Thursday, April 24, 2014

One Question, No Assumptions

During our years of training and reading, I learned to expect that people would be intrusive, possibly aggressively nosy, about my adopted son and his story. Particularly since we are now a multiracial family, there would be questions and assumptions made about who we are and who he is. My first few forays into public I would run through my head the things I was planning on saying, the responses I had carefully crafted in the face of a possibly offensive question.

But here's the deal. Littlest man has been home now for almost 4 months. And in those four months, we haven't been asked anything offensive. Intrusive, yes. Offensive, no. Do strangers come up to me? Sure. Do random people strike up conversations at school pick-up who didn't even notice I existed before now? Of course they do. Why? Because he's pretty darn cute and because they are curious.

Curiosity is not a sin, the last time I checked. It's what you do with it that can either educate or wound.

I've found that there is one question we are asked that is my favorite.

"Who is this little guy?"

One question, no assumptions. It gives me, his mom, the freedom to answer in several ways depending on who this person is and what relationship I have to him or her. To the random stranger, I answer "this is my son". To the person I've met once or twice and who is usually the parent of one of my older son's school friends I tend to answer "this is Josh's brother." If I know them a little better, they probably get his name in response, too. If they want to take the conversation further, it is up to them to ask more questions. If I want to open up the conversation further for them because I trust them, I can take it further with my answer.

I am in no way ashamed of his story. I am not hiding his adoption. And I know we will not always be approached with my favorite question. In fact, I had the following conversation with a total stranger in a restaurant:

Woman: "Wow, he's cute. Is he yours or is he adopted?"
Me: "Well, thanks, I think he's cute, too. And yes, he IS mine. And he WAS adopted."
Woman: "When are you going to tell him?"
Me: "I told him on his way home on the day we adopted him. It's part of his story and always will be. Nothing to hide."
Woman: "Oh. Ok. Well, congrats!"
Me: "Thanks!"

Some people would say this woman was too intrusive. Certainly, I would never ask someone I didn't know these kinds of questions. But I had the choice of answering defensively or I using it to educate. It's not that he IS adopted. It's that he WAS adopted and is now every bit my child as is his older brother that is sitting right next to his look-alike father. His identity now is my son. And the whole "keep it secret until some perfect moment down the line when you reveal the truth" thing is just not how we do it anymore. Nor has it ever worked for long with a transracial adoption, for obvious reasons. Why should we be quiet about his story with him? Is there shame in it? Something to hide? No. Certainly, we'll tell harder truths about it at appropriate times, but from the start he will know his story and we will celebrate the good in it and mourn the hard.

I have known from the start that I would have to deep into deep wells of grace and patience as we walk this road. Not everyone we meet will approve of what we've done. People will say hurtful things, intentionally and unintentionally. But it has been refreshing to see that for at least for this first part of our time as a family, most of what we've gotten is simple curiosity. I in no way think this will always be the case, that we will never hear anything hurtful. But in the meantime, I'm grateful that during this process as we are figuring out what all this means, we have felt overwhelmingly supported and encouraged. I'm hoping that God will use this time to keep digging those wells deeper so that when the hurtful comments do come, I can respond in ways that do not wound back. I have enough friends who have done this to know that crazy things will be said and that there will be times I have to be a voice of truth and grace. Even this week, a video was circulating that put a humorous spin on what not to say to adoptive families. Clearly this is an issue and I appreciate people who are taking the time to make things like this to help the rest of us know how to put the right words to our questions.

Right now, we are just going to keep figuring out what it means to be a family of four, juggling feedings and naptimes with soccer games and birthday parties, snapping pictures when we can remember to charge the camera, keeping the dog from eating the baby's spit-up and welcoming the questions that do come, because that means he really is finally home with us.

That, after all, is the most important thing.

"Who is the little guy?" He's ours.

1 comment:

  1. Amen. Well said. I once had an 11 year old who had been adopted tell me how special he felt because his parents had chosen him and he went on to tell me that he had a leg up on others who were trying to figure out what it meant that they were adopted into God's family since he already felt deeply loved by his human adoptive family.