My family’s not normal but let’s be honest . . . neither is yours.
I swear this happened one time — in America to boot.
I was at my hometown mall watching my daughter (a toddler at the time) trip around the foam rubber, indoor playground just outside of the Panda Express. I hadn’t been a father long but I knew from watching TV that playground chit chat was a thing. I was ready — or so I thought.
A woman, whom I believe was Chinese, kicked off a conversation.
“Is that your kid?”
“Good opening question” I thought. “I can do this.”
“Yeah.” I said with a chuckle that simultaneously meant, “isn’t she cute” and “chit chat is easy.”
“She doesn’t look like you.”
I felt like maybe she was unnecessarily stating the obvious but I was not deterred.
Chuckling again I said, “Yeah. She’s adopted.”
Now this is the moment where a normal person has expectations right? You expect any number of responses like — “Aww, that is so sweet” or “Wow, that’s really great” or “Oh cool, my cousin is adopted.”
But nope. I got . . .
“Hmm . . . cause you can’t make one?”
I’m just going to pause my blog for a moment to let the awkwardness fully sink in. Continue when you are able.
I have pondered this moment for more than ten years now and I still don’t know what the right response would have . . . no wait . . . could have been.
“Well, we’ve . . . uh . . . you know . . . we’ve um, tried . . . but uh . . . I’m sorry have we met because I don’t remember catching your name before you know . . . you started asking me about the working order of my reproductive system . . . . . . . . . My name is Jerry?”
Honestly I get it. On two different levels I get it.
Having lived in China since shortly after that moment I’ve learned a lot about (and even come to appreciate) the “unencumbered” nature of Chinese enquiry. If it’s weird, ask about it. Why wouldn’t you?
I also realize that she was just culturally unencumbered enough to enquire about the the same thought that goes through everyone’s head when they see us.
We’re not normal. I get it.
We’re not like the other delightful little mall families whose kids are shrunken versions of themselves (no offense if you are one of those — you’re very cute). We are two white parents with a Chinese daughter and a black son and fair enough, the first thought that you think when you see us may start with “awww” or “hmm” but it ends you “cause you can’t make one.”
It’s ok if you had that thought . . . and thank you for not saying it out loud.
The first thoughts never define a relationship unless the relationship ends there. What you’ll discover, no matter how you choose to get to know us, though, is that we blend.
In fact we blend so much that now, when I see pictures like the one up there with our faces all squished together, I do a double take . . . and I remember that we really don’t look much like our kids . . . but man we go together.
Look at us.
I forget though . . . virtually always . . . what is so blatantly obvious to everyone who sees us for the first time. Hang out with us for a day and you’ll forget too.
My family’s not normal but let’s be honest . . . neither is yours. I love it that way.
Do you blend? Your blendedness may look a lot like ours or nothing at all. Either way, take a minute a brag on your family below.
Know some great blended families — pass it on.