Thursday, December 19, 2013

The (Frustrating) Things People Say

I was rude the other day. And I'm not sorry.

People are constantly saying stupid stuff to me about adoption/my kids. Hurtful, stupid things. And often these comments are spoken in front of my children. As if they aren't there, or can't understand the rude, prying, and hurtful things being said about them.

Usually, I try to have grace. I know that often, people are asking out of curiosity and ignorance. I know they usually do not mean harm. I know they haven't been educated on proper adoption terms like, "biological" versus "real". And I feel like if I respond to their questions with snippy answers or retaliate by embarrassing them, that does nothing positive for the adoption world, or for my battle to follow Jesus and love as He loves. I also understand that my family looks like a walking circus to most people, and they are usually fascinated by us. We are a triple-race family, Abe and I are super young (I mean, Abe had the monumental birthday of being able to borrow a used car...woot woot for 25!........ .....wait, we can adopt a teen and middle-schooler internationally but he couldn't rent a car till this year????.......), our kids are older, and we use our hands to talk. We stick out everywhere. So I understand the looks. The questions. They don't even usually bother me. I accepted it a long time ago. I try to be kind and friendly and help educate people on how to approach adoptive parents. Now we've been approached and questioned TONS of times. Abe and I had a talk BEFORE the kids came home about how we would handle these questions that everyone seems to feel like they have a right to ask.  Here are some examples of real conversations we have faced:

"Babysitting huh?"

"Where's her REAL mom???"

"DO you want kids of your own?"

"Ooohhhhh, so you can't have kids of your own?"

"Why didn't you get babies?"

"Wow, your kids are SO lucky!!! You're a saint."

"Did you get to meet their real parents?"

"Are they brother and sister?"

"Why can't their real mom take care of them?"

"How much did you pay for them?"

"I have a friend who adopted.... (insert horror story)."

"Why didn't you adopt from the United States?"

"Where did you get them from?"

"OMG, LOOOOOOK at her hair!" (While trying to touch Z's hair.)

"Why don't you put a relaxer in her hair?"

"Why don't you straighten her hair? Doesn't she like it straightened?"

"I LOVE LOVE LOVE the extensions." (Not giving the whole scenario, but they were implying that "long" "straight" hair was better than cornrows or a fro.)

"That must be really tough having older kids."

"Well, at least you don't have to change diapers!"

"Are they happy here?"

"Extensions are terrible and you are ruining her hair and her identity. You're trying to make her feel white and you are teaching her not to be proud of her natural hair." (From a BLACK woman. With chemically STRAIGHTENED hair. With a daughter whose dried out and STRAIGHTENED hair looked like one of those  toy trolls from my childhood. Excuse me, I'M teaching my daughter not to be proud of her hair? You don't know me from Jack and you have no idea how I care for my daughter's hair. I actually have her in cornrows and fros 95% of the time. And I LOVE it and tell her how beautiful it is.

Anyway as I said, I usually respond with grace and try to be polite, and educate the person as kindly as possible. I want them to draw a peace line between us, and not a battle line. I KNOW in my heart, they aren't trying to be cruel.


The other day I broke.

We were somewhere in a group setting; a mixture of kids and their mothers. Z was sitting next to me. Someone inferred that it was strange that I had a child as old as Z. I looked them in the eye, smiled, and mentioned I had a son turning 15 (it's always fun to see their reaction). This immediately brought the questions and of course the conversation led to adoption, Ethiopia, and Natalie. But then, in the middle of the conversation, the leader of the group paused and and loudly asked, "So wait, three adopted, or three of your OWN?"

I just stared at her for a second. Seriously? Asking something SO personal and in such a rude and derogatory way, IN FRONT OF my daughter? An ignorant and irrelevant question putting me on the spot defending legitimacy of my family to a group of people I didn't know? 
I looked her straight in the eye. "They're all adopted. And they're ALL my own."
DEAD silence. The woman went brick red and averted her eyes.
We left fifteen minutes later.
By the way, it's not just me that's being questioned daily about my family....people approach and ask my kids. Without my permission. And other kids ask my kids. Zahria told me that at her girls group, some little girls kept pestering her asking why her mommy wasn't brown. I was super proud when she told me her response. "My mama is the most beautiful mama here. And when she was pregnant, she drank too much chocolate milk." I loved her answer, but it still doesn't change the fact that she and Levi are constantly barraged with insensitive questions which bring attention to their skin color and cause them to wonder why there is an implication that our family is not "real". And then my kids start to question why God made them the way He did, and they beg to look like us, so that they fit in, and so that the four of us look like fit together, so that people leave us alone. PARENTS: Please teach your kids about adoption. And go and read this great blog post:

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE you!!! I'm going to tell Anthony about Zahria's answer...that is PERFECT!! I am glad that my son has had every day of his life to get used to having a family of a different race/skin color. The truth is that his birth mother is white also, so even if he wasn't adopted, they would have had some of the same issues.

    I also can relate to what you're saying due to the fact that I work with families whose children have autism. They are at all different levels of "disability" from kids who speak but can't filter their words (and thus say embarassing things, because it is their truth), or kids who only can sign or point or make noises and "stim." People say the most ridiculous things. It is hurtful, Intentional or not.

    I want to tell you that I DO NOT BELIEVE that you were rude. Not at all. You were direct and honest and put someone in their place. They will think twice about opening their mouth like that. (Although, even after thinking twice, they will most likely STILL say something stupid). There are just so many self-centered and insensitive people in this world. They go about life thinking they have a RIGHT to know. And that their curiosity or discomfort in a situation is YOUR problem. It's not.

    Be strong, sweetie. Your children are learning tolerance and LOVE <3

    You and Abe are amazing parents. I am in awe of you. I won't call you a saint though because I know that you, like most wonderful parents, are simply doing (heroically sometimes) what God has put in front of you. THAT is what we all should be doing. With the grace he gives us. (And you are probably the most "grace-full" person I know.

    Hugs and kisses and Merry Christmas!!!