Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

International adoption, interracial kids--some questions

I'm going to have to be un-PC in this post mostly so as to be understood; before I go any further, please let us agree that there's a vast gray area between un-PC and racist (which I clearly will avoid). Anyway, here goes.
Recently in Parenting magazine, a mother had an article about herself and her daughter. Mom is white, husband is Japanese, daughter is (obviously) a mix. When Mom is out with her little girl, she is overwhelmed by those presuming the little girl is adopted. "Where did you get her?" "Where is she from?" et cetera. She doesn't quite know how to reply and finds the questions a little rude. [I personally like "My husband is Japanese; she gets her features from him."]
One example from my own life is my OB. She's Asian (Chinese extraction?) and her husband is white. I wonder if he's asked the same questions when he's out with one or more of their four sons. I doubt many would have the nerve to ask.
Another is a friend who's Hispanic. Her two kids don't look Hispanic at all; though her son has some of her features, her daughter is blonde with blue eyes. I wonder sometimes if strangers in the grocery store think she's the baby sitter; ironically, she did come to the U.S. as an au pair.
I'll acknowledge international adoption--adoption in general, really--is a very good thing. Madonna's might be the exception. It's certainly more common and more acceptable than it was a generation ago, which is fine.
Neighbor Shelly was a bit offended by a hairdresser recently on this issue. Shelly has five boys. The cosmetologist had the stones to ask, "Did you keep trying for a girl?"
Shelly, the soft-spoken shrinking violet that she is, shot back, "Well, some of them are adopted, so I guess we got exactly what we wanted."

I can't help but play the statistics, though. While international adoptions are up, so is interracial marriage (from .2% to something like 5% since 1970). I have to assume that the vast majority of children are NOT adopted and are the biological children of the person watching over them regardless of the racial appearance of the kids. That's simply how I operate.

So I was a little dismayed by a conversation I had not too long ago at swim class. Dad was there with his two kids; he was perhaps Italian and the kids were Asian. We were chatting about our kids, which ones were respectively ours, and their proficiency in the water; I commented, "They must look like their mother."
He looked at me like I was stupid. "They're adopted." Almost contemptuous.
Frankly, that killed the conversation. Was I off? It's not like it's unheard of for a white guy to marry an Asian girl. I suppose I'd like advice on this; what's the scoop? What are your thoughts, Gentle Readers?



At 11:03 AM, Blogger Zach said...

You hit the conversational tripwire of noticing race. That's all. I don't have any more intelligent thoughts than that.


At 12:22 PM, Blogger Heather said...

I've also been told that adopting "out-of-race" is seen as a status symbol because it's so expensive.
"We don't need to have free children; we can afford imported ones."


At 1:38 PM, Anonymous melanieb said...

Yesterday I met a girlfriend and her son at the park. While we were there I noticed a couple of Asian kids playing together, climbing up a rock. The boy was shoving the girl and I assumed he was her older brother. So I said something along the lines of don't push your sister. (In a friendly, jokey kind of voice.)

A few minutes later two dads rounded up the kids to go home and I realized my mistake, the girl went with one dad (who looked white), the boy with the other. Playmates, not siblings. Oops. Fortunately dad seemed not to notice or care.

I think maybe Zeke has it right. We're just never supposed to notice race or make any assumptions based on it.

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Sarahndipity said...

I'm white and my husband is of Indian decent (as in India, not Native American). Our 3-year-old daughter looks like she could be all sorts of things - Italian, Syrian, maybe just white with a tan. I've never gotten any "is she adopted?" comments, I guess because she looks like she could possibly be white. I think my husband's skin tone is much more different from hers than mine is, but I don't think he's gotten any weird comments either. But we're in our 20's and live in a diverse area, and I think for both our generation and geographic location interracial marriage and kids are no big deal.


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