November is National Adoption Month. This makes me somewhat conflicted. While I write about the topic of adoption a lot it doesn't come up that often in our daily lives. We are a family first, a family brought together by adoption second. There are many ways to celebrate this very important month - and while our family really won't be actively celebrating I can say that adoption has been on my mind lately. Between our current adoption journey and all the media hitting my in box this month the theme of adoption has been constantly running in the back of my mind. It is the background music to which I live my life. It isn't always like this. Like any other "big" family issue it ebbs and flows. Every family has something - a child with a disability or health concern, an open adoption with the birth mom in the picture, an ailing parent that needs constant attention.
I have been thinking a lot lately about our second child. While this new addition to our family probably won't look like my husband and me he or she will most likely look more american than our son. I wonder how this will affect their sibling relationship as they grow. We knew when we chose to adopt from China that we were embarking on a life lived out loud, somewhat. Other adoptive families can pick and choose when they wish to share their adoption story, sometimes I feel as though our story is tattooed across our foreheads for all to see. And a life lived so publicly often invites unwelcome, odd, and sometimes downright funny comments from complete strangers. So, in honor of National Adoption Month I have chosen a few select moments from our first adoption journey to share.
While at a store with my 16 month old son who had been home with his forever family for less than a month I was asked "Does he know he is adopted?" Um, he is 16 months old. He doesn't know he is wearing socks. The complex theory of adoption may be a little too much for him right now.
I have gotten this question at least a handful of times ; "Is he your natural child?" Of course he is natural- if he were 'artifical' I would have gotten a model that actually listened and didn't run around like a maniac.
"He really seems to like that stuffed panda, it must remind him of home." OK.... if by 'home' you mean our home, in Columbus, Ohio, then yes, you might be right. If you mean China, then, uh, no.
"Where is he from?" My response to this depends on my mood: You tell him where you are from first is one of my favorites. Sometimes I say what I want my son to hear: Matthew is Chinese, I am Italian, and his daddy is Welsh, and we all live in Columbus now.
"How much did it cost?" I always answer that I would be happy to direct the questioner to an adoption agency that can answer their questions. What I want to say is, why, are you planning to reimburse me?
Matthew and I were at Tower City in Cleveland a few Christmas's ago and he was sitting in his stroller, watching the water jump to the music. A young asian girl, a little older than Matthew, came running up to him and shoved a Cleveland Cavaliers stocking cap on his little head, saying "he looks like me so he should wear this." Matthew just stared at her with huge eyes, not sure what to make of this odd young girl. Her mother was mortified, but I get it. She was probably just entering the age where children start to notice differences. We have not entered that phase in our journey yet.
And my personal favorite: "Does he like chinese food?" Well, you look Italian, so I am going to assume that you eat a lot of linguine while cloistered away in the back of a dark restaurant plotting against those who have wrong the family...
We live many of our very private moments in a very public way, and we do it because our love for our little guy is so much stronger than our discomfort of this public scrutiny. As we plan to bring a second child into our lives we know there will be more questions and thoughtless comments. And we are ready. My mother used to tell me that there would never be a need for my sarcasm. I beg to differ. A little friendly sarcasm has diffused many an uncomfortable public situation. I may not have passed on my DNA to my children, but I am looking forward to passing on my wit!