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.