Thursday, August 27, 2009


It's rather comforting that after a bad day, the recent edition of Adoptive Families arrives in my mailbox.

The house is stifling in its heat. Even with the windows open, ceiling fans spinning and the fans at top speed it seems to grow hotter by the minute. The pets have vanished to cooler places - the travertine floor in the bathroom, in front the screen door, panting before a fan turning at top speed. I suffer in the living room, curled up on the sofa with the magazine in hand and wondering who ever thought leather was a good thing to sit on in the dogs days of summer.

There's plenty of ads. I ignore most of these as we've already got our agency selected. The articles are all the same. Really they are. Different names, different faces. But they all boil down to the same themes. Insecurities about the process, the delicate emotional dilemmas of open adoptions, the heart-rending wait before being matched with a child, the rudeness of strangers.

I've never been insecure about the process, and we won't have the delicate situation of an open adoption. But, yes I know about the heart-rending wait and I've felt the sting of strangers ignorance.

Unbidden the days events rush back to me.

It's just two of us in the office, with idle chitchat between us while making phone calls and completing paperwork. People at work know I'm in the process of adoption. They ask simple questions and show polite interest in how we are progressing. From their tone though it's just possible to detect the unease behind the questions. As though they were being asked to handle some curious specimen of insect and aren't really certain if it's harmless.

But today the casual question leads to more. I'm asked to remind my co-worker where we are adopting from. I say China and then I'm asked if its because they are the fastest. No, I say that we choose them because of stability and the history of the program. I give those answers that don't really provide too much information but maintain the appearance of being polite.

Then suddenly in less three questions I find myself being questioned about why China has such a large population of girls available. Because, my co-worker points out, of the Asian families she knows here in the States it is the girls who care for the parents. I try to explain how things started as tradition, that this is a custom which goes back centuries. Before I can even finish the next statement comes with whiplash ferocity.

"I don't know, I wouldn't feel comfortable having my daughter-in-law care for me. I'd rather have my own daughter."

I falter through another answer, defending centuries of social tradition. I try to explain how customs vary between the East and the West. Finally I point out that the ability of women to work so they could support their mothers has been something of a recent occurrence pretty much all over the world, rather pointlessly. It's quickly apparent that there is no answer which will satisfy my co-worker. This is a mind already made up.

So I shrug my shoulders and say how sad the situation is then lift the phone and proceed to make a call.

I love sharing the joy of this experience with my family and friends. It's wonderful to also have a network of people to turn to when things get stressful. But I don't understand why some people feel adoptive parents should have to answer for the faults of the child's nation or of the birth family. To know such the blessing of a child is bestowed upon you out of the remains of tragedy is not an easy reality to swallow. Adoptive parents don't owe answers to the curious. We are not information kiosks there for the satisfaction of strangers.

No comments: