This strange thing has been happening lately. Moreso than usual. And I am still processing it all as I write this. I'm not a very confrontational person, AT ALL. In fact, my dad used to call me a "round-abouter" when I was younger. Even when I played Nintendo (I guess that dates me now, huh?) I never wanted to fight the bad guys, I preferred to just jump over them and go on my merry way, and most of the time it worked just fine! When it comes to confrontation, I'm an all or nothing person...I have no middle ground. I either shy away from the issue and sit on my thoughts, later wishing I would have had enough courage to stand up for what's right, or I go all out "Totally-Lose-Your-Cool-Mama-Bear" on people and then feel bad about that too. Since becoming a mom, I've definitely had more of the "lose your cool" moments and they're always over issues that involve my girls. All you moms reading this know what I mean when I say that Mama Bear Fury can rise up in you faster than lightening.
Anyways....lately we've endured some comments regarding our children that make my skin crawl. I've NEVER had a thick skin, it's a fault of mine. I'm too sensitive and defensive, this I know....but I feel like I'm justified in feeling upset when hearing some of these things. There are two groups of people, the first being those who say nasty things knowingly and because they are intolerant of differences. This is not the group of people I'm talking about...honestly those people are few and far between and I have no problem speaking my mind to those people because clearly their intentions are to hurt. But it seems to me there is a huge growing group of people-many professionals-who just don't seem to have the first clue about how talk to adoptive parents and/or parents of children with special needs.
I hesitate to even blog about this because I never want to come off as the chick who people feel like they can't say anything around in fear of hurting her feelings or in fear that they'll "say the wrong thing." But I feel that doctors, psychologists, school personnel, and other professionals should be held to a higher standard than your average Joe Schmo in knowing how to sensitively and respectfully speak to parents (in the presence of the children) about adoption and special needs related issues.
Imagine sitting down with a professional who is evaluating your child, with your child beside you, when this professional asks, "what happened to her real parents?" Say WHAT? Okay, I get that he needs that information for his report or to understand her situation better (maybe), but something as simple as "do you have any information on the biological parents?" would have been MUCH better to ask. Upon hearing this question, I turned my attention to Zoya, so sad she had to hear that (even if she didn't fully understand what he was saying). I looked back at him, sort of tilting my head to the left and squinching one eye almost closed while wrinkling my nose, because hearing that was worse than nails on a chalk board. It literally sent shivers up my spine. "Real parents" infers that we're somehow not real or not actually parents. I gently corrected him by saying, "We have very little information on her biological parents" (and then shared the little we had). He went on to ask if the three girls were blood related, which we get asked a lot. When I answered "no" he said, "Okay so they are half sisters then." He must have read the look on my face because he quickly changed that to, "I mean step sisters!" I kindly told him we consider them simply sisters and we'd never tell them they are step sisters to one another. I tried hard to remind myself he was compiling a report and needed technical details (or did he?). The rest of the meeting was really weird. I never said anything because he was a really nice guy. He had no idea his words cut so deep, completely clueless. Then when I got home from the second meeting with a copy of the report and read that Shawn and I were referenced as "her current caregivers" rather than parents, I felt shocked and sad. Half of you reading this will say that is not a big deal and there's no reason to be upset over that, and the other half will be as outraged as I was. We've worked DAMN HARD to earn the title "parents." Please don't call us caregivers. I've never heard of this in any other report for my children or for friends' children. Zoya is young enough now that she would never read this report, and maybe not understand the words that were said at that meeting, but I swear to you if these type of comments continue much longer in front of her I'm not going to be so graceful. It says to me that those professionals don't think she is capable of understanding what is being said about her and frankly, it pisses me off.
Imagine sitting at the doctor with your newly adopted child while the doctor asks repeatedly if we knew she had down syndrome when we adopted her because he can't wrap his mind around why we would do that. This question is the worst because it infers that she is not worthy of the life we hope to give her...the life we so deeply feel she is worthy of! Imagine going in for a sick child visit, seeing a different doctor than usual, and watching him flounder his way through trying to figure out if we currently know our daughter has Down Syndrome....because clearly, if we adopted her, we must not know that. The good old, "you are saints to adopt those children" also usually punches me right in the gut. The list goes on.....I never want Zoya or Mila or Sofia hearing this or feeling like we did them a favor and they are in debt to us, and this type of comment would surely elicit those thoughts. Zoya's getting to an age where she is starting to understand a lot more, so maybe that's why I've been more sensitive to these types of comments lately. I have this fierce need to protect my children from all things that could cause them hurt. I know I can't protect them from everything, but I'll tell you this much....I'll die trying!
When posting some of these things on facebook, some were outraged (even more than I was), while others felt I should have been more graceful (and maybe that meant not posting it on facebook?). I try my hardest to be graceful with comments such as these, especially when people say them out of ignorance and not out of hate. BUT, day after day of similar comments starts to break me, my tolerance level waxes and wanes based on the type of day I'm having because I'm human. I do often take time and share our girls stories with people whom I think would be touched by them because I believe their stories have power to change people....I've seen it happen many times. We'd be silly not to use this God-ordained story to bring glory to Him. BUT as their Mama, it's also my job to protect them. I wish I was better at letting some of these professionals know how their comments hurt me and my children. Instead, I stir over it wishing I'd have said something when I had the chance. My plea to those reading this is not to always try and be politically correct...that's not what this is about....my plea is to remember that words carry A LOT of weight, so please choose them carefully.
Here's a new twist on the old "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me."
"Sticks and stones may break my bones
but words can shatter my soul."