This post was originally published on July 25, 2011. It is an essay on smiling through the feelings of always being on display as an transracial family. It is being re-posted in honor of National Adoption Month.
It has been three years since my oldest son joined our family. And these first three years have been filled with joy, laughter and the unwelcome stares of thousands of complete strangers. That's how I have been thinking of them - unwelcome. I ignore the looks, usually. But they bother me nonetheless. I just want to parent my child. I am going to have my bad parenting moments, just like everyone else. I am going to have tones of frustration in my voice sometimes. I am going to have to pick up a screaming child and stuff him under my arm as I practically run from the grocery store, or the library. There are going to be times when the floor under the restaurant table is covered in food thrown there by my two beautiful angels. Mama said there'd be days like this, right?
The problem is, before these moments pop up, while we are just that quiet family in the library or that happy family at the restaurant we are still gathering the stares of many of the people around us. So when the tide turns and the bad behavior rears it's ugly head we are already on display.
The other night I couldn't sleep, something that has been happening to me a lot lately. At first I couldn't sleep because I was just so content- suddenly I had all this energy, all from being just so gosh darned happy with my life. Then I couldn't sleep because my return to work date was looming and I knew I was going to walk right back into total craziness. But I found another more family friendly job and gave notice at the old job and so why I couldn't sleep the other night is beyond me. I decided to spend some quality alone time with myself and catch up on my magazine reading.
Skimming through the family and adoption magazines made me think about that day's trip to the grocery store with my boys. As usual, they were relatively well behaved albeit their normal level of boisterousness. And par for the course, we turned our share of heads. But that night I really thought about it. I can't stop staring at my boys. I find them beautiful and sweet and I make eye contact with them on a near constant basis. I truly stare at them. And it is not because they don't look like me. It's not because I am trying to figure out what nationality they are. It is simply because I love them and because they are so cute. So am I that different from everyone out there staring at my boys?
I have to entertain the possibility that people stare because my boys are beautiful. I know a handful of them are trying to work out how they could be related, or what country they may be from. I know some of them are trying to figure out why I chose international adoption over domestic. Some of them are wondering about the situations that led to these beautiful boys needing forever families. But most of them are probably staring because they are sweet and loving children. Simple as that.
So I need to stop letting these stares get to me. But I need to stop ignoring them as well. Next time I will tear my eyes away from my boys and make eye contact with the person admiring my children. And I will smile.