Monday, September 19, 2011

A Beautiful Moment

I can't have kids.  This is no surprise to anyone who reads this blog.  I'm very open about it.  I've probably made a person or two uncomfortable in the past by volunteering that in conversations about having children.  The truth is that I don't see why I should be ashamed of it.  It's like having blonde hair or size 11-wide feet.  (Yes, it's true, feel free to send pity my way for that one... and money for huge shoes.)

My point is that - again, you all know - we went through a LOT to become parents.  One of the many things covered in our pre-adoption educational classes and meetings was transracial adoption.  We were told up front that, since we had no preferences about the race of our child, the chances were good that we would end up adopting transracially.  This was a total non-issue for us from the start.

We were chosen to adopt a child who is Alaska Native, not Caucasian.  We do, in fact, have a transracial adoption.  Again, for us, a non-issue.  For some others, not so much.  You can learn a lot ahead of time, but you never know what that will feel like in day-to-day life until you get there.

People have been very accepting of this fact, for the most part.  Those who feel the need to comment usually do so at the grocery store.  I tend to believe that people are generally well-meaning, not malicious, but sometimes I wonder.  Among the comments and questions that we've been subjected to by strangers:
  • Where did you get him?  (When I'm on my toes, I respond with something like, "found him out front of Walmart and thought he was cute.")
  • Where is he from?  (Mars?)
  • Is he Japanese/Chinese/Asian?  (Okay, this is kind of a fair question, he is a bit Asian-looking.)
  • Was it hard to adopt him?  (What?  No, you just go down to the Baby Store on 4th Avenue and pick one.)
  • Wow, I hear it's really hard for white people to adopt Native babies, how did you pull that off?  (I usually take the informative route when I get this one and tell them that his birthmother chose us to be his parents and her wishes trump anyone else's in the adoption scenario.)
  • How much did your adoption cost?  (Probably about the same your prenatal appointments plus hospital delivery cost... except insurance doesn't cover adoption.)
  • Can you not have your own kids?  (I particularly love this one - Aidan IS "my own" child, even though he also has a birthmother who loves him very much, and who we all love in return.)
  • I always wanted to adopt, too. I want a little Chinese baby.  (That should be easy enough, like I said, you just pick out the one you want.  You know, like a litter of puppies from a cardboard box in the back of a pickup by the highway.)
  • I could never adopt. Sometimes I take care of my sister's kids.  It's just too hard when they aren't your own.  (Umm, it's not the same as babysitting.  I don't babysit my son, I parent him.  He knows I'm his Mom.)
Okay, so truth be told, I don't say the things I put in parentheses up there... except the one about finding Aidan on a street corner.  It serves two purposes.  One, it highlights the absurdity of the question, and two, it shows I have a sense of humor.  Most of the time, these comments and questions strike me as an opportunity to educate someone about adoption, and that's one of my very favorite things in the whole world, so it's good.  Once in a while, I don't feel like being an adoption encyclopedia, so I just give the shortest and most direct answer possible and try to move on.

I am VERY pleased to say that we haven't had any of this sort of thing among our network of family and good friends.  Just as we weren't sure how the public at large would react to the fact that our son is a different race than we are, we also weren't sure how this would work with our families.  Don't get me wrong, both of us have wonderful, supportive, amazing families and neither of us doubted their ability to accept an adopted child.  But our adoption can affect them, too, and in some families, adopted children are treated differently from biological children.  We both knew that Aidan would be welcomed with open arms, and he was.  Still, a year later, I am regularly pleasantly surprised by things our family members say or do that reaffirm the belief that Aidan is every bit a member of our family as the biological children are.

Prime example from a couple of weeks ago...

Aidan is my parents' first and only grandbaby.  They are absolutely over the moon in love with him.  This makes my heart so incredibly happy!  Still, let's face it, he doesn't look like them, so I would think it's somewhat obvious he's adopted when he's with them.  One day after I picked Aidan up from daycare, he and I stopped at my dad's work to say hello to him.  As always, my dad lit up like a Christmas tree as soon as he saw Aidan and he immediately reached out to take him from me.

