Last week, Jeff and I found ourselves in the company of salesperson for a pretty considerable amount of time. As it always happens during these moments of forced conversation (which I loathe) the topic turned to our family. My belly is obviously pregnant now (and can I just say how many people don’t follow the rule of not asking if a woman is pregnant? Holy cow. It’s either pointed out or I’m asked everywhere I go. Ugh.), but we also shared that we have a 4-year-old daughter and are in the process of adopting another 4ish year old. Before I go any further I must admit that there are times when I just leave things be and don’t mention adoption. Sometimes I don’t want to launch into the discussion and like to go about my merry way. But given that we had spent some time together with the sales lady and had more time to go I opened up a bit more about our family and why we needed the bigger car. I might have also hoped that she would have some compassion and lower the price. : )
Now, I don’t recall the conversation exactly and can’t detail it in verbatim, but I do know that there were a number of comments made and questions asked that were not “positive adoption language” Things like: So did you try for a long time to have a baby and then decided to adopt? Doesn’t it always work that way, adopt and then get pregnant? Did they know each other? So they aren’t really related? That’s so incredible. You are amazing. And there were a few more that I am forgetting. It pretty much nailed the list of what not to say to an adoptive family (throw in the banker yesterday asking how much she cost and you can put in X in all the boxes.)
I could have gotten offended. I could have become defensive. I could have spouted off on Facebook about how much I could.not.be.lieve that someone would say those things.
**I pause here to reiterate that Odette was not with us when these conversations occurred. If she would have been I probably would have responded differently.
I didn’t and I won’t.
Let me tell you why.
This kind sales woman didn’t mean any negative behind her comments. She simply did not know how those questions and comments are often interpreted. I’m confident that she had the best of intentions. She was making small talk. She tried to relate to our situation. She was curious. She was trying to show her support. She wasn’t malicious. She wasn’t offensive. She wasn’t prying. She just didn’t know any better.
How do I know?
Because just 5 minutes later, I became her.
Despite the conversation that might have turned some completely away, we bought the car from her and walked away all smiles and laughs. It could have something to do with the fact that we spent 4 hours kid-less and I had a real, authentic, with caffeine, gen-u- wine Coca-Cola. We walked out of her office and into the office of the finance guy. Again the conversation turned to our family as he had heard we have adopted from Congo and he let us in on correcting our sales lady that it was in fact Congo and not Conga. One thing led to another and he shared that is our age and has been married for 4 months in an arranged marriage. I snickered a bit before realizing he was serious and uttered, “wow, really? That’s neat!” Way to go, Sarah. We went on to learn that he is of Persian decent and is a Muslim. His phone chimed in the “call to prayers” and he talked about his mosque. He said that he speaks 5 languages and was in the process of teaching his wife to drive. He wrote down a poem for me that he said translates to something like the leader of the house of books (i.e. school teacher) being a mason (engineer) in his native characters. It was such a neat experience. It was profound to meet someone our age who held on so tightly to his culture and spoke of it in such an intriguing manner. At the same time, I couldn’t help but walk out of his office thinking that I had probably said or did something that he could have easily found offensive. I, like the sales woman, had no intention of doing so at all! I was curious. I was making small talk. I was trying to show my support. Did I fail? Most likely. But you know what, he was kind, he joked around with us, and he smiled when we said goodbye.
So, my fellow A.P.s and P.A.P.s (adoption talk for adoptive parents and perspective adoptive parents) I urge you to think about how you take things. Should we encourage positive adoption language? Absolutely. But let’s keep our perspective. Don’t let yourself become hypersensitive to the point of unnecessary judgments being made. Let us set the example.
P.S. I promise my next post will have lots of Odette pictures.