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Adoption Blog: The Perfect Blend

The Upside to Visibility

I’m the kind of person who’s mortified at the thought of being sung to on birthdays in public. I halfheartedly tried to convince my husband, Jeremiah, to elope because I couldn’t stomach the idea of wedding guests watching me say my vows. Suffice it so say, I value privacy. So, as you might imagine, the visibility of a transracial family was probably the least appealing part of adopting for me. Let me be clear: I had no problem with us being a transracial family. Actually, I thought it would be great. I just didn’t want, personally, to be the center of anyone’s attention because of it.

When our son, Dylan, came home from South Korea, it began: the wordless stares from strangers we passed on the way to school, at the park, at Target—you name it. And because their stares made me uncomfortable, the people behind them felt hostile to me—and so I assumed they were. A month into our life as a transracial family, though, it became clear that jumping to this conclusion about all passersby who gave us a second look wasn’t going to work. I needed to do better. To be better, more fair. I’d stare at us, too, I thought. We aredifferent. But I’d be staring in appreciation because I think being different—being a blended, transracial family—is great. Maybe others were, too.

Cut to last week when Jeremiah and I drove to small-town western New York with Josi, 4, Lilah, almost 3, and Dylan, now 1, to introduce our newest member to our extended families and old friends. Three hours into the trip, we stopped at a diner for dinner. A middle-aged man and an elderly woman sat at the table behind me, and I heard snippets of their conversation. “I wonder what their motivation would have been,” the man said. It could only mean us. After all, Josi and Lilah are biological, each of them a mini version of one of us. It’s a question I’ve had a hard time answering myself, and it stung to hear it over my shoulder. But when I caught the woman’s eye while I was picking up Dylan’s fourth dropped spoon, I did something crazy. I smiled. And then she smiled back, and so began a lengthy conversation between our tables, mostly centering on the loveliness of our children. As they left to pay the bill, the woman complimented the girls and let a hand linger on Dylan’s head, as if she wanted to take a piece of him with her.

I thought, That wasn’t so awful. In fact, it was pretty incredible. So I decided to keep trying it. Throughout the trip, whenever we got the look, I smiled. Sure, sometimes she or he looked away, embarrassed. But much more often, I heard encouragement, kind questions, honest curiosity, and good old-fashioned fawning over all three children with an emphasis on Dylan, a ladies’ man already.

That wasn’t the best part, though. My favorites were the fellow members of the adoption community—numerous adoptive parents with grown biological and adopted children as well as a Korean adoptee—who stopped to chat throughout our trip. In one 10-minute period, during a different dinner out, two men—one, a long-haired biker and the other, a Wall Street type—stopped, individually, to tell us how lucky we were to be part of the adoption triad.

All too fast, the trip was over. Late in the evening, Jeremiah unpacked the van as I lugged three groggy children down the block to our New York City apartment building’s entrance. Two elderly women walked toward us, and I felt their stares. I smiled. “Are all three yours?” one of them asked. And when I answered yes, her response was this: “They’re all perfect. How do you do it?”

“Without much sleep,” I laughed, and we continued on our way. Welcome home.

Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle


Meghan, I have had the same experience with feeling hostile at times to strangers who stare. But our children are black and we live in a small southern town where, sadly, there is still some deep-rooted prejudice, so we have encountered some truly ugly looks from people of all walks of life and skin color. I, like you, have learned to either ignore the look, or better yet when the look is clearly ugly, to smile with pride at our little family.
Thankfully, we have never encountered an ugly comment (yet) but I’m sure one day someone will be bold enough to say what their look implies and then we’ll see how this momma bear reacts smile

By Gaby on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm.

Our daughter looks very similar to us, so walking through the grocery store you would not notice anything different about our family. However, I know that every time my husband and I see a transracial family we wonder, are they like us? Was their family formed through adoption? We are not staring because the family is transracial but are wondering if we have something in common grin

By Robin D. on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm.

I know exactly what you mean, Robin. Long before Dylan came home, I stared at transracial families, wondering if they were “like us.” That’s why I finally got around to trusting in the possibility that other people felt the same way. But, Gaby, this mama bear has learned already to smile even if there’s no chance the look is a positive one, just like you!

By Meghan on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 2:51 am.

Oh, Meghan, I meant me! I meant we’ll see how I react when the ugly comment comes since I have not yet been tried. I have had some dumb comments and I haven’t always known how to respond so I wonder what I’ll say smile

By Gaby on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 3:00 am.

I absolutely knew what you meant, Gaby. I was just agreeing with you! (Not too clearly, it seems. Sorry if I made you think I misunderstood.)

By Meghan on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 3:02 am.

Hi Megan,

I think it’s a natural tendency to be ultra-sensitive to the looks/comments of others, so soon after becoming a blended family; at least it was for me. I found myself actively trying to notice the expressions of everyone we passed by in the grocery isle or out on the street. Now that we’ve been home for a couple of years I hardly notice anymore

I think sometimes when people are confused or curious, it comes across as disapproval on their face. In hind-sight, I can only recall once or twice that I think we received a genuinely ugly stare. No one has every made an inappropriate comment, rather many people go out of their way to say how cute he is! I tell them he gets that from me, but I don’t think anyone’s buying it, lol.

Nice post!

By Jeff on Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm.

Love this post. My DH and I are still working towards adoption but we definitely notice when we think we might have something in common with another family. Recently we were in a restaurant and Tim whispered, “Hey I think that’s an adoptive family over there.” We both smiled at each other. And at them.

By yesimln on Friday, July 22, 2011 at 6:52 pm.

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