The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
-Buechner

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Right Hook Or A Kind Nudge

I'm working on it.

For a person who claims to be blunt and who neglects to sugar coat things, I fall victim to speechlessness. I can often think up savvy, sarcastic, educational explanations a few minutes after the fact but when I'm caught off guard I often feel like that cartoon character who's bottom jaw drops to the floor.

I met up with the brother of an old friend yesterday. I'd not seen him in years but he's a great guy, from a great family, and he is very very bright. He's liked, and well educated. He's a godly guy and so to say he understands the grassroots of adoption would, I hope, be an understatement. I would also say he's worldly. Up on his current affairs. His parents are from Ireland, he's lived in Brussels, the US, and now he's back on home turf.

After reacquainting and reintroducing ourselves yesterday we took a brief walk down memory lane, catching up on the happenings of some mutual friends...specifically one who now lives in the States with his wife and their several (!) children. Let's call this mutual friend "J", shall we.

As we briefly talked about our contact with J, the topic of his many kids came up. It's inevitable. He has an amazing family. He has a trans racial family. He has an internationally and a domestically trans racial family. So many cultures and heritages wrapped up into one surname it would make your head spin just a little. And you might just stand in awe of the grace, love, compassion and authenticity that makes up this family.

And then he said it. My friend's brother took the plunge into faux-pas-land. And I cringed and self-talked faster and more in one split second than I have in quite some time.

He used those wretched words...you know the ones..."real" and "own" juxtaposed with children.

He unknowingly brought my assumptions about his probable IQ drastically down.

You see, J and his wife domestically adopted siblings. A short while later they conceived and gave birth to their little girl. Shortly after that they adopted another little boy domestically and then proceeded to adopt their youngest son from Uganda. Seriously. Amazing. Hearts wide open. Full of love and grace and all that falls amidst those two.

And none of their children are any less "real" or any less their "own" than the other - regardless of how they became theirs.

So here's where I fall tremendously short folks, (no pun intended if you've ever met me). I am not a small talk, shoot the breeze kinda gal if I am meeting you or reacquainting with you after many years. I am a factual and concrete conversationalist. You know: who's doing what, when and how, now.

So, how do I smoothly incorporate "so how are your parents?" with a little "yes, we are adopting from Ethiopia and she will be our daughter as much as our sons are our sons, you twit" in the mix?

I have always thought it would be easier once she is here. And, I still believe that. It will be much easier to pick my child up, give her a gentle tickle under the arm to hear her giggle or a hug around the waist, and then ask the individual who just put his/her foot in his/her mouth how on earth they figure she is not real or my own.

I'm going to chalk my conversation yesterday up to naivety. In the same breath I realize it is and it was my responsibility to set the record straight and perhaps offer a Coles' Notes version of the correct use of terminology.

I also realize I should be offering the benefit of the doubt to all. And I need to find my eloquent phrase and brief explanation - because most of these encounters and conversations are brief and one offs.

I also understand that I need to figure out my mantre in these situations as I'm just not that great at saying "you're an idiot" politely.

4 comments:

Yours Truly said...

Ugh. What an awkward moment. I'm glad you're able to have this experience now though...to help prepare you and get your "comeback" ready. I absolutely cannot wait to meet your "real" "own" Ethiopian daughter!

Kimmyann said...

I am probably going to be the lone one here but I don't think you really need a comeback. I don't need someone else justifying something I already know to be true in my heart. The child I am raising is mine. Adopted, Fostered, Bio, or whatever how they entered my home doesn't make them any less my kid.

Mrs Changstein said...

Well, this is a wonderful opportunity to practice grace. And to educate. The majority of people wouldn't choose to be deliberately rude or ignorant.

My feeling is that unless you've adopted, know someone who has, or have that special heart for it, you don't even think terminology or anything else. Most people I encounter are trying to process the idea of adoption in the moment, and aren't even thinking that the terms they use or the way they speak are hurtful and incorrect. It's not that they're dumb or stupid. They've just never thought about adoption, the impact it has on a family, that they are all the children of my heart, and don't get it.

You'd do more for yourself and your family if you don't put them down, or judge them. Here's a great chance to be an advocate and to help someone learn...and maybe their heart will be opened up to this wonderful world of adoption also!

Janice said...

It's unfortunate that parents who adopt have to often face this issue. I've heard it time and time again. I figure if you politely tell a person once then hopefully they will never make the same mistake again.

Janice