Birds of a multi-coloured feather

Last week I finally made it back to my adoptive mother’s group after a very long hiatus.  This year’s groups are going to be more structured so I definitely feel it will keep it more interesting and helpful.  Since I’ve been feeling the need to explain adoption more to Boo, I really needed the advice I got from those who travel the same path I do.  And it also got me thinking about creating his lifebook.  You know the one I was supposed to do 3 years ago.  Seems like I’m not the only one who’s been procrastinating.  It seems like a fairly easy thing but really it can be quite daunting.  First of all, being the grown up you could think that the book is geared towards an adult mind and all of a sudden you’re thinking what do I say? How much information do I put in?  What pictures shall I use?  Shall I use prints (ahem, who does that anymore?) or start one of those fancy scrapbooking things or photobook?  You see what I mean?  It starts getting complicated and I started to get overwhelmed and life just got in the way.  One mother showed us hers and it was just simple photos and simple facts.  Nothing fancy or elaborate, just handwritten.   Time just goes on and I realize that believing that we wished for him won’t always be sufficient.  Just the other day, I started asking him if he knew what a birthmother was and that I didn’t give birth to him and then the next thing I know he wants to know why my uterus is broken, and look! my arm goes like this, mama.

I don’t know if anybody realizes this, but adoptive parents are always thinking about the future of their child while simultaneously trying to safeguard their histories and prepare them from a random stranger’s curiosity.  Hell, we have to prepare ourselves to deal with the rude, intrusive things that people say. “How much did your children cost?”, “Who are his REAL parents?”, “Where did you get her?” and my personal favourite if you are black, “Where are you from?”.  Cause apparently you can’t be from here. I have dealt with that question my ENTIRE life.  Just the other day my girlfriend and I took our kids to play in one of those jungle gym type places in a nearby mall and as we were saying our goodbyes in Walmart, this woman sees me and my son and starts commenting that my son is so cute.  Well, that’s always nice, right?   Then it’s like, “Oh, I think African American children are so cute” …OMG here we go…. and then she launches into a story about a woman she knew from Barbados and how delightful she was punctuated with her constantly trying to grab my hand in a show of kumbaya we are all one moment. “Where are you from?”  “Here.  Him too.” “Well, we’re all from somewhere else aren’t we?”  NO, I AM NOT KIDDING!  She would not take a breath and she would not stop blabbing, “Oh, look I’m so fair, I’m whitey and your are blackie and it just doesn’t matter….” Uh, yes, I did look for signs of developmental delay but perhaps she had no filters.  Sigh.  This, sadly, is not the only time this has ever happened to me. Luckily, we managed to disengage eventually and go about our business. I suppose I should be glad she didn’t start touching my hair. Or Boo’s.

I learned a wonderful, compassionate phrase – “I think what you mean to say is…..” and rephrase it for the insensitive and possibly offensive question that was asked. Adoptive parents don’t have to satisfy people’s curiosity while they are with their kids in a grocery line.  Their children do not need to answer question either.  One mother taught her daughter to say, “You don’t need to know that.” Hubby thinks women are just too nice and should be prepared to tell people when they are being rude and intrusive.  Or to go f***  themselves.  You can tell he’s never at a loss for words, huh?

So parenting is parenting, no matter what, but transracial adoptive parenting is a bit more complex.  And if you’ve never been in the minority, well…. you will have your eyes awakened in a way you could never imagine.

16 thoughts on “Birds of a multi-coloured feather

  1. I’ve never considered the ‘where are you from’ question to be offensive in the way that you experience it. I live in So CA, which is a transient community at best with very few of us from here and a great many transplants from somewhere else. That question rolls off the tongues as easily as “HI, how are you?” I ask it across the board, of everyone regardless of race/ethnicity and it has never once occurred to me that it might be construed as offensive nor has anyone ever looked at my cross-wise.

    Wow.

    • I guess you have to look at the intention behind the question, right? What if you grew up in Africa, and YOU were in the minority all the time and people were always you that question?

  2. I love the idea of a support group. I still think about things I learned from a group of women I was in a support group with probably 25 years ago. I go to one now if I ever got out of the house :-).

    The ability or inability of people to understand or acknowledge their own white privilege is just boggling to me. It was always simultaneously the worst and yet more rewarding parts of teaching. I think it was on your Facebook feed that I saw that article — that yoga article?

    I think this comment is coming full circle and I am answering why I just don’t get out of the house. People make my head hurt.

    Love reading your voice, as always,

    Xo

    Pam

    • ohmigod, that article just made my gag, truly it did but Facebook doesn’t seem the place to really vent about it, do you know what I mean? I mean, it would have taken me a week to craft a reply. I was aghast that someone even wrote it? Was it to provoke? Agitate? WTF? And then I wrote a post in my head….

  3. One of my friends’ mom’s recently commented on a “really cute African American baby” and it made me pause. Pre transracial adoption it probably only would have registered as a description. Post transracial adoption, I see racism EVERYWHERE. And wow. What a weirdo you encountered!

  4. I always wonder how the same people who gush over cute little (black/Asian/Native/whatever) babies (of a different colour) suddenly start singing a very different tune when those babies become teenagers & young people. :p

    “You don’t need to know that.” Wonderful!!

  5. “I don’t know if anybody realizes this, but adoptive parents are always thinking about the future of their childwhile simultaneoulsy trying to safeguard their histories and prepare them from a random stranger’s curiosity.”
    So very, very true.
    We had Sofie’s birthmother over the other day and I opened a discussion by asking Sofie to tell her about her friend A and favorite teacher K and Sofie said “they’re adopted” and then her birthmother said “do you know who gave birth to you?” and Sofie just grinned and pointed at her. It was a lighthearted moment but I felt good (and weird) about it.

  6. “I think what you mean to say is…..” Oh I love that so hard, definitely going to use it. Also like the idea of teaching your kid to say “You don’t need to know that.” Brilliant. Love that you got these gems from a local support group. I miss ours, which doesn’t meet anymore since our facilitator passed. We keep in touch online but it’s just not the same as talking over a potluck with wine.

  7. We adopted our oldest daughter out of foster care. She was eight when we got her. I was 22 and my husband was 23. So yes, we are obviously very young parents. She is now 13 and I’m 28. The comment that people always feel the need to make to us is, “You don’t look old enough to be her mom.”

    Well, thanks for your input. I am her mom. Get over it. And you don’t need to know any more details.

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