Sunday, September 5, 2010

Stranger Encounters

   When we first started the adoption process, our agency had us take an on-line class called The Conspicuous Family to help us prepare for becoming a transracial family.  We knew, of course, that our new family wouldn't "match" but it really didn't seem like a big deal.  I had no idea that the differences in race between parents and children in our family would affect nearly every public encounter.  And then I started buying milk and ordering pizza with an Asian child in tow.  I realized that I had always been annonymous, just a nameless, faceless woman in a crowd.  And that I kind of liked that.  But once we adopted our annonymous days were over.  In some ways it has been one of the hardest, and most unexpected, changes of life with kids.
   Unlike many families, we have never heard rude comments from people and rarely endure uncomfortable stares.  Oh, we get the occasional really dumb question (my favorites being "Is she the 'A' word?" and "Does she know she's adopted?" both from the same woman!), but people are almost always just curious.  What we do get is LOTS of attention.  Every single trip to Wal-mart or the grocery store results in someone, usually a complete stranger, telling us how adorable the girls are.  If I had a dollar for every time someone told me Katherine and Rachel were "cute"  I could afford to buy a new car and maybe remodel the bathroom.  It gets annoying.  I know my girls are cute, but so are lots of other kids. Do we get these comments because people think Asian children are more attractive than blonde kids?  Because they think we're some kind of saints for "saving" poor Chinese girls?  Because they're trying to be supportive of an obviously adoptive family? 
   But every now and then we have encounters with other adoptive families, people who "get it".  Sometimes it's someone with an Asian child in their cart.  Once it was an elderly woman who told us about her Korean grandson and how happy they were the day some 20 odd years ago when he came home.  Yesterday, we had another such episode and it was so sweet.
   Rachel and I were killing time in Hobby Lobby.  Rae had discovered the mirror aisle and was happily dancing in front of the mirrors and admiring her reflection.  She was attracting attention and we'd heard several "cute" comments, which I had ignored.  Then a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I used to have one just like her.  And she grew up to be beautiful."  She gestured behind her and I looked to see a 20-something Asian woman smiling at us.  Here were a mother and daughter who understood.  I thought of them all afternoon, two women who give me hope for the future.

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