Sunday, October 12, 2008

Too Much Information

Thank you, Karen, who pointed out that I'd forgotten to post my newest best answer to "What happened to her birthparents?"

If you know me at all, you likely suspect that my answer may be something cunning and sarcastic. But that would be this case. I actually got this idea from someone locally and it happened to come in very handy about 48 hours after I learned of it.

Here's what you say: "You know, there's just a lot we don't know."

The reality is this: if you insinuate that you know ANYTHING, most people will assume that it is their inherent right to know all that you know. It's unbelievable and I wouldn't have believed it to be true if I hadn't seen it and heard it about 368,000 times in the last three months.

Saying that you met the birthmother is often the biggest mistake. When you acknowledge that you did, the questions come like a flood. To any questions you don't want to answer, or don't know the answer to, people will make assumptions. Out loud. I have found myself wanting to protect Nina's birthmother almost as often and as fiercely as I've found myself protecting Nina!

So, if asked by a stranger, I now won't even admit that I met the birthmother. Who cares? Nina will know the truth, and I know the truth, and that's all that matters.

If asked by a friend, I'll acknowledge that I met her and, depending on the depth of the friendship and the motivation behind the questions, there is information I may or may not reveal. But I can count on one hand the number of friends to whom I'd release this information.

If you open up about a bit of a child's history, people start to guess regarding the rest. Most of the time, you know they are guessing wrong, and you so badly want to correct them (because their guesses are almost always negative) but to correct them you'd have to mention that, in fact, you know more than you let on. So you're stuck in this awful situation with an idiot who you want to run over with your stroller, but most of you are too nice for that so, like I, you just stand there with this fake smile plastered on your face wondering what you can to do get out of the situation.

On at least one occasion, I've thought of saying, "Oh, I think my water just broke!" No, I'm not pregnant. But some of these folks are seriously so lacking in brain cells that this might work.

I'm going to try it soon.

It can be very hard to have people make assumptions about your child's life or family. People say, "Oh, her mom probably died of AIDS." Or, "Oh, how could anyone not WANT such a beautiful baby?"

And then I realize that these idiots will say these idiotic things right in front of Nina when she gets older. Trust me on this. I've seen it with our twins. Specifically on the day in an elevator when a woman asked me, in front of the 5-year-olds, which one was smarter.

20 seconds after exiting the elevator, I answered, "Smarter than you? Both of them honey!" but she was driving away by then. I'm never real quick on the trigger because I'm usually too much in shock to respond immediately. It's too bad because I've come up with some real doozies once folks are in their cars driving away.

Idiots are idiots and their idiot-ness knows no boundaries. I mean, if they are dumb enough to say something dumb to begin with, does anyone really think they are smart enough NOT to say it in front of the child (or children) to which they are referring?

They're not.

So, we now stick with, "You know, there's a lot we don't know." People don't know how to push you on this. If you don't know, you don't know. They'll make assumptions, but hopefully you'll be long gone by then.

I heard another story recently that further cemented my desire to tell very little about Nina's history. A local friend was at a fundraising event with her Ethiopian infant and an Ethiopian woman who lives in the area came up to them and was asking lots of questions about her daughter's history. The mom (my friend) was very open, thinking that because this woman was Ethiopian herself, she'd appreciate the information and it would make sense to her. Well, based on what the woman heard, she began making some assumptions. She then felt the hair of my friend's daughter and made further assumptions (silently). She then walked away mid-conversation and will not engage in conversation with them anymore.

My friend learned through another Ethiopian woman who was there that this particular woman was from one tribe in Ethiopia and, based on my friend's daughter's history and hair texture, this woman assumed she was from a different tribe (with which her tribe did not associate under any circumstances). My friend felt that, by saying what she'd said, she placed a big target on her daughter's back. In the interest of her daughter being able to connect with as many Ethiopians as she can here in the U.S., she's decided to say nothing about her history in order to protect her from being shunned, possibly based on a misinterpretation.

I realize Nina sort of stands out, but what makes people think that all of our children don't have some sort of fascinating story behind how they came to be a part of our family? Assumptions are simply never smart.

A woman said to Nina the other day (as though Nina can answer), "Oh my, and where are YOU from?" I so wanted to say, "Um, my uterus?" just to teach her not to make assumptions. But I refrained. Aren't I nice?

Nina has a story. Grace, Jack, Henry, and George have stories. We all have stories. It doesn't mean that everyone has a right (or a need) to know them.

Just because the fact that you have "a story" is made more obvious by the fact that you're a fantastically gorgeous African child with unbelievably fantastic hair being toted around by your less-than-gorgeous white mother with bad, bad hair does not mean that your story must be shared with every Tom, Dick, and Harry who passes by. Did I mention Dick?

And, as I've learned, some people suffer from a bit more than idle curiosity.

So, for many reasons, the most important of which being a child's privacy and right to be proud of who she is, I think that "You know, there's just so much we don't know" will be my answer of choice going forward.

Next, stay tuned for thoughts on TOO MANY QUESTIONS! (because, these days, there simply are!)


Trendy Mindy said...

Well stated my friend!!! Recently I have had to answer a ton of these dumb questions - mostly from family. People are just so uneducated or they think they know sooo much when they are sooo wrong!!
I will channel you when the next set comes along - I feel like I have been dodging some bullets but also taking some seriously wounding hits!!

Kerri said...

Great post!
Kerri, Medina, and Ruby

Jana said...

I'm practicing now..."You know we're not totally sure about his history...."

Maria and Family said...

Good answer :) I once had an idiot tell me my sweet Boo would have grown up to be a prostitute in Guatemala if I hadnt adopted her. (I guess she is pyschic or something?!?) I was furious..and yes she said this in front of my beautiful baby AND my 6 and 8 yr olds! Maria (agci)

Brian and Autumn said...

I am so looking forward to that next post about too many questions!

Michael and Michelle said...

I too am looking forward to the next post!!! I need to learn as much as I can before we go!
By the way....your twins pictures are stinking CUTE!


Dawn said...

Always love your posts...

be_a_Mary said...

THANK YOU! i agree wholeheartedly!! you know, it is SO hard because I don't want his past to seem mysterious and secretive, but i don't want or think the world has earned the right to know . . . so i DISLIKE it tremendously when people ask or inquire about D's birth history. On one occasion also, a relative repeated his story out loud in a social setting and that made me CRINGE--who ARE you to spread HIS personal birth story to whomever you choose? I want to beg, PLEASE dont make me be the bad guy, and instead of focusing on the past, can we stay on the present, at least right now, in this roomful of people? Do you GET that? it is plain ignorance. they are, essentially, ripping open things that are not their right to expose . . . how do we explain this in a polite respectable, but firm way? So hard . . .