Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Sore Thumb?

My family (The Sore Thumbs?)
A conversation between an acquaintance, a stranger and me (names changed, of course):

Claire (the acquaintance, in her 40's, mother of 4) and Annie (the stranger, early 20's) were talking about kids.

Annie (to me):  How many do you have?

Me:  four

Claire (smiling, friendly, to Annie):  Yeah, but 2 of hers are adopted.

Me: Yup, but they still add up to 4.

Claire (to me):  Tell Annie their names.

Me:  Devyn is our oldest and...

Claire: No, not the girls, tell her the boys names.

Me:  Mikias and Jemberu are our sons.

Claire: Tell Annie where they're from.

Me: Ethiopia (beginning to feel like a spectacle rather than a mom having a conversation about kids).

Claire: (still smiling and friendly, to Annie) You should see her family!

Me: (starting to smile because I am vain, I know she is going to say that my kids are beautiful)

Claire:  Seriously, you should see them around town or wherever.  They stick out like a sore thumb!

Me: A sore thumb?

Claire: (more to Annie than to me) You should see them, this fair skinned, beautiful all-American family.  Her daughters are really beautiful and then you see these boys.  They stick out like a sore thumb!

Me: (to Annie) My sons are beautiful, too.

Claire:  Oh yeah, they really are!

~

Later that day I was watching the boys play baseball. Isabelle (no need to change her name), the sixth grade sister of one of the boys on the team, was asking me a few questions about the boys.  How old were they when we got them and so on.  She asked  "Are they blood brothers?"  I told her that they were not biological brothers but they are completely brothers. She smiled and nodded,  I could tell that she totally got that already.

Isabelle was curious.  I loved that she felt comfortable asking me about the boys.  She was sweet and respectful of our family.  She got it.  So many adults don't get it.  I can't count the number of times I have been asked if the boys are brothers. Not biological or blood brothers, they ask if they are brothers.  It always makes me cringe.  Isabelle asked in a way that showed a real sensitivity.  She knew that Mikias and Jemberu were brothers.  Of course they're brothers, they are in the same family, they share parents, sisters, a dog and a last name.  She just wondered if they were always brothers or if they became brothers when they were adopted.  She asked in a way that showed that she didn't see our family any differently than she saw her own.

Although my conversation with Claire and Annie was a little crazy, it didn't make me mad.  Claire is nice.  What she said sounds mean spirited, but it really wasn't. Sure, she made my family sound like some kind of freak show, but she had no idea.  She is not mean.  She is clueless. You can tell the difference.

Claire didn't make me mad.  But Isabelle, that girl made my day.






23 comments:

  1. Well maybe she didn't make you mad ( which of course is all that matters), it kind of makes me sad. Why point things out like that? And what about using a more positive term than "sore thumb?" just sounds rude.

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    1. Hi Annie,
      I agree, sore thumb? There are so many other ways to say that you notice our family because of our differences (and I really think that is all she was trying to say). To be honest one thing that did sting is when, after I said that I had four kids, Claire said, "Yeah but two of hers are adopted." Yeah but. What on earth does that mean? They count less? I am not really the mother of four because I didn't give birth to all of them? I just don't get that.
      As you know, when it comes to adoption, some people just don't get it and probably never will. The good thing is most people do get it or really want to get it right.

      I always appreciate your comments.

      Alison

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  2. I love this. I love that you are so graceful. Let me ask you this- had the adult conversation happened within earshot of one / both of the boys- how would that change things for you? Or at all? As you know my guy is still sort of young and people seem to think he can't hear or they are completely insensitive. But, I fully admit, it's possible I may be oversensitive.

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    1. I would like to tell you that I would have responded in a way that would redirect or shut the conversation down. The truth is, it probably would have gone the same way. It is hard to tell where a conversation is going sometimes until it's too late. For example when I told Claire "they still add up to 4" after she made the 'yeah but...' comment, I would have thought she would think about what she was saying. My boys would have picked up on that comment (if they were tuned in) and would know I was defending their place in our family. Claire, didn't pick up on any of my cues. You can lead a horse to water...
      The thing is that she really had no idea she was saying anything that would be perceived as hurtful or insensitive and because of this I wouldn't change too much or tell her off or whatever. I would however, talk to the boys about it as soon as we left. We would all talk about how stupid some people can be when it comes to knowing what makes a family.

