Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I thought I had heard it all...

My DH and I are the proud parents of a beautiful daughter, now 4, adopted from Guatemala when she was just 6 months old. She has a glorious exotic Pocohontus look with the warmest brown eyes and thick luxurious black hair. She actually looks a little like DH and our son, so when the 4 of us are together we don't get too many curious looks. I on the other hand, with my bleached blond hair, have to field a fair amount of inquiries. Today was no exception when I went shopping at the Super Wally-World in an attempt to fill the school supplies list (that for some reason is always printed in 6 point type) [Note to school administration: some parents are over 40].. a little sidetracked, my apologies... OK so after we were done shopping and were checking out the cashier asked "What are they mixed with?" I'm like, looking at my groceries, the school supplies, my liquor, trying to figure out what the heck she was talking about. Then she repeats the question, and it dawns on me.. she is talking about my Kids! Now usually, I try to be polite and answer probing questions with quiet dignity, but today, I just couldn't muster up even the remotest amount of respect. "Are you serious?" I asked. "Ya think I'm standing here with a litter of puppies?" She averted her gaze and continued to ring up my order.

Now, honestly, I don't think her intent was to be mean or racist, but why should any parent have to answer that? If the kids look like the parents you wouldn't dream of asking about their lineage. My favorite one is "Are they real brothers and sisters? My answer: Yes, they are real brother and sister. Then they go in for the kill. "No, I mean are they REAL brother and sister?" Translation: I want to know who was doinkin who. Then theres the same question with a slight variation..."Are they yours?" "No, I mean are they really yours?" Usually at this point the commenter will sense that they are bordering on rude so they will attempt to diffuse their rudeness with a "oh but they are so cute". Well I'm sorry that means little to me since I think ALL kids are cute.

The first time you hear comments like these it is a little unsettling, but after awhile they just get tiresome.

I'll never forget the first week I brought Jenniffer home. She had a full head of jet black hair that was so thick it looked like it had been glued on. A stunningly beautiful child with a definate ethnic look about her. I was an excited new Mom, deliriously happy, and trying to juggle the two little ones in a double stroller at Bergner's. Out of the clear blue sky a stranger charged in to our world. "Where did she come from?" she bellowed. My mind just dances with all the entertaining ways I could have answered that question but at the time I just submitted to her bullying and proceeded to answer the inquisition.

Now hopefully the reader will not get the wrong impression by my little rant. There is definately a time and place for conversations regarding adoption and related issues and I welcome an in-depth discussion with anyone who is interested in international or transracial adoption. But those discussions should occur at a time and place determined by the adoptive parents, and chances are, it will not be when the kids are around.

We do not make a distinction between our adopted and biological children and neither should strangers. When the time comes to explain the circumstances surrounding our daughters's adoption that information will be shared and explained fully with her and those who love her. It is part of her history, her uniqueness, to be treasured and cherished and shared only by her.


Julie0917 said...

"What are they mixed with?"

The answer to this is quite clearly: "Sperm & egg"

And to this: "Where did she come from?"

Answer: a Vagina

Might just shut some people up!

Cheers! Julie

Jennifer said...

I'm so sorry people are so tactless.
I, too, believe that siblings raised together, no matter the genetic situation, are "real brothers and sisters". In my family we don't use any distinguishing labels such as "step" or "half."
I don't know why people put such an emphasis on genetics, it's really shared experiences and love that bond people.
Congratulations on your beautiful family; your kids are lucky to be raised in such an environment.

Chef Kevin said...

Well, Diane, my sis can tell you the same stories. She is a foster parent and usually has children of a different race. My favorite comeback of hers to astonished people: "Maybe you should be a foster parent too. Then your eyes will really pop open."

Oh, snap!

Kevin Lowe said...

Great post. I've never had that type of experience, so I never realized people actually ask stupid stuff like that. I agree it's totally inappropriate, especially in front of the kids.

And to think . . . they use to tell me, "There's no such thing as a stupid question."

Anonymous said...

GO JULIE!!! With canned responses like yours, Diane will never again be blind sided!
But it is quite obvious that Jenniffer was adopted as she is more intelligent and caring than her mother and her aunts could ever be. WE are the ones who have been given an incredible gift by having her in our lives.

(Her very proud aunt)

Peoria Pundit said...

How about: "Mind your own business and shut up, you racist [expletive deleted] before I jam this pen about three inches into yoru eye socket."

It's lacks originally and cleverness, but it does get the point across.

Anonymous said...

Well that just gives me one more reason to hate walmart. How rude!!! Even if you and your kids were mixwed in a lab who cares! They are your childrend and that is all they need to know.

Julie0917 said...

Anon... Glad to hear that you are her Aunt... I though you were bashing Diane & Jenniffer for a minute! She IS beautiful & I'll bet she brings great joy to your life!

On a side note, my married name is of hispanic origin. I constantly get the comment "you don't look hispanic". Duh!

Diane Vespa said...

uh, yeah, thanks, Billy, I'll jot that down ;-)

East Bluff Barbie said...

You aren't the only one who gets stupid questions about their kids. I have three boys, ages 10, 9, and 7. The oldest has dark hair and the 2 youngest have blonde hair. The youngest is pretty tall and lanky. He is just a hair smaller than the middle boy. My favorite stupid question I get is "Are those three twins?". I say no those three aren't twins and neither are those two, as I point at my younger two.

JennyWo said...

Ha ha!! Julie's got some great responses. I wish I could say I'm amazed at the things people say or do, but, I'm not. People don't shock me anymore. I'm too jaded.

It is too bad that there are thoughtless people out there who probably don't even realize how rude they are.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked and apalled by the comments here.

Ignorance and lack of basic human decency is an ugly thing. But is the best tool to remedy that problem belittling people and foisting back on them the same behavior you find so destestable?

The best weapon against ignorant morons is polite education. If you take a cheap shot at these people, they will go away not only still insensitive and stupid, but also with the attitude that people that adopt are assholes.

Be the bigger person. As frustrating as it is, use the opportunity to educate. Answer honestly and politley, and tell them the question came off as rude in the best way possible.

It may be fun to come up with the zinger, but does it really do anything other than throw gas on the fire of stupidity and ignorance?

Diane Vespa said...

Anonymous, I used to feel the way you do, and I have been down that road numerous times. I started out trying to be polite and educate as you propose, but I finally came to the conclusion that I was endlessly educating virtual strangers at the expense of the privacy rights of my child. No longer do I feel that an adoptive parent has an inherant obligation to gracefully accept rudeness and/or racism, nor is it inherant upon them that they must educate all that are ignorant. I do, on the other hand, frequently advise and support those that are sincerely interested in adoption. So, walk a mile in my shoes, then check back with me.

Anonymous said...

My two adopted daughters are from China. No two pair of shoes are the same, and I certainly have never walked in yours -- but mine probably have a similar fit.

I have been frustrated as well. I have resorted to the snappy comeback. I have found that it makes me feel better for a little bit, and then I realize I have hurt the cause for international adoption more than I've helped in those cases.

Every parent has the right to do what they feel is best for their children. I would hubly submit that there are ways to navigate these waters without always replicating the horrible behavior of others.

I also support that, at the end of the day, it's noone else's business what my kids' backgrounds are.

My intent was some food for thought.

Diane Vespa said...

Thank you, well taken.