Last Tuesday, at the Back to School breakfast over at the Parish Hall, I had one of those things happen to me. And while it is ok now, could it be a problem later?
I was talking to one of the new mothers at the school. She (is Korean and you will see why I mention this in a moment) and her husband just moved here from San Francisco and we were having the nice but dull sort of chat that you have at these things when we were joined by another woman. Now, this person who joined us is someone I know is a casual way. We say hello and how are you and I know she thought my not letting Jake and Jack join the Boys Scouts because of their (Scouts) anti-Gay position was "a bit much", but she is an OK, if narrow person.
Well, she starts to chat us up when she turns to the new mom and says, "I think I have see you around before because your little girl looks so familiar." The little girl she is referring to is Eva.
Cue chirping crickets.
Now, I could have made an issue out of this (and if you read the Yahoo APC Group, you also know people would have)... but I didn't. I simply said, "Oh my goodness, I know EvaJun has grown a ton this summer. She really has changed!"
She was mortified. And started to fumble and say things like, "My girls don't look like me either..."
I changed the subject and just went on like it was no big deal.
Which it wasn't. I know she didn't mean any harm and the other woman quite frankly didn't seem to really catch on...
Here is the thing: is this going to be a problem as Eva gets older? It makes sense that, if I am speaking with an Asian family, people are going to think Eva is theirs... I don't really care, but I am trying to perfect responses now which: A) don't make Eva feel badly that she doesn't physically resemble me and B) are graceful and put people at ease... I am not into some politically correct agenda of, "don't assume the Chinese child belongs with the Chinese family you person of white privilege ". There is also the small fact that if I make a magilla out of something then she may internalize my reaction to mean that her being adopted is, in fact, an "issue".
However, despite my only seeing my child when I look at her, I have to accept that others will see a Chinese child first and that one adjective will always add an extra layer to our encounters with people. Strangers will know, within moments of meeting us, that she is adopted. Without opening her mouth some of her life is revealed. Abandoned. Adopted.
At this stage in the game I am open about our story. Don't engage me at Target because I will talk your ear off extolling the virtues of adoption. I know that as Eva gets older this will stop. No child wants to be spoken about in the 3rd person and no tween wants their life story spilled to strangers at the market (let me just mention that I don't ever mention the details of Eva's finding... that is her story) and I will respect what boundaries she gives me.
This is a rambling post and it just barely grazes the surface of the issues, both small and large I think we are going to confront. Life rolls along and there are always going to be little comments, or misunderstandings or questions and we, as a family, have to be ready to respond.
What about a tee shirt? She is OUR child! Do you think that would be too much?
I am going to share with you my husband's favorite response of mine for all time:
Q: Oh, your daughter is so cute. Is her father Chinese?
I swear to you Hugh still cracks up over that one... if you were to ask him why he married me, he would give the above as an example. The irony of course is when he is out with Eva and someone inquires it goes like this:
Q. Oh, your daughter is so cute. Is her mother Chinese?
A. Yes. We became a family in December of 2004. We were in China for 17 days following a 6 month wait for our referral and roughly 6 months worth of paperwork. My wife really drove this train, but I couldn't imagine life without my daughter.... and on, and on, and on, until the curious are forced to fake their own deaths in order to escape.
He loves her that much. He is so proud of her and her journey to our family and he cannot contain himself.
And ultimately that is what I want Eva to understand.
Dont' forget to stop by Mamarazzi today... it's a rather sad post, but, despite being a bunch of snarky bitches, we are, as Susie reminded me, Mamas first.