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  3. WOW....some people, huh??
    Jen Bellemare

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    1. For sure, Jen! Luckily the world has a lot more Isabelles than Claires!

      Alison

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  4. I always love your posts! We are waiting to be matched with a minority baby boy from our state and I am trying to prepare myself for awkward conversations and inappropriate comments. I want to always handle myself in love but I tend to be sarcastic sometimes and your stories always help. I feel like humor can always help with the ignorance of others.

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    1. Thank you for this comment. Congratulations on your new baby to be. You are smart to get ready for the inevitable conversations and comments. The most comforting thing to me is the fact that I really believe most people really do mean well and want to get it right. I appreciate you reading my blog.

      Alison

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    2. We just got our sweet baby boy and he is just amazing!
      www.theshaverstory.blogspot.com

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  5. Alison, I wanted to let you know how much I love your blog! It speaks directly to our family in a similar way. We have 2 biological boys and are currently waiting (for a few more years it is looking like) for 2 siblings from Colombia (and yes, we have requested girls). So you see I am learning a wealth of information for my life to come! Please keep sharing! Carrie

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    1. Hi Carrie!
      Thank you so much for commenting. It really encourages me.

      Best wishes as you add to your family. Hope your wait is shorter than you expect.

      Alison

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  6. Oh dear..We have 4 children. All domestically adopted(from birth) Our 4 and 6 yr old are Caucasian. Our 21 month old is of Indian ethnicity and our 3 month old is African American. We always get asked if the two oldest (Caucasian) are bother and sister when they find out our whole family was built through the Blessing of adoption. I also just say "of course"..they usually say "you know what I mean" and I say "and YOU know what I mean.." If they were before us that is part of THEIR story not mine to tell for them.

    Yesterday we had our carpet cleaned..This nice young Christian man asked if my two youngest were brothers...R U KIDDING ME? LOL...To give him an ounce of anything would be I wear my babies and Eli's face was only exposed...but funny as 21 mo old has a very light Indian skin..very light..and Eli is very dark.. Again I said "of course they are..they are all my kids and by default that makes them siblings.." He then goes on and on about how our oldest (white) son and my hubby look exactly alike. i say it's flattering and all , but just happened that way.

    He goes on to say "that's Gods will right there" I started laughing like a crazy women when he left to my husband. He didn't say it was God's will that we were not able to adopt from India due to laws..but here we domestically adopt an Indian American here in our state..he doesn't say "wow your kids are so close in age...God's will" doesn't say "wow..adoption happens for a reason..it was God's will you are a beautiful family.." No he thinks the fact that my son and hubby share blue eyes and a tall stature is "God's will"...

    Oh well.....

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    1. That IS funny! Thanks for sharing this!

      Alison

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  7. there are so many small moments in my life that i can recall or can remember my mom telling me about. there is a lot of cluelessness, and somehow it always takes me by surprise. what a beautiful and insightful young girl isabelle is. sometimes just being seen (and not gawked at) is just what the soul needs. xo

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    1. Hi Mindy!

      I love how you said, "just being seen and not gawked at". You are so right! I am with you, even though I get awkward comments, I am still often surprised by the things people think and say. Isabelle made me feel so encouraged because she is part of my boys generation. Maybe they will be the ones to "get it".

      Thanks for reading!

      Alison

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  8. Great job Isabelle! Allison - I'm so impressed with how you handled the first conversation. I'm sure you've had a lot of practice.

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    1. Hahaha, I have had a lot of practice! The good thing about those kind of (negative) conversations are that I know that most people are more like Isabelle than not.

      Thank you for reading. It means a lot to me.

      Alison

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  9. Wow, that was a lot of Grace you used in this situation. It is so frustrating to me that some people just don't attempt to get it at all. This is my first visit to your blog and it is beautiful!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting! You are right, some people don't even try to get it and there is no way to make people get it.

      I am sure I wasn't as graceful in that conversation as it seems. No matter how hard I try, I wear my feeling on my face.

      Alison

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  10. absolutely beautfiul family!

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  11. I am amazed! wow. people don't think much, do they?! Love your blog.

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    1. No they really don't! There seems to be no shortage in sight of blog material for me :)

      Alison

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