Monday, September 9, 2013

Things We're Learning As A Family

People stare. There's no real blending in out in public anymore. We are slowly getting used to it. We got a lot of stares in China before we picked up Davis - after all 6 Anglo people of 3 generations stood out, especially on the subways and trains - and even more stares in China after we got Davis - because there was no hiding when 6 Anglo people walked around town with an Asian child. 

We are starting to figure out the main categories of the looks/reactions we get. It's different depending on who is in our merry little band at the time. When Daryl and I have Davis out and about while the big boys are somewhere else, the look we get is something akin to "how sweet that they adopted." When one grownup is out with Davis by themselves, people often look at us with suspicion like we've stolen this poor child. And when all five of us are out together, the look we get is something along the lines of puzzled wonder. You can almost see people counting the boys in their heads and then staring at the grownups trying to piece things together. One time a lady stared at us so hard in Wal-Mart she almost walked into a display in the middle of an aisle! And then there are the people who try hard to ignore us and don't make eye contact, like somehow having an Asian child is contagious. 

We've had some other interesting encounters with other people too, as people go beyond staring and ask questions or make comments. One afternoon this summer Davis and I were surprising Daryl at work with lunch - we went to the local Chinese takeout place to give our order and waited to pick it up. The Chinese woman behind the counter was so fascinated by Davis that she could hardly take my order for all the staring. In fact, she interrupted me to ask very sincerely if Davis was mine and when I said yes, she said, "But how? Don't you realize he is Chinese?" I bit back the laugh and the sarcastic retort because she was completely serious. And I briefly told her that we had recently returned from adopting him in China. She stopped asking questions after that but the staring never stopped until we were out the door.

Then there was the saleslady helping me check out in a department store one day in Gainesville. She kept staring at Davis playing and laughing with Daryl and finally asked me point blank if he was adopted from China. When I said yes, she asked me how long the process had taken. I told her 11 months. She replied that we must have done the special needs program and explained that her family had been waiting for a referral on a healthy little girl from China since 2007 (the non-special needs program). She remarked that he looked so healthy and normal and then very politely asked what Davis' "defect" was. That word shocked me - our son is NOT defective - but I explained he was indeed very healthy and was considered a "special needs" adoption because of his cleft lip and palate, even though they were repaired in China. From the way she was staring at him though, it was clear she had zero idea that kids in the special needs program could walk or talk. We were certainly glad to help educate her. 

While we were at Shands one of the doctors on the cleft team thanked us with great emotion in his voice for what we are doing for Davis in adopting him and how we have changed his life. It kind of caught us off guard. There is an attitude in some Christian circles that orphan care is a mandate all good Christians must follow (it comes from James 1:27, although frankly I don't see the same fervor in the church for widow care that is also included in that verse). But our motivation for adopting was never to "rescue" an orphan. We had more love to share and wanted to grow our family. And as we explored how to do that we felt God leading us to China and to Davis in particular. There just isn't any other way to explain all of the events of the last year and how we ended up here. We know we have changed Davis'  future by adopting him, but his is not the only life changed. We are changed and blessed by having him in our lives as well. Fifteen weeks in and we can't imagine our lives without Davis. Daryl and I are already different in terms of how we parent and all of us have experienced growth in our capacity to love, how we view others and how we understand the world.

A few people over the last year have expressed disbelief and concern that we were adopting from overseas, wondering what our boys thought about this and was this really fair to them? I don't think we would have gotten the same questions if I were pregnant, at least not to our faces. Because really does anyone ask their kids' permission to get pregnant and have more children? Children learn to adapt all the time to new roles as families grow and change. Yes it is an adjustment but above all else, Parker and Wesley LOVE their little brother and we are working with them to help them with our new family dynamics. But because we intentionally chose to adopt, people somehow think we've been unfair to Parker and Wesley. 

We can only continue to work on teaching all three of our boys how to handle themselves with grace and dignity when confronted by the stares and questions about our now multi-cultural family. One of my cousins commented the other day on a Facebook picture of all three boys that she was glad to see their smiling faces and that families are wonderful however they are made. I was glad to see that - because that is what we want to be known as - a family, full of love for one another.  

No comments: