Remember that boy, the one I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, the one who told Ava she was the ugliest girl in the world, the ugliest girl he had ever seen? Well, yesterday while I was collecting Ava from school, he marched up to me, pointed at her and asked me:
“Ava’s Mom, are you Ava’s real mom?”
Of course I said yes, I am her real mom, he then brushed his hand across her forehead and touched her arm and then asked me:
“But how can you be her real mom? She’s brown and you’re white?”
He then wanted to know what her dad looked like because he couldn’t understand how I could be her real mom, he repeated this statement a number of times during our brief conversation, because I was white and she was brown.
I know his questions were pure curiosity, I know there was no malicious intent in them, but I also saw the look of hurt on Ava’s face when he kept asking how I could be her real mom when we didn’t “match” (his words, not mine).
You know that expression, a deer caught in the headlights? That’s how I felt in that moment. My mind was racing trying to come up with the correct response, one that would appease his curiosity but not put Ava’s sense of security and sense of self at risk and also trying not to hesitate too long in my response because I didn’t want to raise doubts or questions in Ava’s mind either.
I ended up explaining to him that people don’t have to match to be family. That people don’t have to be the same, or look the same to be family. That family is people bound by love, regardless of what they looked like.
But I won’t lie, it hurt. It hurt to see the look on Ava’s face when he kept asking if I was her real mom. It hurt to be reminded that our circumstances are different and will be at times questioned. I didn’t want to get into the whole adoption discussion with him because he is a child that has already proven to be cruel towards Ava and I didn’t want to give him any information that could lend to him making statements about her adoption that could hurt her. Because let’s be honest, kids can be cruel and kids have no filter.
Of course Ava knows she’s brown, of course she knows she’s adopted, but that is information for her to share, when she feels secure and comfortable enough to do so. While we have never made any secret about her heritage, I want her to be comfortable with who she shares it with in terms of her friends and frankly, at not quite 5, I think she’s still too young to even put two and two together and say things like I’m adopted to her friends.
I had a long chat with her on the way home, where she told me he’d hurt her heart with his questions and we discussed the question of “real” mom & dad and she confirmed that she knew I was her real mom, just like her dad was her real dad. I also reminded her of what I’d told him, that families are all different, but that doesn’t make one better than the other, just different and that families come in lots of different forms. Blended family, divorced families, adoptive families, single parent families, same sex parents, etc etc etc.
But this really got me thinking about diversity and when we start teaching our kids about diversity? Because we have come via a different path to parenthood and have a lot of friends in the adoption community, diversity is something that Ava has never really questioned because she see’s lots of families that don’t “match”. But what about other children who do come from families that match, when do they start learning about diversity?
And then I can take that a step further…. What about families with other differences…. A disabled family member for eg.
It’s all so complex and once again, I’m reminded of how little thought Walter and I gave this whole multiracial family thing when we embarked on our adoption journey. Would I change a thing? No, I’d still choose my children time and time again, I love my family, I love our differences, I love our uniqueness but I won’t lie, as a mother who loves her children, there are times when I am hurt and a little overwhelmed by the challenges of raising a family that does not necessarily fit into societies idea of “normal”.