Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Things People Say . . .

Before we adopted the first time, I had done extensive reading about "becoming a trans-racial family" and such related things.  Becoming familiar with things people might say, etc.  It was a huge help in preparation.  But I have to tell ya .... nothing can quite prepare you for when the things are said to "you" and "your children" when you're out and about, or just in conversation.  It might come from a friend, a complete stranger, or even a family member.  I'm convinced that almost all the time it is not said in haste or in any way intended to be offensive.  


For all of you adoptive veterans, this stuff will be old to you .... but after a recent shopping trip and hearing yet more of those types of things, I thought it might be helpful to those of you beginning this journey to hear some of our experiences.  

These will be in no particular order.  Because our blog is not only a place for family and friends to have kept up to date with our adoption .... and since many of the folks who visit here are fellow adoptive families .... I'm focusing on the second group with this topic.  I guess that's just a little disclaimer that if friends or family were to read anything in this post that sounds familiar .... NO worries .... these things happen and for the sake of helping to prepare and encourage the adoptive families that stop by here I'm gonna share them.  There, I feel better now.  :)  

  • Is she yours?
  • Is her behavior different because she's black?
  • Well, at least she's not FULL black (assuming our first was bi-racial, which was not accurate by the way - ha!).
  • So, are you babysitting?
  • Are they sisters?  (I knew this famous question was coming once I had both girls out.)
  • Where did she come from?
  • Gee, she turned out cute. (from a nurse at a 2 yr. well check, commenting in a surprised tone as you would a breed of a dog - thank goodness that nurse is no longer there!)
  • So what happened to her mom?
  • How could someone just leave her?
  • Well, at least you're not gonna live close to the grandparents and be rubbing their nose in it. (the fact our child would be likely African American)
  • Maybe she can grow up and marry so-and-so's child (who is of similar ethnicity).
  • So, did you get inspired by Brad and Angelina?
  • Wow, so adoption is so fast huh?, ya just go pick 'em up! (obviously that person knew nothing about adoption)
  • When do you get the title to her? (question about when is the adoption final - and yes I about died that day)
  • Are they twins?
  • So did ya just get to pick one out?
  • You can do like she did (pointing to me) and just "adopt" your girls. (this was said to another expecting mom saying how she hoped her baby was a girl)

There's no doubt been many more, but these are the most common.  Again, I truly believe that most of the time the person means no ill-intention.  Sometimes I take the opportunity to educate and answer their questions.  Sometimes I just wanna be out with my daughter(s) and enjoy my day.  Amazingly I still get surprised and wonder why people notice us.  I forget we stand out to some.  

Right now my girls are 3 and 1.  It won't be too much longer and they will begin to understand the questions.  They will be faced with the harsh reality of an imperfect world.  I used to worry more about this.  During our trip to Ethiopia though .... seeing SO many children without a family, many without the basic needs in life ... somehow it helps to put it in perspective.  And while my daughters will never share my skin-tone, I pray that they will know without a spec of doubt that they are LOVED and CHERISHED.  Their lives will not be without heart-ache.  None of us get that luxury.  But in our home and in our family they will have a safe haven and Lord willing we will help prepare them as they go out on their own someday.

I think one of the biggest "helps" we can give our children is to just be aware of what types of things will be part of our lives.  People ARE going to say things.  We WILL be noticed as a family.  It's not all negative, for sure not at all.  We have had people embrace us, encourage us, celebrate with us ... friends, family and even complete strangers.  But I would be doing my children a dis-service if I was naive about the other side that sometimes happens too.  

As more and more families embrace adoption, I have to think that as my children grow up there will be others in their circle of influence that share similar family make-ups.  As the girls and I were sitting waiting for the guys to pick us up at the mall the other day we enjoyed one such encounter.  Arsema was in the stroller, content people-watching, while Naomi took advantage of mommy having an empty lap and curled up for a snuggle.  We were just visiting about who knows what, I can't even remember what my chatter-box was conversing about .... when a little girl about 5 or 6 bopped by on her way back to her mother.  Naomi perked up and said quietly, "Mommy ... she looks like me!".  Sure enough, they shared the same light chocolate brown skin and ringlet curls.  I had noticed this mom/daughter duo a little earlier but hadn't said anything.  So I just sat and observed through my daughter's eyes awhile.  The little girl snuggled up on her mom's lap too, down a ways in another seating area.  Naomi said ... "Mommy, she likes to snuggle with her mommy too.".  She commented again about her looking like "Naomi".  I said ... "What about her mommy? ...... I think she looks like me."  (her mommy matched my skin-tone)  Whether the little girl was adopted, or just had parents of different ethnicities we'll never know ... but Naomi and I just sat snuggled up together, just as the other mommy/daughter were and smiled and felt warm inside.  It was a special reminder that there are other families who are going through a similar journey as we are in this life.  I cannot imagine my life any other way anymore.



13 comments:

Tracey said...

Can I add one?

"How much did he cost?"

Said to my friend about her son... I about died!

The Albertsons said...

Yes, these things are true! I think some days are harder than others... maybe it's my own mood that makes me not have as much grace for some people. I think it's great that you wrote these things down- education and knowledge can prepare us for the things we'll encounter as families. Thanks sweet Shelly!
becca

Natalie Fournet said...