It didn't take five minutes for six or eight female coworkers to circle around and coo over my (ahem) incredibly adorable child.  Ha!  In the midst of that, a lady walked up who hadn't worked there very long.  She'd never seen Aidan before.  Someone made reference to Grandpa holding Aidan.  She looked a little confused.  She turned to my dad and said, "Is he really your grandson?"

My dad, with what was possibly the proudest look I've ever seen on his face, said, "YUP!"

She replied graciously, complimenting Aidan on being cute or whatever, but she still looked confused.  I half expected my dad, or hubby, or one of the other onlookers to add, "he's adopted."

No one did.


He's not my dad's "adopted" grandson.  He's my dad's grandson.  Period.  It doesn't matter what color he is, who he does or doesn't look like, he's a bona fide member of our family and no one questions that.  That's how our whole family feels and that makes my Mama heart (as my friend Chelsey would say) so incredibly happy.  I think sometimes our families are a little offended that I seem so surprised when things like this happen.  It's not that I doubted them - not at all - it's that we've heard some horror stories of families who do not treat adopted children this way.  They either distance themselves, or say things to (or in front of) the child that can be really hurtful to an adoptee.

Maybe they know I would kill them with my bare hands if I ever heard such a comment.

Or maybe they're just amazing people and we are just so very fortunate to have them.

Yup, I think it's that second one.


The Mad Alaskan said...

I just say mean things to him when your not looking. But it's not cuz he finally brought some much needed color to this pasty bunch, it's cuz he's cuter than me. ;)

The Mad Alaskan said...

Oh and I really just can't believe people say some of those things. Especially if they're just strangers.

AnotherDreamer said...

I think it's awesome that your family doesn't set boundaries based on biological/adopted. You're right, not all of them are.

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journal said...

When people ask me "Where did Liam come from?" I tell them "He came from Heaven. Just like you did." :)

Although I didn't have cutesy replies ready for the encounter I had yesterday with a neighbor. He just couldn't let go of the fact that I didn't have biological children... and that I was OK with it. He kept repeating "One day you'll have your own, you're still young." And I kept repeating "I HAVE 'my own,' Liam IS my own." And as many times as I told him that I was fine with that, he kept telling me not to worry, it would "work out for me one day." Gee, thanks. ?

Diana - FreeStyleMama said...

I have stuff to say here, but it's late and I am trying to turn off my brain. Nothing bad to say of course...just some insights I wanted to share. Or rather link. I'll find them and get back to you...

Anonymous said...

We must be on the same wavelength or something...I just posted about peoples assumptions around adoption, and some of the annoying things people say to me and my daughter.

Kakunaa said...

That is possibly the best kind of support and love to have. And he really is so stinking cute!

Anonymous said...

I love seeing the pride and love on my parents' faces when they have Davie! Aiden is beautiful!

Even if people are curious, I can't believe they actually say that stuff! Wow. I'm never clever enough with a response on the dot. But if they'd come back five minutes later, I'd have a good one!

harriet glynn said...

I have good days and bad days when it comes to questions. It's all about context and how and where and when people ask these things. I really don't like fielding a series of obnoxious questions while catching a jumping toddler at a crowded swimming pool for example ;-) Anyway lovely post. All I can say really is Hear! Hear! Love my little family!!

mhbeatty said...

I'm a caucasian and adoptive parent of four Indian (South Asian kind) children - one of whom has dwarfism. Why are adoptive parents so sensitive and shocked when people ask them questions about their kids. News flash: they don't look like you. People have honest questions, sometimes they're trying to initiative conversations with you (to be kind), and once in a while, you encounter a bigot, redneck, or the like who will ATTEMPT to get you to react. Don't. Just accept that it's going to be different. It'll be far "worse" for them than you and it's never really that bad.