A friend, colleague, and fellow adoptive mama bought my daughter a book by Todd Parr entitled It's Okay to be Different. Parr's fabulous lines include: "It's okay to have an invisible friend," "It's okay to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub," "It's okay to make a wish," and our favorite, "It's okay to be adopted."
But society doesn't support that being adopted is simply OK.
To some, it's the extreme of HOW AWESOME it is that the adoptive parents SAVED a POOR child in NEED OF A GOOD HOME! Or, HOW COOL IS IT TO BE LIKE BRAD AND ANGELINA! YEAH ADOPTION!!!! ADOPTION ADOPTION ADOPTION!!! Your ADOPTED child is so beautiful!!!
To some, it's the opposite extreme. "Didn't her mom want her?" "Could you not have your own?" "How much did she cost?" Staring. Looking away. (Or maybe both....awkward!) An under-the-breath judgement of "ummm-hmmmm." Assuming the worst (or the inaccurate), asking nosy questions, and taking it upon themselves to ask, ask, ask, and ask.
Where's the middle? Where is the Todd Parr attitude of it's okay?
Recently we attended a birthday party for one year old triplets. My friend has six beautiful children---all of whom are lovely. My friend's strength in raising a family of six astounds me; she is a wonderful mother. She has shared with me that when she takes her children out, she's been asked, "Didn't you have enough already?" Or, "Why did you do IVF?" Judgement upon judgement, question upon question, assumption upon assumption. She just wanted to pick up some groceries, and all the sudden her fertility is under a microscope and her family is a circus act.
My daughter's cousin is ten days younger that our daughter and was born with Downs Syndrome. The baby's parents are constantly plagued with stares, questions, and comments. They are also surrounded by people who use the phrase, "I'm so retarded!" to respond to a silly mistake. I'm sure her parents wonder, as we often do, if our child is getting an attentive smile from a stranger out of pity, out of uncertainty, or out of sincerity.
I know people often don't know how to respond to unique and different situations. But is that really an excuse? Is there ever a time when it is ok to comment or question someone's child and his or her place in this world? And since when did looking different mean that there is automatic permission granted to the general public to ask, assume, and judge?
Children are children. They are innocent, they are curious, they are adorable in their own ways. They don't all look the same or "normal." But what is normal anyway? Who is normal? Who decides its definition?
I wish people would understand that it really is "okay to be different" and that issue isn't the person or family who is different. No. The really problem is the person who takes it upon himself or herself to act in a manner other than "okay."