Hurtful or Paradigm Shift

From time to time, people make comments about my kids that rub me the wrong way. I realize this is not unique to me. All moms think their kids are perfect. If the comments center around my children’s adopted status and/or their history though, I become a little more on edge – even with all my years of helping others with conflict resolution. Because when it comes to my kids, I forget I know how to process comments and only hear through my mom ears.

Mostly prompted by a comment someone made to me last week, I have been giving this topic some thought. The person who made the comment is someone I know well. I like and respect this woman. In my opinion, she is one of the good guys. Certainly her comment was not intended to be anything other than a supportive and kind gesture.

I have developed a standard answer to this comment as we hear it with more frequency than I like. The comment itself I know is well intentioned – but very short sided. And that is when it hit me. I like this woman and I know her to be a good person. The issue here is not about my friend being judgmental. The issue is about helping my friend shift a paradigm. She deserves more than a standard response.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of judgmental people who make insensitive comments about others. Truth be told, we all have the ability to fall into this camp for any number of reasons. Over time, I have developed some safe standard responses and can keep my composure for the most part (on the outside anyway).

A few months ago, we went to a dinner party with the kids. These were supposed to be safe people. Many family, some friends, but all of them close. As I walked in with my kids glued to my legs and behind (this is their chosen method of entry into a new place), one of the ladies came towards me and began to ask me questions about our adoptions and foster experience. Now, this is not someone that would ordinarily take an interest in others so I was excited to have something we could chat about.

She asked three questions in a row without a pause. “What county were your kids adopted in? What is their real mom’s name? Did she have another baby six months ago?”

Wow!!! I tried to peel my kids off quickly and send them to daddy in the other room but before I could, this woman began to data dump without actually waiting for a response to her questions. I realized then that she wasn’t really interested in conversation and something more unpleasant than “real mom” was coming my way.

She explained, “I know all about this foster business now. I know how you have to wait six months and everything (waving her hand dismissively in my face). I have a friend who is adopting and the baby is six months old and is a (insert derogatory descriptor here) baby just like your kids and maybe they’re related…”

I peeled my apparently invisible children off me and asked them to find daddy. As I turned to follow behind my kids I said to her, “Well, I guess we are very lucky that you are so well informed.”

Hurtful or paradigm shift? What do you think? Uninformed? It took every ounce of discipline in my entire body to not open up a can of verbal whoopass. I can understand the “real mom” comment. I don’t like when it comes at me. However, I do get she was trying to identify bio mom. My oldest calls her the belly mom. I will even agree that our close friends and family probably do know about the foster adopt experience through our eyes. This is our core group of support that we have leaned on and rejoiced with. Although none of them would profess themselves to be experts.

I am not entirely sure about the “maybe they are related” comment though. I can’t imagine she really thinks they would be related only because of similar history. I try hard to give her a pass on that one. Perhaps she was trying to make a connection. I am still on the fence. My biggest issue with that exchange was that it happened in front of my kids as though they were invisible. Or worse yet, not invisible but rather inconsequential. It is one thing to make a derogatory remark about my kids to me, but when you do it in front of my kids it is a whole new level of wrong – that’s a super sized can of whoopass.

What my friend said was not even in the same neighborhood as the exchange above. We were talking about some of the challenges one of my girls is facing right now and she said, “I think what you and your husband are doing is great. They are lucky you adopted them.”

I always feel uncomfortable when people say that. The truth is, I am very lucky they came into my life. I know my friend meant that in a very supportive and complimentary way. What I want is to help others to understand how it feels on this side to hear that particular comment (or variations thereof). This is at least true for my husband and me but from my conversations with other adoptive parents, I know it is true for others.

First let me start by saying I am a parent. I am a parent to my three perfect, mess making, tantrum throwing, nose picking, no chore doing, loud, silly, huggy, kissie, whiny-pouty-arm crossing, homework avoiding, beautiful, loving kids. While many parents chose to have children biologically, we had ours through adoption. In reality, God chose to introduce us to our children who were waiting for us in foster care. Although I had a drop-down, drag-out fight with fertility, the truth is we were always meant to go down the path we ultimately chose. I feel it in my soul.

At any rate. I am every bit as much a normal, ordinary, real parent as anyone who decided to grow their family through biology instead of adoption. I am not better than or less than. I am just a parent. If I told my friends that I thought it noble they decided to have biological children I might get some weird looks. Let me try another favorite: Did you try to adopt first and fail?

See what I mean? How we get to the title parent is a very personal journey. I think anyone who fully embraces the challenge of caring for and raising children to be good adults is doing something noble. High five to all my fellow parents.

But we have some work to do in our society with this one. Paradigm shift. There is still a stigma associated with adoption particularly foster/adoption. These are children, who through no fault of their own find themselves without parents. They don’t need to be rescued. They don’t need super heroes. They need normal, ordinary, real parents who have love to give. See, no different than biological kids.

I am not going to lie. There are challenges we have had to work through because of their specific history. Education, counseling, friends, and family have all been good resources. I have yet to meet a parent – even those with perfect biological children – who never had to face a challenge. All the parents I know step up and tackle any obstacles that come their children’s way head on. That’s what we proud-badge-wearing parents do. We step up for our kids. I am not heroic in my actions. I am a parent.

If you stumbled upon this post, I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. If I sent you to this post personally, please know the following:

I love you and think of you highly. But I want you to know that I am just a parent. Not perfect, not super parent. Just a parent. And that is perfect for me.


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