Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Idiot of the week and other such nonsense

I will start off this crazy, mishmash post with some humor just so all you not touched by transracial adoption readers can understand what our families deal with on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Heck what any person of color deals with on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

I ran into the mother of a child in my class down at the arena this week. She is a seemingly lovely woman and her child is a friend of Eric's. She is also a frequent visitor to the class, has met me several times. She has also met both of my son's at the school, and this time I was accompanied by all 4 of the boys and made the requisite introductions all around.

All 4 boys shook her hand, said hello and moved a ways off.

She then turned to me and said "What language do your sons speak?"

"Ah, English" (I mean she had just had a conversation with them)

"I mean where are they FROM"

By this time both Greg and Eric have turned around. Eric rolls his eyes and Greg does the requisite teenage snort.

I answer, "Here" And yes, I am not an idiot, I know full well what she means. She means because they aren't white ... where are they FROM. Because you can't be FROM here *here being anywheres usually * (from a white person perspective anyways) if you are shaded any color darker than peach.

She begins to stumble over her questions now, because I am not coughing up the information she wants, or feels she deserves to know, simply because we look different. Remember, adoption, birth, race etc NONE of that has been part of our conversation to this point. Yet she feels so inclined, a normally polite person, to inquire about the nationality, heritage and birth of two children (teens) she has JUST met.

"Well I just thought, you know, that maybe, you know they speak something else"

I reply, rather kindly but with a firm edge to my voice, "You can feel free to ask the boys where they are born, and if they want to they will tell you, but they are FROM here"

The conversation ends. Both boys are smirking. Some days I just hate white people.

In other news, my grandma is dying. Her rally from our last visit was short lived and we know the end is days or at the most, weeks away. Tomorrow I am sending my 7 and 13 year olds on ahead of me, alone, by plane for their goodbye visit. My mom will meet them and they will have a chance to say goodbye. Caden is a wreck. Greg is stoic.

I fly out next Friday, Thanksgiving, with the other two boys for our visit, if she lasts that long. I will be a wreck. I will fall apart. Into smitherenes. But watching her suffer is just so hard. Please think of the boys this weekend as they say goodbye to their Grandma Nan. They love her.


Anonymous said...

Oh Jen - I'm sorry about your Nan. I'll be praying. Please call me if you need anything, I'm off Thanksgiving weekend. 403-396-1910. I was actually in Edmonton today...

Lala's world said...

some peoples moms eh?! people don't know when to keep their mouths shut! I think I would have told that lady where to go!!

so sorry about your grandma! thinking and praying for you all!

Andy said...

Jen, I'm so sorry about your Grandma, I know how important she is to you!

I'm glad that you will all have a chance to see her again.

Anonymous said...

I am SORRY....sorry that you deal with ignorant people when it comes to your kids and sorry that you are going to loose a very important person in your life.

Anonymous said...

Jen...I'm so sorry about your grandma. My thoughts are with you and your family. This is sure to be a very difficult and sad time for all of you.

As for the ignorance of that lady in the hockey arena...nothing surprises me anymore with the stupidness that comes out of some people's mouths. If it makes you feel any better, my kids are caucasion...and the first thing most strangers ask when adoption comes up is still "where are they from"...they were both born in BC. I've learned to be very vague and not say which town...because the next question is always "who is their mom"....and my daughter is from a small town and I'm not too sure her birthmom wants it broadcasted. She kept her pregnancy very quiet. Generally, I reply with "I'd rather not say"...I FEEL like saying "none of your friggin' business and why would you even ask that?". LOL!

Anonymous said...

Jen, you know I know how painful it is to lose the one person who remained a constant, a pillar and a sense of normalcy your whole life. I'm so sorry that it's now your turn to feel that deep sorrow, but I am VERY happy that you and the kids were able to make some final memories with Nan!
Now, about the other part of your post... I happen to know to whom you're referring at the arena. Said person came to me, absolutely blown away at your reaction to her queries. It turns out that she has had a desire in her heart to adopt, has for quite some time and as you have pointed out in many posts, it is quite obvious your boys are adopted. M thought you would be a good source of information about adoption, someone to answer questions such as "do you know if (any place)is a good place to adopt from, are their adoption laws easy to work with?" etc. You blew that notion of hers, that you were a good source of vital information, right out of the water with your indignant attitude and tone. You must remember Jen, me, being case in point, that not everyone has "adoption lingo 101" under their belt. Not everyone knows what is ok to ask and what is not, or even how to phrase a question. I’d like to think that if she had begun her query with the statement "my husband and I are thinking of adopting, where did you adopt your boys from and could you help me figure out how to go about beginning the process?” you might not have had such a ‘how dare you ask me’ response. In my opinion, you should give someone a chance before writing them off as the "Idiot of the week." How is M supposed to come to you now, as a person of knowledge and answers, which I assured her you were and that she just asked the question the wrong way, not making her intentions clear?
It's really hard for me to understand your view sometimes. The time at the airport, for example, the guy in the line up that stepped between you and G, then stumbled on his words trying to cover up his mistake of not figuring out you were related. You thought it was hilarious and pointed out, duh, of course he’s adopted, it was ok. So on one hand, you point out that it's plain to see that your kids are adopted, but on the other, how dare anyone else point that out? I don't get it. Do you want people to recognize the fact that they are or don't you? Is it ok for them to talk about it or only when YOU bring up the subject or only if they have experience/knowledge/intentions of adoption? That begs the question; what can you do to give people a chance to explain their desire to be filled in on your adoption situation or do you simply assume that every person that asks has malicious, nosey, poor intentions or feels that they deserve to know about your situation simply because you made the choice to adopt? That is the way you treat an inquiry at present. Is there a way someone should phrase their query that’s acceptable to you?
Please know that as your close friend, I am not trying to offend you or make you angry, I’m simply pointing out that people are not always as idiotic and ignorant as you think they are and further to that, some people have different views on sharing their individual adoption stories and it’s impossible for someone who knows more than one family of adoption to know the proper way to address each of those families or that one can be so boldly different than the other and what is fine to ask one family will send the other off on an upset, eye rolling, indignant tangent. Take us, for example, I enjoy telling people about how our family came to be (to certain degrees, of course); I love to know that with each person I share with, there’s growing support in our community (which is evident in physical and emotional ways we are supported) and possibly a person who, up to that point, believed that you had to be a “special person” to adopt, is now enlightened that you don’t have to be. I just think that sharing our story boosts awareness, not only of the process of adoption, but also the reasons, the possibilities and need for it. Our reasons for adopting were very different, but we’re both adoptive parents and we both have different views, neither of which are right or wrong and both of which deserve respect. I’m simply pointing out that perhaps you should lighten up on the subject and on the people that inquire and maybe find out their intentions before you undeservedly put them in their place. It’s a good thing M told me about her encounter with you and I could let her know the reasons for your response, otherwise, she would have formed an opinion of you that was just not true. I fully agree though, that just because a person is “any shade darker than peach” it should not be assumed that they aren’t from “here” and that just because someone makes the decision to adopt (trans-racially or otherwise) does not make their life an open book. I know that you deal with this on a regular basis and that has made you build a wall, but just remember that I was on the other side of that wall at one point; you never know who is on the other side unless you make a door. I love you, Jen.

Unknown said...


In response to your comment I can only say that in any situation where I am forced to choose between protecting my children by dismissing a stranger, or offending my children by explaining their story to a stranger I will always make the obvious choice.