It doesn’t happen often.
But, it happens.
It’s not going to stop.
“Excuse me,” is how it begins. When I have a loaf of bread in hand, examining ingredients and calorie counts. When I’m loading my car in a windswept parking lot. When I’m at the community center watching my girl leap and jump and twirl.
“Would you mind telling me,” they ask:
a.) Is that little girl yours?
b.) Where did you get her?
c.) How long did it take? How much did it cost?”
Most of the time, the questions spill out of the mouths of well-meaning folks. Maybe they are considering adoption but haven’t done the research. Maybe they are in the process and want to compare notes or seek reassurance that their dreams soon will be realized. Maybe they never learned about boundaries.
Once upon a time I lived on the other side of the fence.
I remember when:
a.) The concept of adoption first slipped through a small opening in my wounded heart. Suddenly I saw adoptive families everywhere. I desperately wanted to know how that child became a part of that family.
b.) We were in the process and we would see a newly formed family so absorbed in their attachment process, that I couldn’t bear to pierce the bubble they’d built around themselves. Besides, at that point I knew where to go to ask questions and find families more than happy to share their journey.
c.) We were waiting for what felt like a century for our referral to come in. The longer the days and weeks stretched out, the more painful it became to see a happy adoptive family having dinner at a restaurant or shopping for school supplies at Target. I had an almost uncontrollable urge to approach these families and just be with them, hoping their good fortune would rub off on me. I wanted their assurances, support, and blessings. I never gave in to those urges.
Now, when I’m approached, I feel two things at once. I am both flattered and annoyed.
I’m flattered that our family story is of interest to others.
I’m annoyed that someone couldn’t find a more discreet way to satisfy his or her curiosity. (To be fair, many truly interested people have pulled me aside out of my daughter’s earshot or used less confrontational methods to convey their interest. In those cases I am more than happy to be accommodating.)
I understand what it means to be inquisitive for personal research, to have heartache for what I have, to have sincere curiosity. I try to answer questions quickly and refer people to the Internet or a local adoption agency. I remind myself that when we signed up for this, we knew we were stepping into a spotlight of sorts, that we would be perceived as spokespeople for this journey. I try to remember that my daughter is watching and listening to how I respond.
But sometimes people are just plain rude and cross the line of decency. It is no more acceptable to approach someone in a wheelchair and blurt, “Where’s your other leg?” then it is to act as if my child is invisible and ask, “How much did she cost?” as if she were sold in the bulk food aisle.
Please don’t reduce my child to a commodity.
Once, I asked a woman how much her biological children cost her, because after all, no child arrives without a price tag.
I wish it would stop. But it won’t.
We are conspicuous only to you. What we see is our beautiful child. What she sees is her loving family.
The world, however, has its eyes wide open. The world, without meaning to, will burst our bubble.
Last week my Girl from the East started her first year of preschool. No longer is she safely cocooned in our fuzzy, pink bubble of attachment, with her mother and father to deflect the world’s arrows and daggers. No longer is she sequestered in her Mandarin school with look-a-like families and abundant tolerance.
Now my girl will begin to tell her own story and see how the world receives it. Now we must build her strength and pride and keep it strong. Now we must fortify our own resolve for the eventual hard knocks that all children face.
World, please be kind to my girl.
Give me the strength and wisdom to do the right thing when the world doesn’t honor my wishes.