Most adoptive parents are used to — or at least familiar with — the comments, the stares, the whispers…the things that remind you that your family is different.
We received enough of them when it was just Mattix, Ed and me. Once Molley became our daughter, we learned what being “different” was really all about. We sometimes wonder what it is that made the reactions so much stronger. Is it because when it was just Mattix, it was two Caucasian parents and one Asian child? While I’m as pale as they come, Ed is darker. Is it because we had two kids of different ethnic backgrounds? Is it because one of our children is black?
Regardless, I’ve always said that Ed and I made a choice – one that has made our lives complete – and we’re adults. We can handle it.
And I’ve more recently said that now my children can understand more of what people say, how they react, my ability to handle it has become less admirable. When they totally understand, I worry that it will be anything but admirable.
I never understood parents that said nothing. That closed their mouths and walked away. That were “the bigger people.”
Until last week. Then I understood.
I’m a sarcastic girl. It’s part of me. It’s who I am. I can’t help it, but I wouldn’t want to change it. I’m also very caring and nice. Fortunately, I’ve never had trouble knowing how to react to the people who are curious, the people who are ignorant, the people who are rude…and any combination of them.
Until last week.
I haven’t been in the best shape since mid-December. Last week, for the first time in over a month-and-a-half, I took both kids out by myself. It was sort of a big deal for me. I was excited. I wasn’t 100%, but I was okay. The three of of were stoked. We decided on Ikea. My two- and three-year-olds are cheap dates. The mere utterance of the word “Ikea” and they squeal.
Moll was finally tall enough (with her hair) for the kids’ play room and Matty was eager for a second opportunity, after the first ended with my pager going off following an “accident” that may or may not have occurred in the ball pit – that’s another post entirely. They were excited. They understood that we had to eat lunch first. Then we’d try the play room.
We walked in. I was happy. Did I mention I hadn’t taken both of my kids out — without help — in over six weeks? I felt like a real mom again. I felt lucky. I felt grateful. I think I was beaming. I know I was smiling. I was in a world where just my kids and I existed.
And then someone tried to take my moment.
We were standing outside the play room. I was trying to encourage them to get on the elevator. They were too excited to be bothered with talk of eating lunch. I was happy that they were happy. I was happy to be out of the house with my children. My children.
She must have asked more than once, because when I finally heard the question, she was curt. Rude. Annoyed.
Are they twins?
(Oh hell. Not that one again. Really?)
(Because they don’t look like twins.)
No, they’re not twins.
Oh! Because they look like twins.
No, they’re not.
Well, I thought they were. They’re almost the same size and they look alike.
(How many times must you ask? Do you think I’m lying to you? Messing with you? Leave it alone. I’m enjoying this moment with my kids. Don’t take it.)
No, they’re not twins.
(She was getting annoyed. Like my answer was the wrong one.)
Well, from the BACK, they certainly look like twins.
Well, my children are not twins. They’re not the same ethnicity.
Well, excuse me. This wasn’t some kind of racial profiling thing.
Oh my God. I suddenly got it. I suddenly understood walking away. I was past the point of a sarcastic remark, although I’m never short on those. I was angry. And what was on my tongue and in my mind was anger.
She was trying to take my moment. One that I wanted — one that my children and I deserved. I’d wanted to take my kids out for an afternoon for almost two months, and I finally could, and then this…bitch…was trying to take it.
I took a deep breath.
Even in anger, I’m smart. I know her remark meant she was looking for an opportunity to use it. Normal people don’t think like that.
And I reached down, took my kids’ hands and walked toward the elevator.
For the first time, I understood why other adoptive parents “take the high road,” why they “walk away,” why they “set an example for their kids.” Because, for the first time, I wouldn’t have said something intelligent, something sarcastic that would have shut her up, something that would have made my kids or I laugh, something that would have put her stupidity in the spotlight.
I would have said something that would have brought me down to her level. I would have called her white trash, a redneck, a bitch, an ignorant asshole. All of those things? Probably true. She was pushing, being nasty, looking for a reaction.
But I was the bigger person. I walked away with my kids’ hands in mine, both proud to be their mama and ashamed to be in the presence of such ignorance.
She tried to take my moment. She tired hard. She almost did. But it didn’t work out for her. Even as she continued with her stupid dribble to her friend as we walked away, I didn’t let her have my moment.
Right now, it’s only my moment people like that could take if I allowed them. But each day, we creep closer to the day when it’s my kids’ moment that people like that will try to take. Because they understand more. They understand more than a lot of kids…because a lot of kids don’t have to tolerate what they do.
And on the day that someone like that tires to take their moment?
I’m not sure I’ll remain the bigger person.