Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Strangers

I have always been pretty open to talking with people about my sons' adoptions, as long as the person making the inquiry at least attempts to be sensitive (and does not say things like, "I can't believe someone would give their baby away"). I tend to assume that people are simply curious about something they do not fully understand, and it makes me feel good to spread the word about a wonderful experience. But lately I have been wondering about how this affects my oldest son. He is starting to talk a little bit more about adoption and is often around when people start asking questions. Yesterday we went to a new yoga studio to try out their kid's class, and one of the teachers at the studio approached me after class and asked if my son was adopted. When I said yes, she looked at him and said, "I was adopted too" and we talked briefly about where they were each born in Korea. Then she said to me, "My husband and I have one of our own. We want to adopt too, but the first baby was such a good experience that we plan to have two of our own and then adopt." I'll admit that I had to pick my chin up off the floor after that. When I told my husband the story he chuckled. We have been well versed in adoption rhetoric and he knows that particular phrase gets under my skin. My students often ask if I plan to have "kids of my own" and I generally reply, "I already have two, see?" while showing off their pics. I worry that this woman heard the phrase once too often during her childhood and is now using it to describe her biological children in some sort of twisted hierarchy. My son heard her use it and witnessed his mother saying nothing to correct her. Witnessed his mother making no effort to protect his story or identity in the family. At what point does casual conversation with strangers become something potentially hurtful to my children? He has already started having to answer questions that really aren't anyone else's business. Perhaps I need to teach him how to say things like, "That is a personal question that I am not comfortable answering." Somehow I don't see that coming out of his mouth. He generally shares oodles of personal information with strangers and seems to have no qualms about airing our family story. I did notice yesterday that when he was asked if he was adopted, he immediately began talking about his brother. Witnessing the process with John seems to have helped him understand what it means to be adopted (although for a while he believed that every baby arrived on a plane from South Korea), and instead of speaking about his own experiences he relates everything to his brother. Perhaps his own story is too abstract, the details too fuzzy. I wish I could crawl into his head and figure out what he thought of all of this.

1 comment:

Jess said...

Oh, this is not easy. I wish we lived closer to sit down and chat about this stuff. Emma's five now and really exploring what it means to be adopted, becoming aware of her eyes, hair, and skin and how they are different from mine, etc.