Over the years, onlookers, gapers and completely conspicuous gawkers have asked all the awkward questions — the questions that more people than you believe ask of a family who clearly looks “different” from other families.
Our team, we sometimes stick out in a crowd. One, because our energetic boys are usually leaping and jumping and poking sticks at each other THROUGH said crowd, and two, because one member of our team was clearly born in a different country. Of course, throw in the fact that said member is the most contagiously charismatic creature you have ever met and ALSO dons a wrist brace in the subtle color of construction cone orange, and people everywhere somehow feel entitled to ask questions they would never ask of families with children who resembled their parents and WEREN’T wearing prosthetics that nearly glowed in the dark.
In our two and a half years with Superman in our home, grocery store clerks, Costco shoppers and park patrons have asked if this boy we love so much is our “real” son, if I am “the Asian lady’s nanny” and if we “resorted” to finding a child in China because we couldn’t have our own children. But perhaps my favorite question of all time came from the commissary bagger who, as she helped me load milk and eggs into the back of my car, asked me if I had me an Asian man on the side.
Oh yes, I thought in my head. But shhh, don’t tell my husband. When this one popped out, he didn’t notice. Let’s keep the secret for a bit longer, shall we?
When we first returned with our son from China, I expected the questions.
I’d read books and blogs and articles about all the inappropriate questions people often ask of adoptive families who look different than their newly adopted children. I was one protective mama, armed and prepared and on the defense, ready to spout off a smart remark to anyone who might try to make my son feel different from the rest of his family.
But now, after two and a half years with our superhero in our home and in our community, the crazy questions are less frequent. The stares are less absurd. And frankly, after two and a half years in our home, I often completely FORGET that Superhero 3 is adopted.
Until someone is kind enough to point it out.
This week, as Superman and I attempted to enjoy a special Mommy-and-me lunch at a local Thai restaurant, the hostess took a particular interest in my little man. She even sat herself down at our table to ask questions — about his hand, about his heritage, about his life.
Over the years and as Superman has grown up, we’ve changed our approach with strangers from hushing these conversations the moment they arise to allowing Superman to answer the questions he wants to — as long as the questioner is asking in honoring ways, and only with some protective interjections from Mom and Dad.
Every adoptive family has to consider the dynamics of their family and the personality of their child when addressing this issue, and every family addresses it differently. We’ve discovered that, for Superman, when we CELEBRATE his adoption, HE does, too. When we CELEBRATE the perfect and wonderful way that God created his hand, HE does, TOO. And when we give him the voice and the words and the message that what God has done in his life is something to rejoice about, he walks with confidence. He walks with boldness. He doesn’t question whether his heritage or his history or his hand are things that should be shushed or hidden or not talked about. He doesn't worry if he should be ashamed of them.
And so, as this hostess began asking the questions I knew would follow, I allowed Superman to answer the questions directly that he wanted to answer (after I pointed out to her that he was, in fact, a real person, not a doll, and could speak English and address her like a human).
But when she exclaimed after a few minutes, “Oh my gosh, he actually calls you ‘Mama’!” I put an end to the conversation and, before I lost my Jesus, replied, “Because I AM. He just grew in my heart instead of my belly. And I’m so glad that, after two and a half years, God finally brought us together. He is one of the most precious gifts of our entire lives, and he was beyond worth the wait. MENU, PLEASE.”
The fact that this conversation even took place this week tells me two things: 1. Superman and I need to have a long talk about identity and value and preciousness in Christ (but maybe one shorter than the last talk, which resulted in Superman bragging to all his preschool friends that he could do with four fingers what took them five), and 2. It’s now time to introduce one pastor's boob job rule.
If you wouldn’t say it about a boob job, don’t say it IN FRONT OF an adopted child. :)
Dear America, adoption and orphan advocacy and my children are my PASSIONS, and I will HAPPILY spend all 50,000 of my words each day (because I’m quite certain I have double the words of the typical female) sharing with you every intimate detail of our adoption and how it rocked our world and changed our lives. If we don’t answer those hard, awkward questions, who will? If we don’t engage in those conversations, who will? We are open books on everything from the initial doubts to the middle-of-process financial scares to the cost and the timeline and every detail in between. We KNOW you are only curious, and we WANT to answer every question you might have! Because it’s only when we HOLD THE CONVERSATION that more superheroes-in-waiting can find HOMES! So ASK us the hard questions! SAY the awkward things! Be as politically incorrect as you want with my husband and me BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.
HOWEVER, if you want to ask us the hard questions, please do the hard work of phrasing your questions in a way and in a space and at a time that will HONOR our SON. Not our “adopted son.” Not our “Chinese son.” Just like our other two children, our SON. Because if you ask me a question IN FRONT OF HIM that makes him feel less than insanely valuable and precious in my sight and in God’s, I may just lose my Jesus on you.
In the words of THIS hilarious adoptive father, if you wouldn’t say it about a boob job, don’t say it in front of our baby.
You are welcome. :)