Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On the Flip Side

As a family, we get lots of looks. Whether it is all 3 of us out together or Yvan out with wee one alone or me...we get looks.

Yvan has noticed them from the moment we got home. I didn't as much because of the haze I was in but I certainly do now. And even after I came out of the haze I just think I didn't pay attention to it. Until recently where I have been noticing the looks more.

We both noticed it in Ethiopia. Mainly because our hearts were breaking each day as we thought of the day we would fly home and Ade would be leaving his homeland. It literally was the hardest thing to wrap our heads around. One day, when I am ready, I will tell the story of leaving the transition home with him but for now that must remained tucked in my heart.

Many Ethiopians greeted Ade with hugs and kisses! They love their children over there. They are not afraid to give affection to any little ones they see. It is certainly is a "village raising a child" instinct and so wonderful to experience.

There were times people told us how wonderful it was we were adopting him and taking him to Canada. We both hadn't a clue what to say! How do you say to someone who is so happy for him and outright showing it how wrong they are. We are the ones who feel lucky. Lucky to have this wee little dude in our life bringing a whole new energy and perspective.

On the flip side, we also encountered people who clearly did not agree with adoption. It was never said with words. A look can be very powerful and body language says what a million words never could. We completely understood their reaction. It would not be easy watching future generations leave the country to go elsewhere raised by families who do not know the culture of their birth country. We could have told them how we will teach our son about his country and to be proud of his heritage. We wanted to tell them we will make trips back as much as we can so he can see where he started his young life but we didn't. It wouldn't have come across the way we wanted it too. We can only hope we don't let them or him down on this front.

Now we are home and starting to mesh as a family. I think the more comfortable we feel with him the more it shows outwardly to the world. This in turns makes people who don't know us feel they can talk freely to us. (I think people were scared to approach me the first month we were home because of the panic in my eyes that said "I have a kid and he is 2 and I don't know anything about parenting at 2 year old so stay out of my way".)

I believe most people are curious which is natural. We have been lucky in that no one has been outright disrespectful or rude to us but I am sure we will one day encounter an awkward situation or too. As Nicky so eloquently writes there are definitely things to say and things NOT to say to an adoptive family.

This is an example of what not to say:

Sunday afternoon we bundled the wee one up and headed out for a stroll around the neighbourhood to get out of the house for a bit. There is a charming little coffee shop just a few blocks a way and since the wind was chilly we decided to head their for a coffee/tea/snack break. As soon as we entered the shop we got a whole bunch of "Awww look at him, he is sooooo cute" remarks. We get this a lot. But for the most part people kept their distance.

One lady however, wanted to chat with us. She opened up the conversation with "We have friends who went over and got a little one from Africa." We asked where in Africa they had adopted but she didn't remember. She "oooh'd and awwwww'd" over wee one for a bit. As we were getting ready to leave she said to me "My daughter is trying to get pregnant and if they can't they are going to go get one". I said "You mean adopt a child?" And she said, "Yes, they will go over and get one".

After we left the coffee shop I told Yvan what the woman had said to me and we both conversed about how it was silly to think her daughter would "just go over and get one". I could have told her how long the wait can be. How much scrutiny you go through not to mention the mountains of paperwork needed. I should have shared our story about how it took 18 months to bring our son home after waiting 20 months for his referral. If we were feeling snarky we could have said "They don't have booths on the side of the road where you can stop and pick up a child." Which is where my mind went first when made her comment.

I didn't do any of these things.

Partly because I didn't feel like starting a debate or an argument in the coffee shop. We were having a lovely time out and I didn't want to ruin it by trying to teach a lesson to a well-intentioned but uneducated woman I didn't know from a hole in the ground.

Partly because I am sure she was going to tell her daughter she met a family who "got" their child from Africa and how she had told us about her. I can almost see her daughter's face as she told her she had told complete strangers they have been trying to have a baby and were considering "going to get a child" if they didn't get pregnant. Complete mortification I am sure.

And partly because I didn't have the time but had I the time I might have bought her a tea and sat her down.

On the flip side, we were out of town Saturday to visit Yvan's grandma, Ade's great-grandma. We went for lunch and while we were there a table of women behind us commented on Ade and how cute he was. Most everyone notices his eyelashes, which are envied by women everywhere we go!

One of the ladies looked at me and said "Aren't you lucky!"

It took me a moment to respond because this is not what most people say. Usually people comment about how lucky he is to have us for parents, a chance at a good life, yada, yada, but she got it!

She 100% got it!

She followed up this remark with "So many families would like to adopt and it is so hard these days. You are so lucky!"

She is right! We are lucky to have him and we know it!


Carolyn said...

That is great that someone said that you were lucky! We get the "he is so lucky" comments all the time but never the other way around. I also feel the stares that we get when we are out with Leul- they are often followed with stupid comments!


Julie said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean! People have responded to us in many different ways because our boys are visibly not the same ethnicity as we are. In one extreme case we have changed doctors because the doctor we were seeing was uncomfortable touching the boys - can you believe that? There are always people who make strange comments and one of the strangest that we hear over and over is "are the boys brothers"? Well HELLO! yes they are! We are a family! They are brothers! And their biological relationship to one another is for us as a family to teach and learn about as they grow, not for strangers to comment on. We have a lifetime of teaching opportunities ahead of us for sure.

Connie said...

You're so right... you rarely hear people say that the parents are the lucky ones. It's usally the other way around. I think they feel that they're making us feel good for saying that our child is lucky. But it doesn't always feel good.

And the looks don't stop. Some are pleasant, approving smiles and some are looks of disgust and discomfort. They just never stop.

When we first showed our referral photo to some African friends of ours, they pointed out that he wasn't very dark. Then they said this was good, because we were white, so he would suit us better than if he were very dark. It just made me laugh.

CinnamonOpus said...

Congratulations on handling the not-so-pleasant encounter with grace and aplomb. It's easy to jump to the smart remarks, or to just be too dumbstruck to know how to deal with Teh Stupid sometimes. But you showed great restraint, depth of consideration, and grace in dealing with her. Well done!

Claudia said...

HURRAH for lovely strangers. I've been surprised just how many people do get it - not everyone, of course, but far more than I had feared. Must have made your day :)

Dianne said...

That last lady? I really, really like her. The world needs more of her!

The Gaboury's said...

You are lucky. We are all lucky to have our children home. It is so nice to hear that we are the lucky ones(which is the way I feel), because most people say how lucky our children are and how horrible their lives were before coming to Canada. Living in a very small town we get "the look" many times a day. Mostly I don't let it bother me, unless it is a bad look.

darci said...

love this..I just finished reading nicky's post and another linked..so good too! isn't it bizarre the concept people have of adoption? Like "Oh, so cute..I'd love to adopt." ummm....I find myself biting my lip at times to keep from being snarky, and we don't even have our little guy home yet! I can only imagine...
been thinking of you! darci

hazel said...

The last bit of your post made me teary-eyed. I've been blessed with that comment as well.

Sharla said...

I've read your post three times since yesterday and just don't know what to say because there is too much I want to say. We have been the recipients of some hurtful comments and also have been the recipients of comments from Ethiopians thanking us for adopting the kids (it's so humbling and hard to hear that).

Basically, that comment you got from the last lady is what it's really all about. We have been so blessed!

Sarah said...

Such a lovely comment. It nice to know that some people out there get it.