Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In which I try and not step on any toes...

There's one particular phenomenon, in the land of many adoption related phenomenons, especially when you have children who have a different skin tone than you.  It USUALLY comes from very well meaning individuals who are just curious about your diverse looking tribe and in my case a very large diverse looking tribe.  These scenarios sometimes look a little something like this.  I stroll (read clamor) into our sweet little lakeside park for lunch (offered FREE during the summer) and trailing  behind me is my gaggle of delightful brown children.  We are obviously not biologically connected in any way, shape or form.  Even my lightest skinned kiddo is leaps and bounds too dark to warrant me being married to a black man and ending any curious questioning or assumptions.  We are a family made entirely by adoption and at this point everyone knows it.  To clarify, this actually doesn't bother me at all and truthfully I don't notice almost 80% of the time.  It's the life and path God chose for us and that He chose for our kids so at this juncture it's pretty normal for ME.  One of the many things I love about our community is the amount of adoptive families we have around us, even white parents who have adopted black children which is amazing!  I love that my kids have peers in their life who at some point could be a sounding board for struggles and a really really beautiful relationship of understanding what pain and loss in this heartbreaking form feels like.

"Where did they come from?"
"Are they all siblings?"
"Did you GET them when they were older?"
"You did a really great thing by bringing them home to your family."
"How did you find them?"

These very pointed and personal questions have been asked of me in front of my kids, in fact almost all of these happened during one agonizingly long conversation with a woman at the park who is also an adoptive mother.  Was I mad at her?  No.  Was I surprised at her candor after only having met me two minutes before?  Yes.  I left the park that day with the most curious feelings of are these questions really accepted and deemed appropriate in the adoptive community?  I am all about resources and support and laying my crap bare but that's ME, that's my crap, I get to decide when and how to share it.  If that's with a perfect stranger, go for it.  But I'm talking about their stories.  Their sad and painful stories full of deep pain and loss and so much confusion.  Their stories that are littered with abuse, neglect, abandonment, exposure, mistreatment, mistrust, fear, inadequacy and the list goes on.  Would you like it if someone told your story to a stranger?  If they didn't ask your permission to share it and maybe even got some of the details wrong?  I think sometimes our community of adoptive families wants so badly to be forthright and helpful and transparent but we're missing the mark in a large way.  Our kids, especially foster kids, are stripped of any kind of privacy once they come into care.  They have multiple workers who know their story.  They have advocates who know their story.  They have public records of court documents a mere google search away.  Sometimes they have multiple foster families who know their story and nothing is sacred anymore.  I agree that information sharing is necessary in our social services system but the amount of turn around is so immense that it just becomes a runaway train.  I don't believe that this can be helped within the bounds of child protective services but can it not be helped among the families harboring these sweet hurting souls?  It's important that you understand the tone of what I'm writing is not angry.  It's desperate.  I am desperate for discretion.  I am desperate for protecting what little they have left.  I am desperate for us to come together and learn how to share the struggle without sharing THE struggle.  To step away from the little listening ears and ask advice about a particular situation.  I have failed at this multiple times and I think that's what really struck me that day at the park.  I'm just as guilty for answering those questions in great detail as she is for asking them.  How can I politely respond while protecting their privacy?  I'm known to be outspoken, sarcastic, and have facial expressions that pretty much sum up entirely what I'm feeling inside.  It's both a blessing and a curse (leaning more towards 80% blessing and 20% curse).

Hear me out on this guys.  Just because you have an adopted/foster child does not give you carte blanche to ask deeply personal questions to a stranger.  I think we know when we see each other, we've got each others backs.  We know what THIS is like.  We don't need to rehash we just need to be discreet, something that THEY don't get to be too often when they have a white mother.  The reality is they aren't just hearing these things from adults, they are also hearing these things from their peers.  Twice this week I had a child come up and ask if they were adopted, once with my daughter and once in front of my other children.  Different is good yes?  Different can sometimes make people rethink what is expected.  It can make white mommies with black babies look less conspicuous.  Different can open up conversations about families and how God decided to bring them all together just like seeing other mom's with babies in their tummies.  We talk about adoption in our house openly.  We talk about how God did this exact same thing for us when He sent his Son as the ultimate sacrifice, we are adopted into His family.  We don't shy away from discussing the concept of adoption or being adopted because it is the life we live.  Let's do each other a favor, let's agree to find our close few and share the gory details.  That's what friends are for.  That's what community is for.  Let's cry and laugh and lament with our close few.  Let's celebrate the moments they call you "mom", when you see the look of relief on their face after returning HOME from a long trip, when they take ownership, when they give in to what they always hoped to feel again...connected.  Loved.  Treasured.

To answer her questions:

Missouri & Florida.
Varying ages.
Thanks.  (I got nothing on this one.  I never know what to say so I have to answer quickly before my facial expressions take over)
The internet.

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