It had to happen eventually

If you’ve ever adopted a child of a different race, or considered it, you’ve read about the questions and comments you’ll face from other people. Things have certainly improved in our country over time. I can’t imagine what adoptive parents went through in the ’60s, ’70s and even ’80s. But I’ve sensed a wider degree of acceptance over the past decade. I, for one, have never even thought twice about families made up of kids and parents of different races.

But the same doesn’t hold true of everyone.

As we loaded Dev onto the train at the zoo the other day, we sat behind three giggling girls. I’m guessing they were around 6 or 7. Two adults sat in front of them. I think they were part of a school outing. They were all very excited. And so was Devin. It was his very first ride — on a train!

He sat on Scott’s lap and I leaned over to talk to him and point out things as we chugged along. I also, as I tend to do, kissed his cheek a few times and ruffled his hair. One of the girls in front of us took great interest in us. I saw her staring intently at Devin. When she caught my eye, she grinned, so I thought it wasn’t a big deal.

Halfway into the ride, she turned around again, assessed Devin, then announced to me and Scott, “Brown kid. White people. Now that’s weird!” She grinned again and turned around.

Oh. My. God. He’s been living with us for 19 months and I’ve never ever heard one of those comments. I knew we would face these things, but I can’t tell you how much it hurt to hear it. I froze. Scott and I looked at each other. Scott kept talking with Dev about everything he was seeing. Because the fact is, Dev noticed nothing. It didn’t register with him. But my face was flaming and my eyes were tearing up. And I was struggling to even look at that girl. Girl. Child. Innocent. Argh. How could she know to say something like that? And how could she be raised in a family where she would even think it was odd to see parents and children who don’t “match.”

Well, now that it’s happened, I can move on, right? Nope. I think each time it’s going to hurt. Knowing me. I just have to figure out how to deal with it in the most positive way so that I can help Dev get through these things once he begins to understand how hurtful words can be.


12 thoughts on “It had to happen eventually”

  1. be proud, lori. you are the perfect family; you defy borders; you are universal. i think that this certainty will protect dev from any small-minded hurtfulness he may encounter.
    i have a friend who has loved her korean daughter and her colombian son into self-assured adulthood. they overcame the few bad bits because the many good bits were so much better. 🙂

  2. Brown?!? Which Devin did you have with you?

    -Regardless, next time a kid that young gives you a problem just tell ’em Santa isn’t real.

  3. It does hurt as a parent for your child to be perceived by others as different. Somebody told me that’s why Melissa was assaulted by another little girl at 2 1/2 years in ballet class. I refused to believe it but I guess there is some truth to it.

    Just remember that their ignorance is their loss, not yours. My heart goes out to you. Be strong.

  4. I don’t want to make light of how you feel, but the little girl was probably just trying to put two and two together, and it wasn’t making sense to her. And, of course, at that age they say whatever is on their minds. IE: “Mom, your butt feels like jello and Daddy’s butt is like an acorn” Yeahhhhh, outta the mouth’s of babes they say. Still can make you feel crummy though. 🙂

  5. I don’t want to make light of how you feel, but the little girl was probably just trying to put two and two together, and it wasn’t making sense to her. And, of course, at that age they say whatever is on their minds. IE: “Mom, your butt feels like jello and Daddy’s butt is like an acorn” Yeahhhhh, outta the mouth’s of babes they say. Still can make you feel crummy though. 🙂

  6. I’m sorry you had to face that. It was bound to happen, but doesn’t make it any easier! I used to get comments from strangers too, and I’m the same race as my adoptive family (why are you so skinny and your mom’s so fat? Why are you blonde and no one else in your family is?) It’s just an annoyance, really, kids say the DUMBEST things! Let it fly, let it fly.

  7. I would have slugged her (or at least wanted to). It would have taken all my strength not to give her a thorough dressing down that included the word fuck.

  8. Both of my adopted parents are white. I am Korean, my sister is half Korean, half African-American. My two brothers are white (my adoptive parents natural children), and my two youngest sisters are hispanic. Six kids in all (I am the oldest).

    I don’t know if this helps, but when I was younger I had a problem with being different. I didn’t handle it well. I hated having slanted eyes while my parents had “normal” ones. I can’t speak for how my half Korean, half black sister felt, but I’m sure she had her own identity issues as well.

    But now, when my family is gathered all in one place, all eight of us hold our heads high with pride. Because you get to a point where you don’t see colors and differences, but see them as those you love and depend on. And there are seven people that I can look to at any time, for any thing. And because you have that knowledge, you really could care less about what anyone else thinks.

    You are giving Devin a family. You and your husband know and appreciate that, and in time, so will Devin. I promise. And if people are smart, they too will realize that.

  9. Lor, I think you should really try to not focus so much on the words and delivery of what she said, and what handfuls of other people are going to say in the future, and focus on the meaning and intent. This was a child saying something, not an adult, and it was not said to be mean, in my opinion. If anything, it was the perfect time to smile and kindly hand her a clue because if you guys appeared weird to her then she is sheltered and it’s not her fault. Or she just hasn’t encountered this particular situation before. I don’t necessarily think she was criticizing Devin for being ‘brown’, if anything, she thought you two being white was the problem. I think something else would have been said if she had a problem with him being Asian, like what someone said to my Sister with a disgusted look on their face, “Why on Earth would you want BLACK children????” Ignorance isn’t something to be surprised about, it should be expected. Handle it the same way you would want Devin to handle it when he’s asked why his parents are white. Love ya! T.

  10. Och remember the old saying:-
    Sticks & stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me

  11. I know from experience how shocking these comments can be the first couple of times you hear them. The good thing is, children of this age (6-7) are generally not very aware of race and are responding just to differences in color. It’s the comments from adults that kill me.

    I have experienced many such comments and questions over the past several years, having a very mixed race family. There are a couple of books I think you would appreciate, if you don’t already have them. The first is especially good: “Inside Transracial Adoption: Strength Based, Culture Sensitizing Parenting Strategies for Inter Country or Domestic Adoptive Families That Don’t Match” by Gail Steinberg, Beth Hallinan. Absolutely worth reading.

    The second is slightly less applicable because it primarily addresses African American racial issues, but also covers general racial identity issues in children: “I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World: A Guide for Parents and Teachers” by Marguerite A. Wright.

    Both of these books will give you ideas on how to respond to such comments with the goal of strengthening your child while educating others. I suspect you’ll soon welcome such comments from kids because they give you an opportunity to provide a little enlightenment or understanding to kids (and adults!) who probably need it. You will be good at that.

  12. I totally agree with sistercat. I think that girl has obviously been taught some unkind ways of thinking. When kids say something about how toby speaks i don’t shy away from it. I talk to them and explain to them that he can’t help it and it’s hurtful to him when kids say mean things. I also try to give them a more appropriate way of questioning because being curious is normal and healthy.

    I also think it makes toby feel good to know that i am there to stand up for him and, hopefully, gives him the confidence to do the same one day.

    I’m sorry this had to happen to you.

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