Sunday, June 25, 2006

We're not poster children/parents

So we've traded our anonymity in for our opportunity to parent Miss I. - anonymity I never even realized I liked so much, but would still give several times over for this little girl.

Yes, we were prepared for attention, both positive and negative (and the negative-positive attention I've read called the "I'm down wit dat" attitude), as we'd read just about every good book or article (and on-line class) pertaining to transracial parenting and conspicuousness. What I hadn't prepared for was the mismatch in sociability: Where I am inclined to shyness and homebodiness, and my husband and son are more social than I but still reserved, my daughter (while clinging to me, and only while clinging to me - otherwise, she's very shy and anxious right now) is inclined to catch and keep the eye of every stranger we would otherwise pass but are now forced to meet. Some of this is cultural and some of it constitutional. (A friend tells me, wisely, that I and I. both needed the other's influence for balance.)

But all of those strangers we meet have opinions about us - expressed and unexpressed - that they wouldn't have about a single-race family. Because the world is full of same race families - and who has time to judge them all?

And those opinions will affect how they view every other multiracial (particularly transracial adoptive) family they come into contact with. A tantrum in front of an aa family can make me feel like I am showing aa families that white parents are incompetent at parenting black children. A tantrum in front of an old white woman confirms for that old white woman every negative thought she's ever had about unruly black children.

This feeling is not entirely unfamiliar - we were relatively poor by American standards when ds was born, and I always felt like I had to keep him cleaner, calmer, quieter than if we'd had money (ridiculous now) - but the stakes are higher now. A snotty nose, a tear-stained cheek, her (temporarily) dry scalp - all these things call into question my competence or her value --

-- but this I was prepared for.

In truth, it's the positive interactions with strangers that are getting to me. Even these positive interactions,where I. holds onto me tightly and just beams at a stranger who beams back, seems to mean something more than a smiling child in her mother's arms ought to. And a couple of days ago that was enough to make me cry.

But then, it's only been a week and a half, and I'm a little more than a little tired.


Gawdessness said...

This stuff hasn't crossed my mind yet. Maybe it won't because my kids-to-be look enough like us, skin tone wise, to not attract that kind of attention.

It must be so odd.

I love the line about being a little tired.

sster said...

Hmm...this is something I hadn't thought of in a while, though once in awhile you'll read about it in an adoptive parent's blog. --the implication by a stranger's beam that your child is MORE special, MORE beautiful because of her difference, that you are a better person because you rescued her than you are for having had your son...I can see how that would hurt just as much.

lola said...

But they don't know you adopted by looking do they? You could've just had an affair- and in that case they may not look so approvingly at you. In fact if it is driving you nuts.. you should just lean in and whisper to them-- "She's the result of a moment of weakness in my marriage" Then wink at them! Heh heh!

You are brave and strong and a great mom- just be you and don't worry so much about the them (i know it's easy for me to say). And allow yourself some time to breathe.

abebech said...

I do know people sometimes ask the "do they have the same father?!" question with horror to mothers with children of multiple races. I think it's pretty clear that this isn't the case here, at least right now - or at least it isn't the first thought. We were fully prepared for that assumption when we were open to aa and aa/cc (and any race or combination, but these are the ones that would have triggered those assumptions)
I posted about this a long time ago (I think?): A friend of my mom's had an aa child and a Korean child, and once she was asked "Are they both yours?!" She answered that she'd been very busy. That would be the way I'd love to handle such direct disapproval. Here I just need to learn to pretend not to notice our celebrity/infamy.

Overwhelmed! said...

It sounds like the attention you get from strangers is not welcome or easy to handle.

I'm afraid I have no advice to offer, but just know I'm here to listen and offer moral support!

Michelle said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this subject because sometimes I've wondered the same thing, but for different reasons.

When you mentioned about having tantrums etc and you were afraid people were thinking you didn't know how to parent a black child, or what older white women might think...I've had smiliar thoughts.

Whenver my daughter does something, (for example I wrote about our haircut fiasco) I was afraid the whole time the stylist was thinking it was because of her Ds that she was acting that way, or if she's not listening to me and running away in a public setting etc I think people must think it's because of her Ds...surely it's not because she's behaving like a typical 2 year old!

I loved the suggestion of whispering that she was the result of a moment of weakness in your marriage! that would put some people in their place!

abebech said...

Michelle, that's it exactly. Thanks everyone, for understanding.