March 17, 2009

Whatchu Lookin’ At, Willis?

Genetics are an amazing—albeit somewhat bizarre—thing. And society’s obsession with looking like someone else (I’m talking about family members) is equally strange. Of course I say that because I don’t look a thing like any of my biological family members, but yet people would mistake my step-sister (four years younger than I) as my twin.

I don’t place much emphasis on looking like anyone else. To be perfectly honest, I never gave it much thought since no one in our family looks much like anyone else in our family and we do share the same DNA. Whenever I would see families with kids that looked exactly like them—almost like clones or “mini-me’s”—it sort of freaked me out. Being an adoptive parent—especially a transracial adoptive parent—the part about looking alike, or not looking a like, is most definitely brought to the forefront whether you want it to be or not.

I don’t mind. We live in a diverse neighborhood and have a fairly diverse friend base (another reason why transracial adoption was fine by us, and even made sense). I’m sure we attract some looks—when I’m out alone with our daughter, I think people just assume her dad is black—but I don’t pay too much attention.

Will our daughter mind when she grows up? There’s a good chance she will, but if we handle it well—as in talk about it openly and address it head on—there’s a chance she won’t. Hopefully (if we’ve done our job) she accepts the fact that none of us look alike, and knows that it doesn’t make us any less of a family.

This isn’t to say that I don’t fully understand the importance of identity and having a sense of where you came from, especially for children who were adopted. I most certainly do. And I can only imagine what it would be like to not have that link. Where our daughter is concerned, we’re fortunate to have a link (including photographs) to her birthmom. I’m sure that will help.

Back in the day, domestic adoptions were all the rage, largely because people were hoping for a child that looked like them so no one would know about the adoption (that and, well, International adoptions just weren’t happening yet). My grandmother—who tried, unsuccessfully, to adopt twice—told me stories about women wearing pillows under their clothes for nine months, and then bringing home a newly born and adopted baby in the trunk of a car so no one would be the wiser. The next day, word would spread through the town that the woman had given birth during the night. All that to give the illusion that the child was biologically their child.

I’m sure glad times have changed. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live in a time when adoption carried such a stigma. We’re by no means “there” yet, where adoption is concerned. But thankfully I don’t know of anyone carrying home a baby in the trunk of their car. I’m also glad for our diverse and wonderfully colorful group of friends (and their children). Our daughter will most definitely know that families are made in all different ways, that they come in all different colors, and that some look alike and some don’t.

Depending on where you live, if you’ve adopted transracially, your family is bound to stand out, to attract some attention. That’s just part of the whole adoption “thing.” I offer to you this story about assumptions and people who don’t mind their own business, in attempt to help you see that no matter what the situation or circumstance, there will always be “those people” who feel they have to comment on something. I try to take it all with a grain of salt and find the humor in every situation. Here’s the story:

My sister was shopping at an unnamed box store with her three children, ages two, four, and six. A woman walking by took one look at my sister’s three children—who do not look alike anyway, aside from being a blond, a red-head, and a brunette—and said to my sister, “People like you make me sick with different fathers for your children.” The same man, my sister’s husband, is the father of all three children, just as my sister is their biological mother. But alas, the children don’t look alike and in the eyes of some people, that is somehow not okay.

Well, guess what? It is okay. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

1 comment:

Kelly T said...

I remember when Ava was very little and we were out walking. The woman first said "She looks just like you." Which we looked at each other a silently giggled. I also remember the comment, "Does she look like her father?" I recall the answer as something along the lines of, "I guess so, but I don't know." That definately raised some eyebrows!