Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Give 'Em a Break

About 150 years ago, give or take a few, in my college interpersonal communications class (yes kids, they did have university when mommy was young) I learned one really important and highly useful phrase I have never forgotten.

When people are speaking to you, focus on content rather than delivery. Good advice, I'd say. Because what poor chap can be impeccable in their delivery? We flounder and mess up and over speak and under speak and say what we should not and omit what ought to be included. We all do. Still, the gist of what people are trying to get across is usually clear enough.

Sometimes, I get a bit annoyed at the adoptive community of which I am a part (albeit a rather fringe, on the verge of barely hanging on, all kinds of politically incorrect, not very therapeutic parenting, solely allowed strictly and exclusively on the merits that I have indeed adopted children, part) "educating" others in what is appropriate to say to their families. Have I ever done that? If so, I annoy myself, which is nothing new, trust me.

I know I have occasionally joked about the rather interesting remarks our family has received while we are out and about in one large flock. After all, it can be quite funny. And, believe you  me, I think it's safe to say we've heard it all. {Hello, Costco! Where they spike the samples with courage that bring out the unabashed BoLd in people.} Usually I find it humorous, sometimes ridiculous and even bothersome, yes. I may have even been known to offer a snarky reply. Label me hypocrite, I am one.

But then I have to force myself to remember. People are just curious. Most are kind. The majority who speak to us are very, very much so. (Village Inn Pie Buyer Lady, I will love you for ever and ever and never forget you, God bless your sweet and generous soul.) And we (the adoptive community, of which I am an almost unacceptable because I rarely do ANYthing properly according to the adoption world part, and would certainly not be allowed inside the gate if it were not for the inescapable reality that I have 2 children in my home this very moment, with the last name "Deutsch" to whom I did not give birth) might be so gracious as to admit that there are few, if any terms we would find admissible to our delicate ears.

For instance, we might think it best to correct people if they ask if these are our "real children." Many take offense at the word "biological." We mustn't permit anyone to remark on their skin color which may vary vastly from our own or their kinky hair or their heavy accent. We shall not allow anyone to request information about the costs of the international adoption process or where we "got" our kids. They can not ask about our children's birth parents or inquire of their whereabouts. They should not ask if our kids are brothers and sisters,  because duh, OF COURSE they, how could you not know that?

Our Do Not Mention List just leaves so very few permissible expressions with which the inquisitive soul can inquire.

Truth be told, the moment people ask me if these are all my children, my initial, gut level response (which I only entertain in my tiny pea brain and never, rarely, only sometimes let out of my big giant mouth) is "oh, heck no. Obviously, they are not all mine. I mean, just look at them! How could a pale and freckled girl like me give birth to these beautifully stunning African children? I mean, just how dark would their father have had to be to off-set my nearly transparent, blinding in January and barely tolerable in July whiteness?"

"But what about the children? Won't they hear these conversations and feel self conscious?"

Well, yes. They will certainly overhear.

But here's the thing, I don't think it's a surprise to them they are adopted. I'm *vaguely* sure they are aware they did not spring forth from my womb. They are clearly different in appearance and background and family origin than our other children. In my mind, that is nothing to hide! If we don't act so freaky about it ourselves, perhaps our little people won't either. Our adopted kids already realize there was procedure and fees and process involved in their acquisition. They were involved in the steps! Like it or not, it's just part of the deal-eo. We speak adoption with our kids, openly, all the time, whenever it comes up.

They've got a lot on their plates. The last thing I care to do is indulge excessive hyper-sensitivity about the way they are approached by mostly folks with good intentions, adding more to their long list of what must be overcome. It is what it is. They are black in a white family. They are African in an American landscape. They are Ethiopian in frigid Colorado. They are separated from their birth families to live in a new one, sewn together with affection, desire, a strong will to prevail at whatever the cost, and ultimately, in time, love. They were retrieved! Chosen! Wanted! Many sacrifices were made on their behalf including days spent doing mountains of paperwork and years of saving hard earned money! There is nothing, at all to be ashamed of. Questions will be asked. They will rarely be phrased delicately. It's ok. We're tough. And we've got nothing to hide.

I mean, anyone can be conceived. That's the easy part. Only a precious few are adopted.

I sincerely hope my children are able and willing to celebrate and embrace the vast beauty of it, not in spite of their differences, but because of them...
Flint opening his Christmas gift from Jayla, Yahoo and packaged cotton candy, with his white boy, brother-from-another-mother looking on.


Courtney said...

head STUFFED with a cold and can hardly think straight. but LOVe this. yes. so true. all of it! thanks for your honesty!

Juanita said...

yes, yes, yes! I just came across your blog for the first time and cannot tell you how many times I feel like my husband and I have said the same things as you just said. Of course there are jerks out there, but most people are just curious... some might have even considered adoption but were scared off (maybe because they felt they couldn't ask any qustions without having their heads cut off). There are still some things that I don't know how to say 'correctly' and I'm an adoptive parent. I always home that by being open, we can more advocate for adoption.
Thanks for writing this--so refreshing!

Janna said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog! As you know adoption is near and dear to me too! I so appreciate your courage and God given strength to do what you do every day. Thank you as always for sharing your heart with us. Janna

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