I've been a mom for nearly two and a half years now. My family looks quite different than the average family; we are multicultural and multiracial. We've had numerous encounters with strangers. Most have been positive, but a few things keep happening that really grate my nerves. And might I add, these apply to friends and family members, too! So....please, do not,
1: Touch either of my girls' hair. They are not puppies. I know you are curious about black hair, but they are people, not pets. And I worked a VERY long time to get their hair styled. HANDS OFF! In general, you shouldn't touch a stranger's child. It's weird. And creepy. And even if you know me and my family, I don't appreciate the head-petting. Would you like me to pet your head randomly?
2: Ask if I'm sure my daughters are full African American or ask if they are "mixed." Yes, I'm sure I know the race of my kids, and they aren't a cup of coffee or a dog breed---so the "half and half" comments are not necessary. I don't ask you if you're sure the guy you call "dad" is actually your father or if your mom perhaps had an affair with the milkman or the pool boy or whomever. We just met. I mean, really?
3: Say or ask about their birth parents such as, "Why did they give them up?", or "Why didn't they love them?", or "How old are they?" My oldest daughter is two and a half. She understands and repeats much more than you think. My children's stories are private. You probably don't want me asking you what position you used to conceive your child and how good or bad the sex was. Some things should just be left unsaid. Especially when we are strangers who just happen to be standing in the same check-out lane or dining at the same restaurant.
4: Say multiple times, to the point where we are all uncomfortable, how beautiful my children are. It makes it seem like you are covering up some sort of prejudice. My girls are beautiful, but they are also smart, funny, and so much more. Say it once and move on.
5: Make any sort of comments about how your kids are driving you nuts and you've thought about placing them for adoption. Not funny. Period. The loss biological parents face is absolutely no laughing matter.
Now before I get 1,000 comments on how horrible I am or how I need to quit being so PC, there are things I don't mind...
1: Saying my kids are cute. (Just say it once, not 100 times like a weird-o). I think they are, too.
2: Asking if we are an adoptive family. That's ok. But beware that walking around asking families that is like asking someone who looks a little thick in the middle if she's pregnant. This might bite you in the butt one day.
3: Asking for more adoption information. Sure. :)
4: Laughing (because it's so cute) when my daughter says, "I'm adopted!" to you when we're standing in the check-out line. She's pretty proud. She recently went up to THREE strangers at Hobby Lobby to tell them she's adopted. Good for her. You go, girl.
5: Commenting on having a family of girls. Yep, I can relate to those challenges and joys!
Yes, we adopted. And yes, our transracial family stands out. And yes, my girls are pretty adorable. But we are first and foremost a family consisting of people. So remember good social graces----no petting, no nosy questions, and no rude comments. Let's all be on our best behavior, get our groceries, and go home. ----- I hope I haven't scared anyone off from adopting transracially.
I recently wrote an article for adoption.com on the subject of people saying no to black kids because of the top three most common fears. I hope you'll check it out!