transracial families

an open letter

Dear Patrons of Whatever Store/Mall I Happen to Be Visiting:

Yes, to answer your question he is with me. Believe it or not I do not often follow random toddlers through the store for the fun of it. Though I can see it catching on as a work-out craze.  But no, I am in fact trying to keep up with my son who believes that every long empty aisle is a gift from the running gods, made so he can practice his current running style which is a cross between a trotting horse and an interpretive dance by someone auditioning for “So you Think You Can Dance” who… can’t. I know I could insist he walk nicely next to me throughout our visits but I’m one of those annoying parents who believe as long as it’s safe and he’s not running into people it’s okay to let him express his happiness with speed. Also, I want him to nap a long time today so I can get something done. Like watching The Bachelor.

I am grateful that having a child has reinforced my belief in the goodness of the human heart. Because he gets so many concerned looks from people wondering where his parents are and there’s something really sweet about that. I do sometimes think I’m going to get a shirt that says “he’s with me!” though. Or maybe one for him that says “that white lady back there is my mom, but feel free to go ahead and ask me if I know where she is because I will screech my lungs out at you and run back into her arms which she kind of loves.” That’s a little long maybe.

And to the amazing grandma-type who stood in the aisle with us for a good three minutes and who didn’t get offended when my sometimes shy little guy didn’t want to say hi, thank you. Thank you for complimenting his shoes and then clapping for him when he did a little dance for you. My favorite though was when you started dancing along with him. You kind of made his day. And mine.

-A first time mom of the cute little curly haired boy who just dashed past you

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{{Look! I got him to hold still in a store!! Okay, so it was only because I plopped him down on this chair display to take a picture of his cute outfit for his Gigi but still…}}

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the hood of mother, transracial families

growing up

Thane  has a pretty great dad.  Great as in patient and involved and just an all around amazing guy.  He does this thing with Thane where when he’s  giving him instructions on something  (like not banging the screwdriver against the mirror let’s say) where he gets down at eye level, talks to him gently and then asks Thane to say “yes Dad” to show he understands.  Which comes out a bit more like “yaa daa” and is perfectly adorable.

Then, while taking his bath a few days ago my husband told him not to do something, I can’t remember what, probably not flood the bathroom for the fourth time this week.  And our kid, our sweet adorable  almost 17 month old looks up at him, morphed into a 13 year old before our eyes and replied in a sarcastic tone “yeah yeah.”

Awesome.

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In other news, at Lowes today a lady tried to catch Thane as he ran down the aisle with the intention of returning him to his mother.  Who of course was actually just a few yards away at the time.  So that was funny.  She was a bit flustered when I said he actually went with me.  Which was pretty obvious at that point anyway as he ran away from her and towards me.

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The kid is pretty friendly in public, he smiles and waves like no ones business.  Unless you come within four feet and then God help you because he turns into a screeching banshee.  I kind of feel like I need a sign or something to let people know that because the poor things are just utterly charmed by him and then it all goes south so quickly.  I’m glad he has his boundaries, but hopefully the volume on them will get turned down at some point.

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His language went crazy while we were in CO.  I’m not sure if it was reaching a certain age or the amount of people around or if the conversation was just more interesting (I’m going with the last guess myself.)  All of a sudden he’s more willing to repeat things and I’m loving the ability to actually ask for things instead of playing twenty questions all the time.  Favorites this week are: laundry room, raspberry, and teddy bear (one of our nicknames for him.)  I love when we’re driving around I’ll just go down a list of words for him to try to say.   Context is amusing too.  Like the time his daddy asked him at dinner if he wanted more chicken and he replied “cluck cluck.” Which, yeah, guess that makes sense.

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transracial families

why do you ask?? (and why I wish they wouldn’t)

((Note added Oct 2015: It’s been three years since I wrote this post. I’ve learned a lot since then. But since wordpress keeps suggesting people read this one I’m going to add a link to a newer post that adds a broader view of my take on these things:https://wondermentetc.com/2014/01/22/the-story-that-didnt-start-with-me-birth-adoption-and-honoring-their-story/))

For some reason being a different color than my kid makes people think they can ask me any number of personal questions about him and his history.  I’m not sure why that is.  It’s like the force field of awesomeness that is us when we’re together renders other people’s politeness protocol inoperable.   Or something like that.

Thankfully we live in an area that’s pretty hands-off and live-and-let-live so we haven’t encountered any open hostility towards our families makeup.  I’m grateful for that and I love where we live.  And beyond that the overwhelming number of interactions we have with people are positive.  I’ve been told I have a beautiful family many times and every time it makes my heart go all mushy.

But I’ve still had multiple people ask at grocery stores, etc things like “what happened to his family?” or “why is he an orphan?”

And I don’t think people mean to be insensitive, they just forget that they aren’t asking about the first ten minutes of a movie they walked in late on, they’re talking about a real child’s story.  A story that has lots of feelings and pain and lots of things that shouldn’t happen that did.  I mean most people wouldn’t appreciate being accosted while picking out a jar of tomato sauce and asked about the most painful page in their personal history but for some reason because it’s a child they think it’s okay to ask me in front of him.

