standing {out} for {something} good

February 4, 2010 Andrea, transracial adoption 7 Comments

Wanted or unwanted, being a transracial family means we attract attention.

Just today, my girls and I were eating lunch when an older lady sitting nearby asked, “What part of Asia are they from?” and then asked if she could give each of my girls a dollar bill. We kindly accepted the monetary gift even though it felt a bit odd. My daughters were delighted to get a treat but I was left wondering what motivated her actions. Would she have still done this if my children were white or if I were Asian? There was another young mom and her toddler that did not receive any attention from our fellow diner.

Living in a very homogeneous part of the country, we are used to standing out. Most of the attention we draw is from prospective adoptive families or fellow adoptive families. Then there are the well wishers that want to say something to affirm our decision to adopt internationally. Even if their wording may not be well crafted, I try to be polite and thankful in my responses. I’d rather affirm them for their ability to recognize adoption, which I hope is the first step to understanding the blessing of adoption. Our family can show the world that adoption is what we wanted… not what we ended up with as some still believe.

I didn’t always like being in the spotlight but now, like it or not, I am an ambassador for the adoption community. While most of the attention and comments are kindhearted, there have been some that were motivated out of banal curiosity or worse racial prejudice. Thankfully these incidents are few and far between, but now that my oldest is 5-years old, she remembers them with great clarity…more importantly she remembers how I handle myself in these situations.

While playing at our neighborhood park last year, a young boy called my daughter a racial slur directed toward Chinese which I won’t repeat. He also insisted she must be a laundry maid because her hair is black. Since he was maybe 5-years old, I’m guessing his poor opinion of Asians and Hispanics was taught to him by his parents. And because he was at the park with his less than observant nanny, I couldn’t even speak to a parent to address his terrible behavior (which wasn’t limited to his mouth). So I did the next best thing and spoke with the boy directly and told him that this is a place to have fun, not be mean, and that his comments were hurtful and cruel. I thought about leaving at that moment, but decided to put my daughter on the swings where she would be “safe” but still enjoy her special trip to the park.

I never had to deal with these issues when I was a child. I spent 30 years of my life blending in. With the exception of living in Japan, I have always been able to disappear into a crowd of Caucasians. Nothing about my hair color or height is remarkable, but when I became a mom of an extremely outgoing Chinese baby, I discovered I would never be in the shadows again. And frankly, I’m okay with that, because if one member of my family is going to stand out, I want to make sure she isn’t standing out there alone.

There are things that make each of our families unique. Some differences are visible, such as transracial adoption or a special need, but most are less visible, such as our values and our beliefs. Our family and our children will always be noticed in some way. When we do stand out, I want to stand for something good. I don’t want others to just see charity for an orphan (which may have prompted the $1 gifts). I want them to see the joy of adoption, the genuine love of a mother for her children and the blessing of those children. It is a message all parents can portray, but as we stand out in adoption we have more opportunities to say it.

7 responses to “standing {out} for {something} good”

  1. Sarah says:

    Thank you for posting your experiences and thoughts. The racial type comments about our adoption have been the topic of many conversations in our home recently. Your insight will help me to articulate my responses. Thanks again!
    God's blessings,
    Sarah 😀

  2. Wife of the Pres. says:

    You are right on, but I have to say about the older couple and the dollar bill–I've had this happen before with my boys (before LM came home) and they are as blond-haired and blue-eyed as they come! So, I think elderly people sometimes just come from a different generation and they are often more forward with our children than we in this generation are comfortable with if that makes sense. It would have felt weird to me though too, but I don't know that it had anything to do with them being Asian. It might have had more to do with them being girls or just that you warmed up to them and spoke to them. I don't know … just some thoughts.

  3. Kim says:

    Beautifully written … like all your posts Andrea. I can relate on so many different levels as someone who grew up blending in … and now cannot blend in if I tried. As an adoptive family, living as expats, as believers, with a family of seven in Hong Kong … we do not blend in or fit in anywhere! And my prayer continues to be that we "stand out for all things GOOD"!
    Love & Blessings from Hong Kong,

  4. Chris says:

    Yeah, we don't blend in very well either anymore. I like what you said about not letting your daughter be noticed by herself.

  5. The Gang's Momma! says:

    Great post. Thanks for articulating it so well – that if you have one who is going to stand out, you are going to make sure she's not standing alone. I love that. That's my prayer for our whole family. I also loved the part about the extremely outgoing Chinese daughter – we have one of those on our hands. Charms every single person she meets – knows how to get a smile out of the most stoic face. All from the safety of Momma or Big Brother's arms, of course 🙂

    And I agree with "Wife of the Pres" – we had that happen all the time when our oldest two were little boys – one blond with blue eyes and one brunette with brown eyes. I think that generation just likes to acknowledge sweet, well behaved kids and love on the a little. I think they also remember what a THRILL little ones get with a quarter or a dollar. One old man even paid for both boys' happy meals once – so sweet. Take the blessing, there's too many other times that that generation can be negative and grumpy about multi-cultural families, right?! Thanks again for the great post.

  6. Kristi says:

    Blending? What's that? My extremely outgoing Chinese child is the noisy one ~ my son. He demands attention at every turn, but he sure is a charmer.
    Yep, I totally understand where you are coming from.

  7. Donna says:

    We have so many different ethnicities here in our community so it seems like nobody stands out. When we were in China adopting our girls, we got noticed all the time but when we returned home, nobody ever did a double-take. When we visit our family in Santa Fe, we attract lots of attention and that's a sharp contrast to our every day life so it's really noticeable. The girls don't seem to mind but I think it might get old if it happened all the time.

    I love your writing and I've been thinking about your post for a while (I thought I already commented). I even borrowed your topic in my post this month. It's a subject just about everyone can relate to.

    Our Blog: Double Happiness!

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