Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dear Sugars: Aggressive vs. Assertive

Dear Sugars,

Do you remember that cheer from the 90s?  "Be AGGRESSIVE!  BE-E AGGRESSIVE!"

(You are welcome for getting that stuck in your head for the whole day.)

Let's talk about aggressiveness.

If you haven't already faced a lot of questions about your family makeup, you will.  Adoption brings out people's inner detective.  They simply MUST know why you didn't have your "own" children, how much you paid to adopt your child, if your kids are "real" siblings, what country your kids are from, and the social and medical history of your child's biological parents.

I recall last year when my family and I were exiting a row of seats after my middle child's basketball game.  A woman approached me, blocking us from leaving the aisle.  Her face was mere inches from mine.

The interrogation began.  

Lady:  "Are your kids real siblings?"

Me:  "Um, yes."

Lady:  "But are they really real siblings?"

Me:  "Yes."

Lady:  "Did you adopt them at the same time?"

Me:  Pauses to look down.  My daughters are on either side of me, brown eyes imploring, ears listening.  

Me to lady:  "That's really none of your business."

Whoa.  That's the first time I had ever said that to someone.  But for some reason, I felt like I HAD to.  It took some courage, but it just felt, well, right.  

Lady to my oldest:  "Do you like getting your hair done?  It's so pretty!"

Me:  Moves forward, thereby forcing the lady to allow us to exit.   I had to do this before I went all un-Jesus on her.

Later, I asked my girls if they heard what happened.  My oldest seemed uninterested, but my four-year-old said, "You told that lady it was none of her business."

They were listening. They were learning.  They were observing.

That day I learned something important about responding to people.   There's a difference between being aggressive vs. assertive.

Aggressive is antagonizing.  It invites unrest, discord.  It encourages battle, more opinions.  Aggressive is selfish.  It's about release, one-upping, and "winning."  It's about insulting and diminishing.

Assertive is about being confident.  It's about ending the conversation on your terms and the terms that are best for the children.  It invites closure, peace, honesty, and strength.   It puts the person in their place without putting them down.

I know people are curious.  I know they don't know all the right words and terminology.  But my job as a mother isn't to pat the bottoms of strangers and give them the warm fuzzies.   My obligation is to my children.

Thus, I teach them that their voice and feels and stories matter.  They matter so much, that I'm not handing their stories out like grandma's hand out cookies.   Privacy is ok.   Telling adults "nope" is ok.  Standing up for your personal rights is ok.  And until they are old enough to do it themselves, I'm certainly going to do it for them.

As women, we often feel the need to be kind, apologetic, and polite.  We don't want to be deemed rude, bitchy, or moody.  We are expected, still in 2016, to be gentle with the feelings of others.  I invite you to consider what's more important:  your child's well-being or another person's perception of you.

The next time you are confronted by someone and their tone, their question or comment, their gesture (such as trying to touch your child's braids) is inappropriate, offensive, and/or intrusive (even if it's not their intention), I want you to remember that you are the mother.  You are instilling in your children that they matter.

Instead of doing nothing (passive), or being aggressive, try this:

Be assertive!  Be-e assertive!

You won't regret it!


For more on race and adoption, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.   I have five books available on Amazon.

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