Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two Different Approaches: Educating versus "Mind Your Own Business"

I was in a Cotton Ginny store earlier today shopping for some casual clothes, and the sales person asked me if Matthew was my only child or if I had other children.  I answered, but then Matthew added that he was waiting for his brother and sister to come home.  Of course, this prompted the beginning of a conversation about our (hopeful) adoption from Ethiopia.

I'm always stunned by the first question people usually ask:  "how much does it cost?"  I mean, really, do I just go up and ask perfect strangers how much they had paid for something of value in their lives?  Don't worry - I handled the question appropriately, even with an educational perspective, and also answered her questions about where we were adopting from and why from there.  I was then asked "why do you want to adopt instead of having more children of your own?" Again, I patiently answered that these children were my own, we just hadn't seen pictures of them yet, and that we had decided on adopting from Ethiopia for many reasons. After answering another few questions, I felt it appropriate to beeline (hide?) for the change rooms with Matthew and I lingered there as long as I could with only a few items to try on.

When I finally emerged and started to make my way to the front of the store to pay for my items, two new sales people approached me, followed by the original sales girl - they were all girls, really, about 20-23 years old. They all stopped in front of me as I was about halfway up to the cash desk, and the first girl said to the other two: "this is the woman who's adopting from Ethiopia." I was trapped behind a barricade of three girls who had no other customers to divert their attentions.  Inwardly I sighed and outwardly I smiled and listened to their dreams for children and which of them would be willing to "save other people's children" through adoption.  They seemed oblivious to my body language and tone of voice which, while polite, was definitely oriented towards shutting conversation down; my answers, too, were politely low on verbiage. Clearly my signals were too subtle for them to pick up.  I gradually edged my way around them towards the cash desk while trying to keep tabs on Matthew.  I kept hoping that Matthew would at least create a diversion for me to pull me out of the conversation - but of all times, he chose this afternoon to be independently employed.  He darted repeatedly around the store at full speed, incidentally not letting racks of pants interfere with his path - he simply went through them all.  The girl-women thought he was adorable and, at least on that front, I was willing to indulge their commentary.

It did make me wonder, though, about how often I will enounter such conversations upon our (hopeful) return from Ethiopia with our children. Not only is it difficult to engage in these conversations while your child is running free, it is a horrnedous thought to me that my children (any of them) might be within earshot of some of those ill-thought-out (though undoubtedly well-intentioned) questions and comments. 

Clearly I am going to have to figure out some quick answers to provide people with when they ask such forward questions; answers that are hopefully educational but which, first and foremost, are mindful of the fact that my children will be listening to my every word.

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