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Reality Check: Looks Can Be Deceiving

Q. People often comment that our adopted 6-month-old looks just like me or my husband. Must we explain the situation to every stranger?

A. You don't need to offer up the whole story to every passerby who comments on your baby's looks. As an adoptive parent, you may feel awkward about letting an assumption of birth-parent status pass without correction, especially since the prevailing wisdom is to be up-front about adoption rather than shroud it in secrecy. But on a practical level, if you have to explain yourself every time someone assumes incorrectly, you'll be exhausted and you'll never get anywhere on time. And whom does it benefit? You're probably already telling your baby the tale of her life, so she doesn't need to hear you tell it to strangers as well. And the stranger would feel silly for having seen some kind of resemblance where there couldn't possibly be one. Acquaintances you're likely to keep encountering, such as neighbors, should be told so they can keep from making the same mistake.

Our friends Kate and Bruce are frequently told that their kids, both adopted, look like them—which they do. The comments started on the flight home with newborn Emily. "A flight attendant looked at us and said, 'She got the best of both of you,' " says Kate. "We didn't know how to respond, so we just smiled and said thanks."

Your child will grow up understanding where she came from, and you'll continue to face comments about family resemblances. Sometimes you'll tell the whole story, but sometimes you'll just smile and take the remarks in stride. Because as she grows, your child will have gotten the best of both of you.