What Jud wrote about in the last post is exactly what the two of us have been discussing lately. There is still so much to be said, and questions I have for you fellow bloggers about how to handle certain situations, so while it's out there I felt like we should delve into it a little deeper.
Like I said, these are things that Jud and I have been going over and over. The same thoughts that have been going through my head repeatedly for the past four years.
So, grab a beverage and get cozy, this may take awhile.
First of all, I know our family stands out. Often times I feel like we draw attention every where we go. Restaurants, grocery stores, even the playground, people notice us. I get that. We're different. And we have four of the most gorgeous kids on the planet, so I forgive people for staring. But it's when the innocent looks turn into stares and the comments start flowing that we are put on guard and usually left feeling uneasy.
Oy the comments!
Sometimes they're totally innocent, just curious. Sometimes maybe inquisitive because they themselves are considering adoption. Other times they're just down right nosey and inappropriate.
Many have a tendency to ruffle both of our feathers...so we're trying to figure out why, and just what to do about it.
First, before I go any further I just want to say that I think, no, I feel that adoption is an amazing and profound experience. It has changed my life forever. Not only because it has brought this beautiful light into my life, but because it has opened my eyes to the fact that the world is more than just me, my family, my community, my country. There is so much more. And because of adoption, I feel like I am a part of that something more.
Looking back to when we started the process to adopt the first time, I can see that I myself was quite naive to how the whole scenario of inter-racial, international adoption, would play out. I simply thought that, we wanted more children. There were children who needed families. We would embrace a child into our family as if they were our own.
I know that now.
There is so much more to it than that.
Because of this, because of my feeling for adoption, because of all that I've learned along the way, I would be more than happy to talk any one's ear off about adoption, about the process, heck I'll even talk about the cost if they want, but and it's a big but, not in front of my kids!
That has to be one of my biggest hot buttons.
So, getting back to the comments. What's appropriate, what's not, and just what do we do about it?
Here is a sampler of the comments and how I typically respond. Please share how you would respond or any thoughts in the comments. Really. I'm curious how other families handle these things. I know we are not alone in this!
Just a few of the things that Emma has heard strangers say. Many times.
"they're all yours?" (while staring, sometimes even pointing at Emma)
-Yes, Emma is well aware of the fact that she did not grow in my tummy, that is a fact that we could not nor ever would want to try to hide. But to have it constantly thrown in her face, usually with a judgmental tone, at 4 years old is just not right. I simply say "yes." and try to corral the kids into moving in the opposite direction of the commenter...doesn't often work, there are usually follow up questions. All I really want to say is "please just stop." But I don't. I stand there getting ticked at myself for getting cornered. Again.
"That's your daughter? Where did she come from?"
-I'm always surprised by this one, pretty ballsy don't you think? But even though I think it's rather rude, and intrusive, I still always answer, "Yes. Ethiopia."
"but they (looking at the other 3) are all yours?" (implying I gave birth to them I guess) I've actually been so fed up with this one, that I do very firmly say, "they're all mine." When they start to say, "no, I mean.." I quickly say, "I know. They're all mine." I usually feel like a total bitch afterwards. But this one gets me.
Then there are the quite intrusive ones.
"Were you not able to have kids of your own?"
-Which I have to say, if I wasn't, is that something that I would want to discuss with a stranger? But I don't say that.
"Did you think of adopting here, there are so many kids here?"
-This one really annoys me too. What I always want to say is, yes, have you? But again, of course I don't. The fact is, there is nothing simple about adoption. We think, we agonize at every turn about every decision. Those who go into the adoption ring don't do so blindly. There are reasons. We have reasons. We choose the path.
Then there are those well meaning, but just don't sit right ones...I usually try not to respond to these ones simply because I haven't figured out how to yet.
"She's so lucky"
-I know what they mean, because of the life that we are able to give her, but really, what's lucky about being taken from your country, your heritage, from your birth family not because you weren't loved or that you weren't wanted but because they couldn't feed you? In all reality we are the lucky ones. To have been born where we were, to not ever have to worry about feeding our children, to be able to watch all of our children grow and thrive. Yes, we are the lucky ones.
"Oh what a wonderful thing you're doing"
-This one always strikes a chord, and I'm not totally sure why. It is a wonderful thing, and I'm proud of us. I'm proud of our family. But we didn't set out to save a child. That's not what it's about.
I struggle with how to respond to many of these comments because I can see that the person making them just doesn't get it. They don't get the big picture. I find myself wanting to reply to many comments with some snide remark, and I don't because really, I can picture my mom in the grocery store asking some other woman with her children the same sorts of questions. Not trying to be rude or intrusive, just curious. I realize that unless people see and feel the effects of poverty and famine around the world, it's just not something they think about. They don't have a reason to.
So I could get up on my soap box and tell them about all that I've learned about Ethiopia, the people, the culture, the drought, the hunger, the lack of clean water, the disease, about how they could help... but is that right? Really, I'm asking. Should I feel an obligation to be an advocate? Be the voice for those whose voices are not being heard? Can I go on ignoring comments because I just don't want to deal with it? Is it my responsibility to educate people about what is happening around the world? The information is out there isn't it? For whatever reason people choose to turn the other way. Could I get them to get it even if I tried? Would it make any difference?
The thing is, I want to do all these things. I want to be an advocate. I want to be that voice. But in a way that is not making an example of my family. Does that make sense? I don't want to be nice and put on a smile every time I get a rude comment about my family...in front of my children. I don't like feeling like my family is a teaching case.
Adoption did change my life. If Emma weren't in our lives, I wouldn't feel the connection that I do to Ethiopia. I wouldn't think about wanting to make a difference because I feel I owe it to her birth family. Without adoption my eyes would not have been opened. As much as I want to encourage other people to think about the world outside their community, I think I need to find a way to do it while preserving my family's story and keeping certain things private.
Is that possible?
Is there a way to turn the focus of the questions and comments? Or do I have to learn to stear clear of all old ladies in the grocery store?