We visited my husband’s grandma in her assisted living home yesterday. We met in the public meeting room rather than her apartment since we had all the kids with us. We thought it would be more spacious. As we were waiting for my mother-in-law to bring Steve’s grandma in a few lady’s spotted our transracial family and rolled over in their chairs to ask a few questions. The spokeswoman for the group managed to cover every Asian and adoption stereotype or assumption in the 20-minute segment we were visiting.
Typically, when a conversation like this starts, I find a way to quickly exit, but this situation didn’t allow me to escape since we were trying to visit with Steve’s aging grandma who we only get to see about once every two years. Unfortunately, our visit was dominated by this one lady.
Sometimes I exaggerate a little in my posts for the sake of humor, but this is no exaggeration. If anything this is underplayed. Here’s how our conversation went (with a few attempts to ignore, avert, and communicate with Steve’s grandma mixed in):
Lady: Are you babysitting these kids?
Steve: No, they’re our kids. We adopted them.
Lady: Are they from Asia?
Steve: Yes, China.
Lady: Iche, ni, san, shi, go! (big smile)
Me: I think that’s Japanese.
Lady: Oh, really? Hmm…I’m from San Francisco…There are a lot of Asian people there…I used to eat a lot of Chinese food. I can even use chopsticks…Do you have any kids of your own?
Me: These are our own kids.
Lady: No, I mean, like kids you gave birth to?
Me: (holding back a sigh) These are our only kids.
Lady: So, their real mom just had ‘em and left ‘em?
Me: (I gave a brief explanation of why their birth parents may not have been able to care for them, including how they were all born with cleft lip and palate and the high cost of surgery).
Lady: So, is he gonna get his lip fixed (pointing to my son, Josiah, on my lap).
Me: (exasperation starting) He’ll be having surgery this coming year, right Josiah? (I smiled at him as he sat on my lap.)
Lady: I’m from San Francisco. There are a lot of Asians in San Francisco. Asian people all look the same. Black hair, the eyes, skin. Ha! All the same. We have different color hair, eyes, skin. Not them. You can’t tell any of them apart. Are they related?
Me: (at a loss for words) No, they’re not birth-related.
Lady: So you tried and tried and couldn’t have any kids of your own?
Me: (Suggesting to Steve that it’s time to make an early exit) We didn’t really try (that sounds ridiculous to her, I’m sure…and will only bring more questions).
Lady: (confused) Are you married?
Lady: And you just decided to get these kids?
Me: (sigh) yeah.
Lady: You’re such good people to take in these kids.
Me: Well, they’re a blessing to us. Steve, I think it’s time to go.
Lady: Are they athletic? We used to go to the circus when I was a kid and the Chinese would do acrobats. I’m from San Francisco you know. I can use chopsticks. I ate a lot of Asian food. You know why they don’t have knives on the tables in China?
Me: (sigh) No.
Lady: They cut up everything small in the kitchen. People would get into fights at the table and kill each other with knives. That’s why they use chopsticks. I can use chopsticks. I’m from San Francisco.
(This was where we had an intermission from her questions and got to have a short conversation with Steve’s grandma. But mostly Steve talked to his grandma, while I was bombarded with this lady’s missiles.)
Lady: (she piped up again) What are their names?
Me: (pointing to each child) Sheehan, Josiah, and Autumn.
Lady: So, you kept their Asian names?
Me: (confused) No. Those are western names.
Lady: Russian names? Oh.
Me: No, west…American. They’re American names. Josiah is from the Bible. (Looking at Josiah on my lap with a smile): Right? You were named after a righteous king (he smiled broadly).
Lady: He was in the Bible? Tells you how much I know about the Bible. Ha! Autumn? Was she born in Autumn?
Me: Um, no, she was born in March.
Lady: Then why do you call her Autumn? Autumn is August, September, and October. Just call her Spring…I was born in Spring. April…Just celebrated my birthday last month. It’s May, right?
Me: No, it’s November. This week is Thanksgiving.
Lady: Is it? Oh…(she smiled and circled her ear with her finger indicating that she was crazy). Then, you know they kill each other with their chopsticks too?
Me: (to Steve): Okay, we’re going to sit in the car.
(To Lady): Nice meeting you. (And we said good-bye to Steve’s grandma, after maybe 20 words to her during the 20-minute visit).
Here’s a video my friend Kristine sent me. Any adoptive family can totally relate to this video. It’s funny in a sad kind of way.
If you know someone who has adopted or was adopted, share this with them. They’ll get it. Tweet it, Like it, email it.