Monday, November 30, 2009

Ready, Set, and Then What?

I cannot tell if the questions and comments we get have slowed down or if I'm just better prepared to answer them.

When someone asks if E is my daughter, I say yes. Without hesitation, without feeling like an impostor, and without offering up more explanation.

When someone asks if E is adopted, I say yes, for all of the reasons mentioned above.

I was recently told by a friend and fellow adoptive mom that when I am approached by other questions (where is her real mom? how much did your baby cost? are you babysitting?), I can always say, "That's a very personal question." And leave it at that. As one who likes to talk and often says too much and not the right things, I have been rehearsing this statement in my mind. I am armed and ready to use it.

I am not ashamed of my daughter's adoption story, of her first mother, or of the fact that adoption is expensive. However, I am growing into a woman and adoptive mother who realizes that I do not have to accept or entertain impolite, nosy, and bad behavior, in the form of questions, from others.

I guess because my black daughter is a baby, people feel more free to approach us---for both good (to compliment her) or bad (to ask inappropriate questions). I wonder as the months and years progress, if we'll be approached more or less, if the same old questions will be repeated, or if people will come up with newer, more awful questions.

Do I prefer stares? Not really. Being ignored after a first glance? Awkward. Nosy questions? Depends on my mood at the time.

What I'd love is to just be treated like a family with a beautiful baby. I don't mind talking about adoption---but when I look at my daughter every day, I don't think about the fact that she is adopted. It's as if the questions coming from strangers bring me back to reality. My daughter is just my daughter. She came to us in a unique and complicated way. That in itself is beautiful. But it's not the world's business.

I wonder if when we adopt in the future and our baby is a black male, if things will get more complicated. White people generally fear black males. Maybe other races do, too. I'm not sure. White people think saggy pants, hoods up, and loud music equal criminal. Top that off with dark skin and statistics and the media picking and choosing whom to feature, and there's a lot of fear. I wonder what will happen to the questions we get if and when a little black boy enters our lives. I wonder if I will be able to combat the stereotypes and statistics surrounding black men and raise a son who is responsible and respected.

I'm not sure what I will say the next time I am asked a question about adoption or race. Some things in life can't be planned out because circumstances are unpredictable. I never know when someone will snake up behind us in line at Wal-Mart and then muster the audacity to ask if E's mom was on drugs or if I'm babysitting. I never know if a stare means my baby is cute or if it means how dare you? I can't figure out if the person telling me my baby is "SOOOO CUTE!!!" one time too many to be comfortable is trying to cover up her own racism or really thinks my daughter is cute or both.

I would like to think I will be able to remember and then deliver (with clarity and confidence) my rehearsed answer, if appropriate, but I'm pretty sure there will be many more times of fumbling before I get it right.

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