Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guest Blogger: Jamey

Hello friends!  I hope you all enjoyed Patti's post on Tuesday.  Today I am introducing our next guest blogger, Jamey from Zehlahlum Family.  I know Jamey IRL (geek speak for In Real Life), and although I haven't seen her in years, Facebook and Blogger have made us closer than we ever were before.  :-)  Jamey and her husband have 3 children, 1 of whom was adopted from Ethiopia last year.  I love her honesty & transparency... and her willingness to laugh at herself (and her children).  Enjoy!

I get it. You want to ask. I know. I always wanted to ask. I still want to ask. I used to stare. I don't stare anymore because I have to watch my kids...the same ones you're watching. I see it. You see it too. Let's just say it like it is:

My kids are ADORABLE!! It's true and maybe that's even what "you" were thinking, but it's probably not what you were going to say. Let me help you!

Honestly, we haven't really had a problem with people saying awkward/weird/rude things since we've been home. Sure there's been an issue or two, but I haven't even needed to punch anyone in the mouth yet. Another thing that I want to say right off the bat is that I don't mind talking about our adoption with you. It's not a secret or something we're ashamed of that we adopted Boohoo. At this point in her life, she doesn't mind us talking about it so no worries.

Let's say that we're standing next to each other in the grocery store. You notice that my clothing family does not "match " and you want to talk shop about adoption.

Worst: "Is she yours?" Whether you're asking Andrew about me or me about Boohoo I'm going to be upset. You're completely ignoring part of my family and completely objectifying whoever you're talking about. Who do you belong to?

Bad: "Are they all yours?" Well, at least here you've included all of us in your awkward question, but still, this isn't great. Why don't you just ask Andrew, "How much does your wife sleep around, 1 kid worth, 2? All of them? Have you no pride, man?!"

Better: "Was your daughter adopted?" I told you I don't mind talking about this, especially since my daughter is young. If you're being nosy about an older kid you might have to just forget it. What I think makes this okay is that you're acknowledging our relationship--daughter daughter daughter. Don't say 'she', say daughter! Also key, at least to me, was, she was adopted, now she is my daughter. Plus, it's what you want to know so ask it. Probably you're thinking about adopting, or your best friend adopted or you just like adoption. If you don't have a bad attitude I won't either.

Best: "Your children are beautiful." Because that's the truth. But don't just say "your daughter is beautiful" because odds are good that my boys are standing right there too and they are beautiful too.

Worst pt 1: "I could never love somebody else's child." First of all, I hope nothing ever happens to your spouse and you decide to remarry and fall in love with a single dad/mom. Secondly, way to broadcast your shortcomings. Thirdly, she isn't 'someone else's child' your child is someone else's. She is MY child. Fourth, you don't know what you can do until you do it. Put your feet to the street and you might surprise yourself.

Worst pt 2: "You must be such a great/patient person." I'm sorry. Just give me a minute and I will stop rolling around on the floor laughing. I am just a person. I have good points and bad. I have character strengths and character flaws. I'm not anything special. I'm not WonderWoman. I'm "every woman". I can and sometimes do cry myself to sleep at night praying for the patience that my children deserve from me and the grace to bring out the greatness in them. Let me give you my blog url....

Worst pt 3: "She is so lucky." Shoot. This goes right along with the one before this. Lucky is being raised by your parents who have loved you desperately from the time they were dreaming of you until you were placed slippery and squirming into their welcoming arms and every day since then in the country and culture of your birth, healthy and out of reach of poverty. It is not luck that makes lose everything you've ever had and relearn everything you used to know with utter strangers and utter strangeness before your third birthday. If your standard of "luck" is ---hey, she's not dead! then I guess we're all lucky.

Best: "You look like such a great family." That's all you need to say. We are great. And we are a family. Thanks for noticing!

Don't Ask the Following Questions Randomly in Public:

"How old is he/she?" The odds are pretty good that I/other adoptive parents don't know and it involves a long drawn out conversation which while I don't mind explaining will give my children the time to empty every box in the cereal aisle. Instead say, "I have a niece/nephew/godchild/son/daughter that age." Because that's what you're going to say anyway whether my daughter is two or three or four. Besides this just focuses on our common ground and lack of sanity.

"How much did she cost?" Don't say this to me, okay? I might come back and ask you how much the copay on your scheduled unnecessary c-section was and there's no reason for either of us to go there. I can tell you the cost of her ever-expanding collection of shoes and the rising cost of keeping Boohoo in jeans that actually fit her (!), but she did not cost. If you're interested in knowing about the expenses incurred during the legal process of adoption (which is what we did) then you can find that information in about twenty seconds worth of internet research. If you want to talk about those expenses and we're not standing in public and these aren't the first words you utter to me then maybe we can talk about it.

"Did you hear about that mom who sent her kid back?" I did, yes. Did you hear about the 423,773 kids who are in foster care in the States because their parents cannot/will not take care of them? I would be so happy to discuss ethics in adoption and post-adoption resources with you, so happy, but you'd better have some time on your hands. Additionally, I don't want to discuss some things in front of my preschoolers. I know, I'm "sheltering" them, but it's my job as a parent. I won't discuss ways in which adoption isn't permanent in front of my adopted three year old. She knows families don't always mean forever and we're trying our hardest to abate that feeling of uneasiness.

"Why was she given up for adoption?" Let me count the ways that this is not anyone's business. I think that this question still comes up because people don't understand that adoption is built on loss, it's just a big core of loss, wrapped up in loss, covered in more loss, and surrounded by more loss. Maybe when tossed that "ball of loss" landed somewhere nice and comfy, but that doesn't change what it is. If you were standing in line next to a man who was missing a limb would you ask him what happened? Nope. Because you realize that you might get decked, it's none of your business, and it would dredge up intense emotions. Same thing.

I do want to reiterate that I am NOT opposed to talking about adoption, ethics, racial issues, etc. This post might sound defensive, but it's not intended to. I just want people to think before they speak and remember who is listening. There is a lot lot lot more leeway if we are friends or becoming friends, or if we're in a home setting where it's not a creepy thirty second encounter. And then, please remember that my kids are listening and they are smart. I've raised them to believe that adults know how to act respectfully and are smart. Please, don't make a liar out of me!


Jamey... said...

Hi all, I realized last night that my post was going up here tonight and that I forgot to get back to Katy when she told me that the picture in my post didn't work. Please imagine the most adorable picture of my children, ever. :)

Claudia said...

Great post, Jamey!! My favourite part: I would be so happy to discuss ethics in adoption and post-adoption resources with you, so happy, but you'd better have some time on your hands.

Heh. exactly.

MRK said...

On the mark and humorous as always. What DO YOU say when people ask those versions of questions that seem unacceptable when you are in line at, say, Target?

alhaggerty said...

This is great post! We have had far too many inappropriate and down right offending comments for strangers.
@MRK I have had several people ask "how much did he cost?" I explain, as calmly as possible, the He didn't cost anything. That just as you pay doctors and hospital fees for biological children, in adoption you pay legal fees to your agency to facilitate the adoption. That is just one answer I have on hand. It gets harder the older my children get. Being careful to answer with respect to them and educating others is a balancing act.

GB's Mom said...

Educating well meaning people is great. Then there are those that you just need to stop them in their tracks. Your kids are adorable!

Shonda said...

"Let me count the ways that this is not anyone's business" Love that! I think every AP has their list of questions not to ask, but I think it is best summed up in "remember, children are listening and your seemingly innocent questions may cause them pain"

Jan said...

thanks from another adoptive mom (who gets asked if she is the nanny)