Something is wrong with my computer...I can only read the 1st 2 paragraphs of your post. The rest of your post appears all mixed up and in a weird font I guess....my computer is keeping me from reading the "good part"

Love checking in with you....

coffeemom said...

Thanks for fixing the code! Now we can read it!! I agree, so many comments, looks, etc....you can't adopt transracially and decide to blend in everywhere you go. You have to be willing to face the questions, comments, stares....and deal with them as needed. For your child's sake, for the family's sake. But it's worth it and really, I'd rather have my eyes open to it all than be blinded and presume that sort of ignorance or worse, bigotry, doesn't exist or happen. Best to face it head on and move through it. Good for you!!! What a great mom you are!

Michael and Michelle said...

Wow, that's a mouth full! Thanks for sharing all of that with us.
I hope I can handle those times with grace like you have.

I have to say my favorite is, did Brad and Angalina inspire you......right anything they do.

More like a God inspired adoption.

Michelle

Farmboy and Buttercup said...

Already, I have heard several of those comments. I so agree that once you see the need in Ethiopia, you just KNOW that although this road may be difficult at times, it is still a road of hope for these children. AND God is the one that put us on this road, so I will trust that forever.

Take care!

Hey, I was asked the other day if they were black (by an AA woman).

Bryan and Joy said...

Hi,
Just came across your blog from the ABBA Fund blog.

I've come to the conclusion that every ignorant comment is an opportunity to educate, and every mean-spirited comment is an opportunity to practice self-control...

Joy

Ted and Lori said...

That last story you told is wonderful. It's so true that we need to prepare our kids for the bone-headed things people will say (and my gosh! that list you included is awful!). I think because there's such a "live and let live" attitude in Portland, we haven't gotten too many negative comments, especially about race. the one thing I have noticed and find hard to deal with is the way people seem to assume it's okay to ask intensely personal questions about Abe (and us) because he was adopted. I've been trying hard to perfect my best "Well, that's his story to tell one day when he's older, so we try to keep that private." I understand human curiosity, but it's the personal questions that come with no caveat of "If it's too personal, you don't have to answer but..." that I find hardest to deal with. People act like they have a RIGHT to know the intimate details of Abe's life, which infuriates me. They see him as a curiosity to tell at their next dinner party and not a human being.
Sorry to go on about this. Great post is all I meant to say :)

sparkz said...

Thanks for sharing all that. I was reading it on a break, at work, and a lot of it made me laugh! People were asking what I was laughing at! I can't believe the things people ask or think- it's amazing! I love the sweet story at the end too!

I also appreciated the post b/c it helps me know what to expect as we get closer to getting our sweet baby. If you have any good book suggestions about "becoming a trans-racial family". I would appreciate it. So far the books I have looked through have been lame and full of common sense information that I didn't find helpful... Or books that people have written about thier lives that were good stories but didn't necessarily help with what to expect. So- I have focused my efforts mostly on Ethiopia informaion- culture, people, etc.

I would appreciate any suggestions!

chelseandavid@hotmail.com

Valorie said...

Thanks for that post! We still get all kinds of comments even though Andrew is 4 years old. My favorites are...
Is he from another relationship? Is he yours or are you baby sitting?

Gutsy, but I have even had people ask me if I love my biological child more than my adopted child. Ummm...NO!!!!

Annie said...

My response was getting so long, I made it into a whole post.

http://onemothersday.blogspot.com/

Angela said...

Hey! I'm Tiff's friend, and now that we are fb friends I see that we have several friends in common. Amy Bottomly, for example!

I have heard most of the comments you listed, and feel like I just need to be gracious and have thick skin. I get asked if they are brother and sister all the time, and people 'ooooooh' and 'aaaaaw' over them a lot, with my bio kids right there. I often just say 'yes. we are blessed with 4 beautiful kids' or 'yes, all 4 of our kids are beautiful' or something like that for the sake of our older two (who are only 6 and 4).
The one that bothers me the most though, is when people ask me
IN FRONT OF MY KIDS:
"So, did their mom die, then?" or "How did their real parents die?"

It happens often. I cover thier ears and say 'I don't like to talk about that in front of them' although, I've thought of saying
"Oh, why? Did yours?"
I just can't believe that people are so insensitive. They are 2 and 3 years old. They understand what they are saying, and they just act like they aren't there.

Angela said...

Hey! I'm Tiff's friend, and now that we are fb friends I see that we have several friends in common. Amy Bottomly, for example!

I have heard most of the comments you listed, and feel like I just need to be gracious and have thick skin. I get asked if they are brother and sister all the time, and people 'ooooooh' and 'aaaaaw' over them a lot, with my bio kids right there. I often just say 'yes. we are blessed with 4 beautiful kids' or 'yes, all 4 of our kids are beautiful' or something like that for the sake of our older two (who are only 6 and 4).
The one that bothers me the most though, is when people ask me
IN FRONT OF MY KIDS:
"So, did their mom die, then?" or "How did their real parents die?"

It happens often. I cover thier ears and say 'I don't like to talk about that in front of them' although, I've thought of saying
"Oh, why? Did yours?"
I just can't believe that people are so insensitive. They are 2 and 3 years old. They understand what they are saying, and they just act like they aren't there.