4 Ways to Respond to Ignorant Comments

catNot a week goes by that I don’t see another post on a parenting site instructing the world what not to say to those living within certain personal circumstances. Whether its 10 Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents, What Not to Say to a Working Mom or 10 Things Not to Say to Your Childless Friends, there are so many dos and don’ts that I fear all of these demands will ultimately beat ourselves into conversation submission, worried about every little thing we say. Seriously, we need a score card to keep track.

But it’s The Stir’s 35 Things Not to Say to a Mother of a Child with Autism that’s finally forced me to step on my soapbox and take on the topic. THIRTY FIVE things not to say? Wouldn’t it be easier to just list the two things we are allowed to say?

It’s not that I don’t understand. Being a working mom with three kids — one internationally adopted, one with autism and one with life-threatening allergies, I am proud to be part of a generation of parents who serve as advocates for their children and their needs. And if writing a post would miraculously cure ignorance and stupidity, I’d be all for it.

But it feels like we’ve become so obsessed with being politically correct, never mind terrified that our own children might actually have to experience an uncomfortable moment or two during their lives. Instead of trying to school a stranger in human relations, it’s a better use of our time and energy to teach our kids how to handle these situations as they come. Because the only way to raise independent, confident adults it to show them how to face adversity head on; not expect that the rest of the world will suddenly play nice, just because we tell them to in a blog post.

4 Ways to Respond to Ignorant Comments

Why Do You Ask? Oftentimes, people are just making conversation or unfamiliar with something and let curiosity get the best of them. These four little words are a polite way of putting the onus back on them and will often provoke an apology or backtrack when they realize they may have traveled over the line.

Laughter is the Best Medicine While this option can err on the side of passive aggressive, it’s sometimes the best choice if you’re in a public place or in earshot of a child. This was choice of response one time in our local grocery story after being asked “How much did your daughter cost?” A lighthearted “what a silly question to ask” guffaw did the trick and the woman was on her way to insult someone else.

It’s Personal If honesty is the best policy, this is the way to go. There’s not much more to be said when someone clearly and kindly informs you it’s none of your business. And for those rare occasions that doesn’t work…

Have Fun with Sarcasm I’ve been known to stop a truck in its tracks with a quick-witted quip. And there are times I’m just not in the mood or the person doesn’t take hints #1-3. A couple of examples:

“Where is her real mom?”

I’ll tell you where she’s not… rubbing my baby’s back in the middle of the night as she projectile vomits or saving for her college education.

“He has autism? He seems so normal.” At least someone does.

Then there was the time I was pregnant with my first son and celebrating a birthday at a French restaurant in Los Angeles. “It’s okay to have wine when you’re expecting,” the waiter informed me. Wow, you wait tables and earned a medical degree at the same time? That’s impressive.

No matter which option you choose in dealing with intrusive comments, remember this: The best way to change others’ attitudes and behavior is to help open their hearts and minds to seeing things in a new way. But before we can do that for someone else, we must do the same within ourselves. We’re human beings who all make mistakes — the benefit of the doubt can go a long way.

Coming Soon to a Kindergarten Near You…

For many readers, you’ve been there since the beginning when I started blogging about our adoption journey back in 2007. You were there when we received our referral, matched with a 7-month-old baby girl. You read about our sadness over missing Lucy’s first birthday when she was still in Taiwan and shared in our excitement when we gave her a do-over nine months later. You saw her hit the tireless twos and grow into a spunky, adorable preschooler.

So how could we not share Miss Lucy with you today, on her 5th birthday. The little baby I thought would never make it home into our arms is a smart, sassy, energetic and hilarious five year old who’s just a few weeks away from signing up for KINDERGARTEN! I have no idea how that happened when all I did was blink but, I do know, it’s never boring when Lucy is around!

In celebration of the big day, enjoy some pics of our Lucy Goose, shot recently by the very talented Renee Bowen Photography. Enjoy!

Kung Fu Panda’s Blow to the Gut

To the naked eye, it’s clear that my daughter is adopted. Double takes with a smile, stranger comments complimenting us for being “so good,” and those roundabout questions… “where’s your husband from?” when I’m alone with Lucy — there’s no escaping it and I’m cool with that.

But every once in a while, something comes up that flips my heart inside out, makes my head spin and I feel this profound sadness deep down. That happened tonight, as we saw Kung Fu Panda 2 in the theater. The idea that Po — the main character voiced by Jack Black — walked around feeling so lost and confused about where he came from, my heart was breaking for what my daughter may face in the future.

And then I got angry.

(SPOILER ALERT) Eventually Po discovered that his parents hadn’t actually given him up but that his feathered nemisis had torn them apart. I get that it’s a movie, but 1.5 million children in the U.S. are adopted, over 2% of the child population. What does that say when on the rare chance they see a movie they identify with, that the parents didn’t actually intend to give the child up. Do you think maybe we’ll have more than a few fantasizing, “Hey, maybe that’s my circumstance, too!” I hate the idea that the film could trigger even more confusing feelings in children who’ve been adopted.

One thing I did appreciate about the movie was the recognition of first/birth and adoptive fathers. That’s always been something that has bothered me. I know in our own home, my daughter understands that she had another mom who couldn’t take care of her and that we’re her family. But it hasn’t yet occurred to her that Jeff, too, has adopted her (never mind getting into the topic of siblings). Oftentimes, books/movies/people, even we, talk about how things came to be without really getting into the idea of a birth dad. And not knowing the birds and the bees at this point, it hasn’t ever been a question of who her father is. While that’s a comforting thought in some ways, I’m putting myself out there to say it can be quite painful when you appear to be the only replacement in your child’s life.

(BIGGER SPOILER ALERT) And then there was the end… it’s obvious a Kung Fu Panda 3  is in the works, given they ended the film with Po’s biological dad realizing Po was, in fact, alive and well. It was pretty clear the next chapter will include a search for Po, unbeknownst to the panda or his dad, the goose. I hate even imagining the internal battle that will go on when Po is left to ponder the nature vs nurture phenomenon.

Without giving myself too much time to process my feelings about the movie, I’m curious to hear from other parents. How did you feel about the adoption portrayed in Kung Fu Panda 2? And the bigger question… Where’s that inner peace they speak of?