Explaining Virtual TwinsQ: I’d like to hear your thoughts on introducing my kids to others. My husband and I chose to adopt first and wanted to have bio kids as well, but we did not have to deal with infertility. We adopted our oldest daughter, and became pregnant with our son during the adoption process, so they are 2 months apart, which conspicuously begs questions of all passers-by and total strangers, as our daughter is biracial.

I feel the need to ‘pre-answer’ that question of “Are they twins” or “So what’s the deal here?” sometimes (in defensiveness of adoption as a FIRST choice for starting families) by saying, “NO we were not unable to have kids, we chose to adopt our daughter and then had our son 2 months after she was born.” My husband thinks this comes across as very hurtful to people to may have struggled with infertility. What would you say/use as an introduction of your children in this case? I want to drop the ‘oh she was adopted’ lingo altogether before she’s old enough to hear and understand and be made to feel defined by her adoption. I also don’t want to unknowingly be hurtful to anyone.

A: I am impressed and thankful that you want to be sensitive to your infertile friends. I think it helps to think through the issues/questions that may potentially come up. Because your kids are so close in age, you have a couple of asked, and unasked, questions that you are trying to “answer”. First, is the question of how you have two children almost the same age that obviously don’t look alike. Second, why did you adopt?

The answer to the first question is the one I would spend more time thinking about and being sure I “got right” since it affects your children and how they feel, which in my opinion needs to be your first priority. You need to be answering this question in a way that will help your children answer the question because they will be getting this question much sooner than most parents realize. Most parents of virtual twins say their children face this question on their own by kindergarten.

How you answer depends on who you are talking to and the circumstances of the conversation. A short and sweet, “We were blessed to be able to have kids both by birth and adoption; they are two moths apart” may be all that is necessary. If you need or want to go further, I see nothing wrong with saying, “We chose to adopt first, but always planned to try to have a child by birth–maybe not quite so soon. We are very lucky, as you can see.”

Keep in mind that you are modeling for how your children will respond to this question.