Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Choosing Not to be Offended

In A Love Like No Other, there was one essay I particularly liked written by an adoptive mother who is hyper-sensitive about the language people use to talk about adoption. (I'm sorry I can't refer you to her name--my copy of the book is currently in Portland and I'm writing this from Granny's house). I laughed out loud throughout the whole thing at her unabashed chip-on-the-shoulder and her compulsion to educate the masses about proper adoption-related language. I feel the same way a lot of the time, cringing at terms like "own kids" for biological.

So this morning while picking up a cup of coffee, I was chatting away with the owner of the store and the subject of blogs came up and then the subject of our adoption. She was super sweet and interested, and I gave her the address of our blog. I'd been taking photos in the shop (with her permission) and while she was making a cafe au lait for me to take home to Granny, she was asking me questions about the adoption. When I told her I still haven't done much to get the baby's room ready, she laughed and said, "Oh well, you're just like a bunch of real mothers who wait until the last minute to get things ready."

She was so sweet and meant nothing by it at all. In other circumstances, I think I may have gotten my feelings hurt or cringed at the word 'real', but somehow I realized that it's just a case of a very sweet person saying something that she would never imagine being potentially hurtful. It's the classic case of her not having walked a mile in my shoes, so she doesn't know what's sensitive and what's not. She doesn't have the adoption-paperwork/waiting-made blisters on her feet. But I'm sure she has some other kinds of sensitive blisters, made from her own kind of hardship in her own life that I don't know about.

So I chose not to be offended. I chose to let it go because of the bigger picture. What's so funny to me though is that her coworker had been coming in and out of the room, listening and commenting here and there (she wouldn't let me take her picture, even though she's actually my favorite barista). When she overheard her coworker use the word, "real mom," she mumbled, "Real mom as opposed to what other kind of mom? So what is she going to be? Not a real mom?"

Can I hear an amen?

The whole thing was funny to me in the quiet way she mumbled it, most likely just for my benefit, not even looking at me when she said it. I appreciated her quiet support, and I found it almost ironic that one of the few times I actually wasn't overly-sensitive about the way people throw around willy-nilly the word "real," I got support from the sidelines.

It was a nice exchange all round. The first lady was so nice and supportive, and I know she meant nothing by her use of "real mom." Sometimes it's worth it not to be offended. It's easier to let it go with a smile, knowing the person meant no harm. The complicating factor will be when our child(ren) are old enough to hear and understand these terms, which I'm sure will cause some questions. And if I can hold on to this feeling of just shrugging it off, it'll be easier to gently explain the occasional misuse of language by well-meaning people. Grace, grace, grace: my goal is to offer grace.

Lord, help me.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, Lori! I applaud your willingness to make a conscious choice to let this go. I think your overall interaction with this woman probably did much more than anything you could have said to educate her on correct terminology to promote the heart of adoption. I am trying to learn to do the same in those touchy places in my own heart. Sometimes I fail miserably but I like myself and the world better when I am able to show some grace, & give people the benefit of the doubt. I also know how capable I can be of saying the wrong thing (did it just this morning) and I always hope my intention shows through the stupidity of my words.


Tara said...

I am glad that you were able to offer grace and know that there was no mal-intent in her words. I have found that I am really not too bothered by the things that I know so many adoptive mother are...there is a sensitive place in my heart and I will grind you to a bloody pulp if it is mean spirited or intentional, but when it is just wording or ignorance it kinda rolls off my back. Now, when we actualy have our son here with us perhaps my motherly instinct will rise to the occasion but for now - no worries.

Loved this post!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think you really hit on something here. Early on when we were trying to get pregnant, trying to adopt and then new adoptive parents, I was hyper-sensitive to the words people choose. And almost nobody can say the right thing.

It is so important to hear the intent behind someone's words, so much is harmless and carelessness, not intentionally hurtful. Most people mean well.

Well done on showing your grace.

Anonymous said...

I agree. You did well.

When I first read it, I read it like real mom as in "you don't have the 9 months of belly". I say she was truly trying to relate the fact that everyone is different in how they prepare. She was just trying to tell you that it's okay not to be 100% prepared. Not all of us are/were/will be. I didn't read her comment to be mean. I only pray that my words (either spoken or typed) are never hurtful to you or any one else. That's not where my heart is!!!

:) Bless you, Lori! You have a great heart!! And you sound like you're oooozing grace!


erin said...

I haven't been too offended before, or after the adoption, mostly for the reason you mention -- Most people don't intend to hurt, and they're not familiar with appropriate adoption language. Why should they be, they don't think about it like we do! It will be different when our children are conscious of what's being said, and asking for grace is a good idea!

Amy said...

You handled it VERY Well! Even when I know in my heart that someone is saying something out of ignorance and that they most likely are not trying to be malicious....I still have the strong desire to correct them.. I may not always correct them to their face, but definitely correct them later when re telling the story to Josh.:)

Anonymous said...

You are extremely wise!
May the Lord bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you.

Jana said...

amen and amen.

Celia said...

Good job, Lori! BTW keep practicing, your kids will handle things the way you do. I'm learning that the hard way right now. (read-my little Shelby) It's easier to learn how to do things when little eyes aren't watching and little mouths aren't yet able to repeat!! I'm praying for you.

Drew Carey Show said...

Love your approach! I've been reading the same book and have formed many opinions based on each story. We've received some dumb comments, but like you say, never malicious. It will be curious to see what it's really like when we bring Zoe home. We're up for the adventure!

Anonymous said...

Here here! Nice to hear, dear.


Anonymous said...

Just be sure to keep writing all those unthoughtful words down so that you can talk to your kidlet about it before it's heard on the playground, in the grocery story or in daycare :)

Susan Isaacs said...

Two things. A woman who flies half way across the world to adopt a child of another race, seems as much or more of a mom than one who gives birth from her own womb.

Second: letting things go. My brother-in-law's father married hastily, after his first wife died. It ended in a bitter divorce. He's still angry and resentful. It's so hard to watch. It WAS a horrible thing. But his bitterness is eating him alive. I heard a woman define forgiveness this way: forgiveness doesn't mean what happened to you was OK. It's never OK. Sin cost Jesus his life. But it does mean letting go of the right to get revenge. LettingGod deal with it. Then we go to the cross and grieve it out. The best thing my sponsor ever ordered me to do was to pray for my ex. Pray that God blessed him and gave him what he needed. It freed me to go on living.