Last week when AwesomeCloud and I were at K-Mart, a woman came up to us and said, "God bless you! God bless you! GOD bless you! He is SUCH a blessing."
There were a couple other toddlers right nearby, but I didn't waste any time wondering why this woman singled us out. (And she was absolutely singling us out, but I won't go into that.) It was because of this thing called the "obvious adoption." People look at AwesomeCloud and me with our different races, and they assume, accurately, that we adopted AwesomeCloud.
I could have played a trick on her and told her that he's not adopted, but she never actually inserted the word 'adopted' into conversation. She just kept God-blessing me over and over again. So the fact of the adoptedness of my son became this big looming elephant in the room.
I did the only thing I find acceptable in that type of situation. I was extremely pleasant and nice to her.
We've heard it all before: "He's so lucky to have you! What a wonderful thing you've done! Blah blah blah!"
Of course we can't help wondering why people say such things. Why they're so bold about it. Why they believe these comments are all right. Not only all right, but welcome.
...it's because they look at children of other races, and they can't imagine feeling like those children belong.
Like those children are their own flesh and blood. (Metaphorically speaking.)
Like those children are sons and daughters.
Perhaps they've looked into their own children's faces, and felt the deep abiding love, and associated that love with the act of giving birth and the genetic relation they had to their children. Okay, fair enough. Maybe it takes an enormous leap of faith to take that feeling and hypothetically superimpose it onto an Asian face, or an Ethiopian face, or an African-American face.
They can't do it. They can't possibly imagine feeling that parent-child love when gazing into that face.
And the disappointing truth is, you can't make them imagine it.
Nothing you do or say is going make them understand the connection between you and your child. They truly, whole-heartedly believe that an adopted child is DIFFERENT, that a child of another race is DIFFERENT, and I'm not saying it isn't different, but the wall that they imagine is there preventing genuine love and empathy isn't really there for us like it is for them.
Maybe we did have a little bit of a wall at first. Maybe we spent some time, in the beginning, looking at our child's face and not feeling much of a connection. Maybe, in that way, we kinda understand what the unempathetic stranger is imagining. She's stuck in that first moment, the "Oh no, what have I done?" moment when the responsibility of parenthood weighs down on you but there is no real sense of love. When "my child" means a staring, sullen stranger who is almst two and doesn't speak a word and hates the sound of your voice.
We did that. We know how it feels.
When I'm giggling with my son in the aisles of K-Mart, pointing out to him which direction to go next, you can be sure that moment is OVER. That moment happened a looooong time ago. On a continent far, far away. It was hard, yeah, but other things in life are hard. Childbirth is hard. If there were a way to have children that did not involve the pains of adoption or childbirth, everyone would be doing it. We all like to avoid pain. We often dive right into pain anyway, if it gets us what we want. Like this adorable, laughing child.
But if a person lacks empathy, she will never understand that this happy Chinese face belongs to MY SON. He's my son just as much as her son is her son. But it does take an awful lot of empathy to make that leap. I'm sure she doesn't lack empathy; she just doesn't quite have enough. And as long as she doesn't have quite enough, she'll never know what's wrong with saying, "God bless you! He's so lucky! What a wonderful thing you've done!"
I don't have any way to prove my "lack of empathy" hypothesis, however. Even someone experiencing it would never, ever admit it.
In fact, I've been thinking about that incident a lot lately, since the woman who came out and practically admitted a lack of empathy has been around again lately. She didn't use the words "lack of empathy." Instead, she gifted me with a diatribe about how giving birth to your child was special, so special, and if you don't go through that, your bond with your child will forever be Missing Something. In that same speech, she also gave me the old canard, "As soon as you adopt, you'll get pregnant. You'll see." I can't remember if that was before or after the "childbirth is so special" bit.
I don't understand how in the nine hells that was supposed to make me feel anything but awful. Maybe I lack some empathy too.
I try not to.
I do try to meet these people halfway.
After all, if they're so convinced that an adopted child of a different race is hard to love, they probably won't be adopting one.