Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Day Nine: 18 lbs, 6 oz.

One interesting topic among the MANY great ones suggested by my friend Laura (hi, Laura!) is strange things people say to me about adoption. Laura is an adoptive mom herself, so I'm sure she has her own fun examples.

Now, I want to preface any mocking I do with a humanistic caveat: I've been on the job for over four years now, and I haven't heard NEARLY the number and variety of whacked-out comments I was promised when I accepted the position. I mean, where are my "How much did she costs?" and "Where are her real parents?" (Well, I did get the latter--once, before Jarrah was home. I showed a photo of her to a co-worker, and that was her first response. I have to admit, it did sting.) Fact is, people are just not that stupid, or maybe just not that curious.

The other caveat is that *I* have changed during my tenure, and I'm no longer as skittish and sensitive as I once was. And I think if I was those things to start, it was just rookie nerves. I was so sure that people were suspicious of my mom credentials that I jumped to conclusions a lot. Fact is, people default to questions and speculations when they actually mean to show kindness. They want to express interest in me, and in my child. There's nothing malicious about that--it's how connections are made, and how the world goes 'round. I appreciate that now, so much more than I ever imagined I could.

With those important distinctions aside, let's dig in, shall we?

There's the perennial, "Is your husband Asian?" Which is weird, since David doesn't look Chinese at all. Just kidding. I only get that one when Jarrah and I are alone. I think people are curious in that instance because they know that China adoption is (or at least was) very popular. I kinda want to just say "Nope!" and leave it at that, but I usually do the polite thing and explain.

A variation on that one which does spur my sauciness is "Wow, she's tall! Is her father tall?" I like to glance sideways at them (often on the playground, or at the supermarket) and murmur "I expect he is." That stops any further inquiries, believe you me. A politer, if slightly less truthful, answer I've used is "Yes. He's 6'2." (Which is how tall David is.)

One time we were waiting for a table at Bob's Big Boy in Burbank when an older lady showed interest in Jarrah. Lots of interest. Relentless interest. She never mentioned adoption, but since David and I were both sitting there, I assume she could deduce. Suddenly, she said, "How many ounces did she weigh at birth?" and I snapped, "I have no @#$%&* clue." Well, I might not have said exactly that, but I know David was embarrassed.

Recently, I was at a reunion and wanted to point out Jarrah, who was in the pool at the time, to an old friend. My friend knew Jarrah was Chinese, and there was only one Chinese girl in the pool, but she was still baffled. "Oh, her! She's so...brown." "Yes," I laughed. "I need to put more sunscreen on her." "Is she from the part of China where they're very brown?" she continued. Um, which part of China is that?

When Jarrah was a little baby (as little as I ever knew her, which was 27 lbs. at 13 months) people asked me ALL THE TIME if she spoke Chinese. "Um, babies don't really speak?" I would suggest. "So, I don't think so?" Various people also asked me if her non-stop babbling was actually perfectly intelligible Mandarin. Again, I would gently remind them that she was unlikely to have mastered Mandarin in 13 months.

Last year, a friend of my sister's was having dinner with us and said "Can I ask you a question?" I froze. I never like that question. It always means something adoption-related is coming, and increases the likelihood that whatever it is will annoy me. "Yeeees?" I asked, with a forkful of salad. "Did you know in advance what country Jarrah would come from?" No, I hadn't the foggiest idea. I just sent a letter to the North Pole asking Santa for a baby, and China was what he had in stock.

Now that I think about it, I have gotten a lot of variations on the theme "She is so lucky!" But it's instinct now to respond "Actually, we're the lucky ones," so it doesn't even chafe me when I do. But I can still get my knickers in a twist when people suggest that we adopted because we're altruistic and want to save the world, one baby at a time. Maybe some people featured in those back pages of People magazine that I never read, but not me. Nope. Raising my hand over here for the Totally Selfish, Just Wanted A Baby Of My Own club. You know the one that just about every parent in the world belongs to? Yeah, that one.

One time at a party, a friend's father (he was actually the grandfather of the baby whose birthday we were celebrating) burst out unctuously "It's so wonderful there are people like you in the world." I have to give credit to David, who came up with what I should have said but couldn't think of in my shock: "You mean infertile people?" Yeah, we are wonderful. You should see us tap-dance, too. We're quite the prodigies.

See, a little blip of bitterness squeezes out every now and again. I don't deny it. But I do try to be gentle with myself, and in doing so, I've become gentle with others, for the most part. The fact is, there are always going to be people fascinated--for whatever reason--when they see David and I holding hands with a little Chinese girl. And that isn't as amazing to me as it once was. After all, we are pretty awesome.


Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

"But I do try to be gentle with myself, and in doing so, I've become gentle with others, for the most part."

See? It's that sort of line that leaves me in awe of you as a writer and human being.

miss. chief said...

Ah man, my mom adopted two African-American babies from the USA and we are a super pale-white family other than them.
So yeah she's been asked "where's his real parents?" before and the funniest/worst one:

"Oh you left the bun in the oven too long?"


Jennifer said...

Beautiful post. I'm with Cheri...that is an amazing line. People say stupid things...it never fails to amaze me.

We made the big decision today to pursue adoption. Haven't decided on an agency. It's between three. We are leaning more towards Domestic. Of course that could change.

Mary said...

Love it!

Love you guys!

And, congrats to Jennifer!



Sam said...

@Cheri: Smooches, lovey. You are too kind, always. :)

@miss.chief: LOL! That is awesome! :)

@Jennifer: I am so happy for you!!! :)

@Mary: Love you, too! Glad things went well today.

Jen said...

Love this post! You had my jaw dropping a lot, though! Amazing.

And yes, you are pretty awesome. ;-)

Paul and Heather said...

I have had so many of the same comments! My favorite was at a party an older woman that I didn't know remarked on how calm and well behanved Hsin was. She then said "well all those kids are like that aren't they". I had to say "all WHAT kids" (hoping she meant well raised kids...but knowing she didn't). She actaully responded with "you know...oriental kids...they are all sowell behaved you know".
I was pissed...so said "actually, I have met some pretty poorly behaved ASIAN kids in my time...they aren't all the same" and walked away.

erin said...

I've had a lot of weird statements about my kids...not as stinging as some of yours, but still odd.

Like, "Do you dye her hair?" referring to a ten month old orange headed Olivia.

"Do they all have the same father?" referring to the three girls with three different hair colors. The answer is yes, but I usually say, "No, they all have different fathers...we're very jerry springer."

One very kind lady made a comment about how 'very thin' the girls are and then how 'chubby' Elijah and I are.

The best was when Rose was 3 months old a very very old man flipped out on me for having a Iranian husband. I assume that he thought Rose was of Iranian descent? Although I have no idea how he would come to this conclusion. His son had to literally pull the old man away from us.

Aunt LoLo said...

Love it. My friend and I were discussing some of these questions this morning. She is blond, blue eyed...and her husband has skin the color of hot cocoa, and black hair. Her four little girls are lighter than their father, but DEFINITELY darker than their (Nordic?) mother. So many times, people will ask her if they are "hers." *ahem* Nope! She just likes to run errands with four little girls, under the age of 8, for kicks and giggles! LOL

Anonymous said...

Ah, I was hoping you'd do this one!
All of your scenarios resonated with me and many have been repeated on our coast, too.

In the first few months we were home with Noelle I was taking her for a walk in the stroller and some dude stopped me to ask, "So, how do you like being an au pair?" - WTH? How many 44 year old au pairs from Chicago are there, really? Just wondering...

About a year after having her home I was coming out of the grocery store on a blustery day, stroller outfitted with the accompanying rain cover, when a woman burst out of an apartment building and ran over to me shouting, "take that off right away, you must, you are smothering the baby, she is going to suffocate, take it off now!!!" Uh, yes, I guess Baby Jogger neglected to test their custom-fitted rain covers on their stroller before putting them on the market, thus starting an epidemic of baby suffocations which had escaped my notice and of which I clearly needed to be informed since I could not possibly be a mother??? Oy. It's not like I had tied a plastic baggie over her head!

Oh, there was her lawyer in Islamabad, who was evidently a different caste, telling us "people of her race are often very intelligent". Oh really???? And will she love dal and be well-suited for a life of street sweeping???? Unreal!

Just today, we stopped by Krispy Kreme on the way home and Noelle marched right up to the case and pointed out the raspberry-jelly-filled concoction she was craving. A lady in line said "oh, she knows just what she wants!" And I said, yes, she sure does! To which she asked, "so, what does she say?" Puzzled, I replied um, "mom, I want to go to Krispy Kreme"... The lady exclaimed, "oh, in perfect English!" What a marvel, after living only 2 years and 8 months of her 2 years and 11 month existence in the US...why, I think I'll have her join the circus...

While nobody has asked us how much she cost, plenty of people have told us how "neat" adoption is and how they've always thought it would be so "neat" to adopt. To which I usually tell them no actually, it is quite entirely messy. First you start with years of fertility treatments. Then you go on to FBI, social workers, police clearances, embassy investigations, that matter of the suicide bombing in Islamabad, yep, pretty much one colossal mess. That dosn't mean I don't feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have done it. It's just that neat is about the last word I would ever use to describe it.

Anyway, I loved what you said about how you've changed and softened over the years, and how you realize people are just curious and trying to make connections. What used to make me bristle, and okay sometimes still does a little, I now try to look at through a softer lens. I realize people just don't have the life experience to realize what they are saying or what adoption is really like. And I guess that's okay. They are usually genuinely interested and do think it's "neat", and are just trying to express that.

Thanks for tackling this topic!
I am so in love with our little girl and I know you are with yours, too. It may not have been a neat ending but we ARE so lucky.