“Are they sisters?”

That question comes up more often than you’d think for adoptive parents, especially when the family has two dads like ours.

It’s almost like people feel the license to ask probing questions that, in other situations, would be considered quite rude—and even in this situation, they are still quite rude. I mean, who asks strangers a question like that? Especially in front of their kids? Maybe because we are two dads, some folks feel they have some kind of special permission to inquire beyond normally acceptable social boundaries.

It’s kind of funny really, as if it were a question on an idiot’s aptitude test. How do you even respond? It’s like trying to answer, “Have you stopped robbing banks yet?” because of course, there is no right answer.

“Your girls are so beautiful,” they comment first, followed quickly by, “Are they sisters?”

Sigh.

Of course they are sisters, genius. Yes, they each have different birth parents and thus different biological lineages, but we are one big happy family now. They are legally sisters and their adoptions have made us their legal parents and co-dads.

We’ve chosen to regard this question as well-intentioned. Since our daughters look so much alike, they actually could appear to have come from the same birth parents. The girls are two years apart in age, and they both have beautiful deep brown eyes—their Aunt Babs says they look like delicious chocolate pudding—and long dark hair, brown skin and sweet smiles. They are both bright, outgoing and talkative, quick to make friends and strike up a conversation with virtual strangers. It’s natural that some people might assume they are related by blood.

We prefer to say they are related by love.

So when someone asks, “Are they sisters?” we take a deep breath, conjure our most friendly smiles and answer, “Yes, they are sisters, and have been since we held them as newborns in the delivery room and cried happy tears, changed their first poopy diapers, kissed their sweet-smelling tiny shmushed faces, and proudly stood in court to legally adopt each of them.”

And then we wait a beat until it sinks in.

Anyone who knows us knows we’re happy to talk about the circumstances of our daughters’ adoptions. If it helps another family determine how best to begin, Triton and I are happy to share our stories. We’ve coached several friends through the process and they are now enjoying happy families. It isn’t as hard to discuss as some might think. We’ve fielded questions about everything from “Was working with the birth mother difficult?” to “How long did it take? Was it expensive?” to even the most sensitive: “Was there heartbreak?”

But come on people. Please. Have the common sense to ask us these questions when the girls aren’t around, okay? Our girls are now teenagers and know well their adoption stories to—but it’s downright insensitive to ask them to participate in an open conversation about it in public, with strangers or otherwise.