hispanic husband and my Hispanic children. I can see them brown up and tan in the sun. This is something I have never been able to pull off, myself. I am either white, off white, or bright red and miserable. My sun-kissed family, however? They are blessed with the obvious favor of the sun. Lucky little chickens!

Being the only white member of the family comes with its fair share of oddities. For instance, if we eat at an outdoor restaurant they all scramble to get me under the shade of a table-umbrella. When I enjoy my iced coffee and listen to NPR, my teens tell me “that’s because you’re a white woman.” Once I lost my daughter, Mary, for about 15 minutes in a park. I panicked completely and squeezed her so tightly when I found her. She just shook her head at my “nervous white mama ways.” Sometimes they attribute my personal oddities with being white. They don’t always understand.

My kids aren’t the only ones who misunderstand. A surprising number of strangers don’t understand and they expect an explanation!

At grocery stores, the nail salon, doctor’s offices and even the pet store I am questioned. “Are they all yours?” ( not surprising given the sheer number of children.) “They don’t look like you.” And, of course, “What country did they all come from?” Ummm…yours. This country. One where presumably, you should have at least some manners.

Sometimes a stranger will ask, “Which ones are your real children?” I found a great response online once and I always use it. I simply say, “oh no. They’re not all real. One of them is imaginary. Guess which one???” Then I laugh.

The thing is, my kids don’t need to hear your ignorance. They are real actual human people standing in front of you. Ok, I’ll concede that they are all really my “chickens” but still.

I get it that we don’t look alike. But we like the same TV shows. We have the same corny jokes. We all believe in the power of love and the fun of Hibachi. We all give “Nana points” to each other for good vocabulary. We give “finger wiggles” in the car so everyone feels loved instead of ignored. We all have the same “boss walk” that Marcus taught us to use when we are feeling cool. Or slick. Or something like that.

I have this to say to the strangers out in public; it’s ok to be curious about adoption. In fact, I want you to think about it. I’d like for more people to know about it. But please be polite. Don’t gawk. Don’t comment in front of the children. Simply say, “You have a beautiful family.” Ask me in private if you have questions such as how did we get started? Where did our adoptions start (ie foster care, an agency etc) asking anything that involves the word, “real” is not OK.

In other words, we are all a family. A real family. If we look odd to you or if you don’t feel like you can understand our group then don’t worry about it. You probably couldn’t boss walk anyway.

** Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved

*If you’ve ever considered foster care or adoption I encourage you to get started on your adventure today!


8 thoughts on ““But They Don’t Look Like You”: Adventures in Explaining our Mulitcolored Family

  1. My wife and I go through the same thing, particularly at church. We are an older white couple with a little brown soon to be six year old. She is biracial and we aren’t. Boy do I get funny looks when she calls me daddy. But that is okay. She is way more important than they are. God bless you and all you do.

    Sent by me.


    Liked by 1 person

    • John, I’m having heart palpitations. Never say “older!” What about “more mature” or “finely aged!” Lol. But you are right. Our kids are more important than anything. You and your wife are amazing. My hat is off to the finely aged generation!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A lovely piece! As a white adoptive Mum of two Cambodian daughters I can certainly relate. I can’t count the number of times people have used the word ‘real’ about my girls’ biological families. I simply say, “You mean their birth family?” I am their ‘real’ Mum. The things we do together are very real. The love I have for them is ‘real’.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Junia says:

    I can certainly relate! I’m a single (white) mom adopting a 6 year old biracial boy. We learned to get comfortable with strange looks a long time ago. Given that I’m only 14 years older than he is, they are based on our ages more than our skin differences. I never offer up that he’s adopted to strangers, and usually their comments lean towards “I wish I had your awesome curls!” But the occasional “Oh, he’s not your real kid” are so annoying. But it seems outside of the adoption and foster world, people normally use real and step instead of bio and step, so I try to gently correct when it’s not done rudely.


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