For the record, I don’t think it is.  Just because my child needed a second family doesn’t mean the whole world gets a free pass to know the story leading up to that.

I have a bunch of go-to responses for questions I don’t want to answer.  The first is a simple “Excuse me?”  By asking them to repeat what they said I buy myself a little time to think through what I want to say.  I also like “Why do you ask?” for the same reasons.

Another easy  way I’ve found to handle it is to answer the question I want to answer and not the question I was asked.  So in the case of someone asking what happened to his family I might say “You know there are children without families and families without children.  And sometimes we find each other.  My husband and I just feel so lucky that he’s in our life.  He’s an amazing human being and such a fun age too.  Do you have any kids/grandkids?  Oh how nice…”  If I  talk fast and long enough people forget they asked me I think.  If pressed I will say “We’re keeping his story private, it’s his story and I think he has the right to have it just be his until and if he decides to share it.”

One day I’m going to get up the guts to respond by giving them a great big hug and asking when I can come over for dinner.  You know, because obviously they consider us Best Friends Forever and all.

It’s a hard balance to strike I think.  I don’t want him to grow up thinking that his adoption or where he was born is this big bad secret.  So, if asked nicely, I will happily tell people where he was born.  I will also add in where I was born and then probably ask where they were born.  Just to make things even.  But if they ask me where he’s “from” I just give the name of our town and say we all live there together.  And when people ask me if he’s adopted I will smile and say “I’m his adoptive mother, yes”.” Or “He joined our family through adoption, yes.”

I wish though that more people realized that they aren’t the first or second or third person to ask that, they’re one of the endless chorus of people asking us to define our relationship.   And that can get weary I think.  Not so much on me, but on my child.  He shouldn’t have to constantly hear questioned his position in our family.

Here’s what I wish I could say to the world:  if you’re out and about and you run into a family that looks like mine it would be amazing if you would just  treat us like everybody else, and if that means you smile or ignore us I’m good with either.  And if I catch you staring just a little too long at us don’t look away and pretend you weren’t.  Just smile and tell me what a great son I have (or how very well his vocal cords work as the case may be *ahem*.)  And if you aren’t sure how a group goes together maybe just assume they’re a family.  If they end up being the babysitter or a nanny oh well.  And, if all else fails, call me my child’s “Person”.  That works too.

oct 24

oct 24.2

transracial families

conversations that made me laugh

Grocery Store Checker: “That your child?”

Me: “Yes.”

Grocery Store Checker: “He gets nothing from mommy, yes?”

Me: “Well, I think he got my temper.”

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Random lady at grocery store: “Your son is gorgeous .”

Me: “Thank you. He’s certainly cuter than any baby I could make”

Random lady at grocery store: “No…. (looks at me, down at him, up at me) Yeah, you’re probably right.”

{{Picture from August, stories from a few months ago. Trying to find something humorous to occupy my mind this evening.}}

adoption related mushiness, transracial families

dirty mirrors

We have this mirrored wall in our living room.  I’m not sure which previous owner put it there but I’m guessing it was someone who woke up looking slightly better than I do in the morning.  Because running into a reflection of yourself first thing is not my idea of a good way to start the day.

But Thane and I do have this ritual when we see ourselves in a mirror together.  We stop, I squeeze his cheek to mine or give him a kiss and I say “Who’s that?  It’s Mommy and Thane!  We’re a family.  And we look like a family.”

See, I read somewhere that you have to hear a truth twice as many times to counteract a lie you hear so this is my little way of trying to build some sort of defense up in preparation for the first time that Thane hears (and understands) our relationship being called into question because of skin tone.  Maybe it’s a silly ritual.  Maybe it does nothing but make me smile and him smile.  But at any rate it makes that darn mirrored wall just a little easier to tolerate.

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{{Pictures taken in previously mentioned dirty mirror.}}

August

{{Pictures from August.}}

adoption related mushiness, transracial families

tales from a trans-racial family at target

Thane and I went shopping a few days ago. He happily helped me push the cart along until I stopped in front of the stuffed animal section to look for a gift for our maybe-baby’s care package.  Bored with this particular part of the aisle he walked a few yards away from me, past a very pregnant couple, to look at the toys that make noise (a sensible choice I thought.)  The couple said hi to him, he smiled back and then realizing he couldn’t see me he started to wail.

The dad member of the pregnant couple looked completely distressed, backed up so Thane could get a clearer view of me walking towards him, and as he looked at me, and back at Thane, and back at me I could see the wheels of his brain turning. Was I the nanny? The mom? A friend?  He finally stammered out to Thane “It’s okay, your…. your… person is right there!”

It made me laugh.  After the baby was okay, which he was as soon as he could see me.  I like being my little guy’s person.  I accept the title with honor.  I’ll answer to Mommy too of course.

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