Cute kids - where did you get them?

Yes, people notice us, wherever we go. They stare, they smile, they make contact, they make a point of not looking but no matter what, we always get noticed. Does it bother me? It used to. A lot.
When strangers came up to me and said things like:

It's such a beautiful thing that you are doing. Being a parent to these children.


They are so cute, where did you get them? (for real!)


Are they real sisters. I mean  REALLY ? sisters?

I never knew what to say, so I smiled stiffly and carried on walking or if we were stuck in a restaurant, I turned away pretending that my kids needed my full attention, to indicate that I was not interested in any further communication. Inwardly I was seething: Who do they think they are, that they can come up to me and comment on my life choices, or my children or ask questions about my most private affairs? Do I go up to total strangers and say:

Ooooh excuse me, did you conceive your child naturally or by invitro. Is this their real dad or did you have a donor?

This is of course a rethorical question. Why? Because the notion is absurd. So what makes people abandon their sense of natural boundaries with us? Do they think because we look  different from the norm, we should be open to constant comments and prodding questions, sort of like an exhibit in a gallery.

Being angry and somewhat resentful was what I got used to in dealing with this kind of encounters. Until I recently noticed that I was really not. So much. Anymore. What happened?

Last week at I took Leah to our doctor.  It so happened that we were alone in the waiting room with the receptionist, a lovely lady who has known us since we started coming there with our first child 5 years ago. We never really talked much apart from the usual baby/kid talk: Can't believe how much she has grown since you last came / cute dress, etc. etc

She was on the phone when I came in, and  a little agitated when she ended the conversation. She then told me she had problems with her 15year old son who has started smoking a year ago and from there we went on to talking about teenagers and how difficult it can be to be a parent. And then, with no apparent connection to the subject of teenagers, she suddenly said to me in a hushed voice:

Its so great that you people take on orphans and kids that you don't know the background of. I mean it's great that there are people who do this, but isn't it difficult when you don't know what you are getting?

I was stunned. My smile froze and my vision blurred. The room was totally quiet, exept for leah making train noises and shoving building blocks around on the floor. I was so aware of her little ears pricking up and the importance that this moment could have - it was paralysing.

We seemed to be hovering in mid conversation for an uncomfortably long time. When my vision cleared I saw her shaky smile and questioning eyes and I realised something. There was no malice in what she was saying. She did not know any better, maybe hadn t even thought about the issue much before this moment and this was really more of an opportunity to build a bridge than to start a confrontation.

And here is what I said to her: I don't believe that anyone knows what they are getting, whether they give birth or their child comes to them in a different way. Our children all come to us as the same pure souls, full of opportunities and promises and what we put in is what we'll get out.

And the most amazing thing happened. She really thought about what I said and then her eyes lit up and she smiled the brightest smile at us and said: yes you are right, they are all god's souls and it depends on us, what we give them and how they will turn out.

And we were back on the subject of her teenage son....and then the doctor could see us...

Ok, I might have over simplified the nature vs nurture discussion a bit and it's also a little on the cheesy side. But this is essentially what I believe and it was meant just as much for my daughters ears (who would not acknowledge for a moment that she had listened...). Most importantly I learned the most valuable lesson so far on this journey into parenthood: If I can bypass my mother-lion reaction of aggression and defense the moment some stranger enters our cosy little world with their nasty views and if I really just listen and open my heart, the right answers will come. And sometimes they might even make a difference in someone elses world and start building brigdes.

And sometimes I might still get angry at some bigotted or racist reaction and this anger might be healthy and justified and show my little lion cubs that mummy has claws to defend them until they can do it for themselves...(so bewarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre)



Michele said…
Hi Martina, well done on starting your blog and thanks for making me feel normal, i also get annoyed when people feel so free to comment on my daughter. Boy it drives me crazy how people loose all sense of boundries when it comes to adoption. Anyhow i love the answer you gave the doctors receptionist and will be using it in future. Looking forward to reading more!
P.S Your daughters are beautiful.
Charisse said…
This one got me all teary eyed. I remember when Thandi was a baby and people would constantly approach me with all sorts of questions and assumptions. I used to get SO upset. Now that she's 3 it hardly ever happens. But yes, occasionally someone says something so thoughtless it almost makes me lose my cool. However, as you say, it's more important for our children's sake that we respond calmly. This is more their burden to bear than ours.

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