The White Swan

While we were at the zoo today, a woman came up to me and asked if I’d stayed at the White Swan. I didn’t understand what she’d asked me. White Swan? What? Why would I be staying at a hotel? I live 30 minutes away from the zoo. Why would she ask that? She repeated herself and then added “in China?”

It took another moment to register. China? I’ve never been to China! Why the hell would a random stranger ask me about a hotel in China? Why would she assume I’d been to China?

Oh wait. I’m surrounded by Asian little girls!


Apparently she thought I’d been to China to get my children. According to Wikipedia, the White Swan is a hotel many American adoptive parents stay in while waiting for their children’s visas to go through. Perhaps asking if I stayed at the “White Swan” was code for “Hey! We’re both adoptive moms!”. Later on, I realized she had an Asian little girl in tow.

I’ve only had a couple of people ask me if the girls were adopted before. For the most part, people are either too polite to ask or are wise enough to figure out they are mixed. More often, I get the “What’s their father?” question. Is “a human” an appropriate answer to that question? How about “a chemistry teacher”? Why do so many strangers want to know the answer to that question? How could they possibly benefit from that information?

This was the first time a Chinese adoption mother vocally assumed I also adopted my children. It really surprised me. All three of our kids have brown hair. I thought someone who lived with an Asian kid could see that my kids were not full blooded based on their hair alone– though I suppose you could adopt biracial kids from China too. I had three little girls with brown hair with me. It seems unlikely that I would be able to three mixed race kids from China.

Though I usually find the “Are they adopted?” question completely rude, for some reason when it comes from an actual adoptive mom it is ok. She assumed we had a shared life-altering experience in a foreign country when in fact all I’ve done was make my own Asian kids in my uterus.

What a bizarre experience. I wonder if there is a secret world out there where this is how people greet each other. “Did you stay at the White Swan?” Maybe it is code for the whole “hey fellow adoptive parent!” thing and the rest of us are just completely in the dark about it.

I suspect as my kids start moving through the school system the adoption question will start popping up more, but for now it’s still few and far between. Insider tips: Unless you have adopted or biracial kids yourself, you are only allowed to ask questions about someone’s kids orgins AFTER you establish a relationship with the family and never in front of the kids.

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