Thursday, September 30, 2010

family resemblance

The other day at the library an elderly man chatted with us a while, made a comment about what a remarkable little boy Alfredo is, and then said "He doesn't look like you."

It was an innocent enough comment. And I know that it's the thought that crosses lots of minds when they meet us. Perhaps when they hear Alfredo call me Amy instead of Mommy they get even more confused.

It's nobody's business. I know that. I don't owe anyone an explanation, especially not a stranger whom we'll most likely never see again. And although it is  remarkable, the story of how we came to be a family is long and complicated.

But when this man stated aloud what is obvious to the whole of the world, but not at all to my sweet little boy, I looked quickly at him to see if he heard it too. The man said it so plainly, so matter-of-factly. "He doesn't look like you." Did Alfredo hear it? Did he understand? If he didn't this time, will he someday look at me and see our differences? Will he ever, even for a tiny second, question the source of our love when that same question is on every new face he meets?

My prayer for him is that he knows in the way you know that the sky is blue and the grass green. The way you know that each breath you breathe is there now and will be there for the next breathe, God willing. I pray that he knows how completely lovable he is. And how it has not the single bit to do with how he looks or how I look.

I hope our story and the glimpse into our life, my heart, and our love will help prepare you for those of life's moments when you see a family whose roots are not obvious, whose traits are not mirrored so clearly that you can tell just by looking at them how their story began. Pause and consider please that this family is no less one. Not one single bit. Pause and consider please that what is so obvious to you might not yet be to all the little members of that family.

39 comments:

Debby said...

I have an adopted son. He looked like one of our biological sons, but he didn't act like him. I always had comments about that. I think people are curious and just say things without thinking. I do understand how you feel. By the way, your son is adorable.

Diana said...

Our oldest 2 (now 23 and 25) were adopted as infants. They are african american/caucasian; our younger 2 (17 and 13 now) are caucasian, having been born to us. There have always been comments ("they must look like your husband", "SHE'S your sister!?" -- uttered just last week by a co-worker of my 23 yr old regarding my 17 yr old). Usually it's meant innocently and, as said above, people just don't think.

My 25 yr old has 2 children, ages 3 and 1 1/2, whose father is Mexican and they look just like your beautiful boy.

What did bother my older girls is when people (particularly school personnel before we started homeschooling) would assume they were in foster care. Pretty annoying, especially since both of their birth mothers were in fact caucasian! As we learned in the interracial family support group that we were in for many years, all multi ethnic or multi racial families get these comments, whether they are families through birth, adoption, foster, or guardianship.

Anyway, you and your family are beautiful. I wish I was close enough to meet you and talk with you in real life.

Diana

LB Designs said...

A good reminder to all. People speak without thinking all the time. I'm sure all of the love that you share with your son is going to more than make up for any thoughtless comments. I'm so happy for you and the beautiful life you are sharing with Alfredo!

vivian said...

well said Amy. People have a tendency to speak with out thinking and usually without the intentions of hurting anyone.. but it does happen sometimes doesnt it. I have a feeling that Alfredo KNOWS he is loved. You are a wonderful person.. Alfredo is very blessed to have you in his precious life.
hugs!!
vivian

Molly said...

Oh this spoke to my heart Amy! My two baby brother and sister are adopted, we got them out of foster when Ronald was 3 weeks old, his mom had left him alone for 3 days. Then one year later she had Elizabeth and we officially adopted them a few months later. They don't look like us, we are short and chubby, they both look like models. I helped my mom raise them, so they sometimes call me mom too. I love them more than life itself! I went through "withdrawls" after I got married because I wasn't with them every hour of everyday. Sometimes people say they don't look like us and somestimes I wonder how it makes them feel, they are 13 & 14 so I know they know what people are saying. I always say that yes they are adopted but God brought them to our house so we could be their mama's. Alfredo is so sweet and he is very blessed that God brought him to your house so you could be his mama :) Molly P

ruth said...

Oh, I so know what you're going through! My oldest son is mine from a short lived abusive relationship. My husband and I are both average height, fair skin, blonde hair, green eyes. Our 3 children together look like clones of my husband and are on the shorter side. My oldest definitely sticks out, due to his dark brown hair/eyes (he's caucasian, just lots of Native American a couple generations back on both sides) and 90th % height. He never questioned why he looked so different, but everyone ALWAYS commented on it! I hated it because he had no idea that daddy was not the one that made him (we got married when he was 13 mos old, had been hs sweethearts). He never seemed to question it, even when he got into school and ppl commented on his last name being different. It wasn't until the bio-dad agreed to the adoption that we told him, we told him the very basics and he was fine with it. That was when he was 8.5, he's almost 10 and when ppl comment he just matter of factly tells them he has a different dad but his daddy adopted him. He thinks it's really special that he's adopted and we celebrate our 'family anniversary' on the day we went to court for the adoption. I always dreaded the day when he would notice and start asking questions, but honestly it wasn't nearly the big deal that I thought it would be. He's in a safe and loving environment and that's all he cares about. I'm sure it's the same way with Alfredo, he knows he's cherished and secure.

Life At Camellia Cottage said...

I am 58 years old. I look nothing like either of my parents or my brother. I do, as I get older, look very much like my dad's middle sister, who is only 9 years older than me. My parents were 5'8" and 5'8 1/2", my brother almost 6'; I am 4'11". All my family had dark hair and eyes, and I had blond hair and blue eyes. People often commented on how little I looked like my family, that's just how people think. This is a long way around to say - love is the most important thing. Your son will know, because you are showing him the things that matter most each day. I don't know the history, but I don't need to, because it is obvious how much you love him and THAT is what matters. He will understand that, too! Blessings, Becky

Lisa Super said...

I feel you Amy. Consider the source, he was from the same tribe as the old man that rolled up on me while I was nursing an infant in a corner and got all up in the breast feeding action. People can be so clueless.

My oldest boy looks exactly like his Dad and my middle boy looks exactly like me. My daughter on the other hand does not resemble either of us in any way AT ALL. She's the spitting image of my mother. I have seen people look from my boys to my husband and then from my daughter to my husband only to level a "what do we have here" look at me. Like it's there business to even try to figure us all out.

The great thing is that kids don't think the way adults do. Love and happiness will cause comments like that to sail right over his head for quite a few years to come. By the time he picks up on anything like what you mentioned he'll think it's utterly ridiculous.

Heather said...

I just read your story of Alfredo and it's so wonderful! Thanks for the reminder, I stick my foot in my mouth sometimes, but I hope I never do damage to other families or children with careless words. We all need a reminder to think before we speak.

Elizabeth @ A Classic Pearl said...

Hi Amy, I always love reading the updates on Alfredo. What a wonderful child!

I was adopted at 4 months. I'm 26 now and my mom, dad and I still receive the same curious looks now. Probably now more than ever. Sometimes I think it's rudeness and sometimes I think people are just plain curious.

Many people ask if I can remember when my parents told me I was adopted. I don't. They never hid it, but I never remember having a discussion about any of it. A lot of people say, well it must have been obvious. But it wasn't. What 5 year old thinks of things like that? If that's all he/she has known, then why should they question it. I always felt the love and joy of my parents. I am sure it is no different with Alfredo. You are blessed to have one another!

FillyFolly said...

My son is adopted from Korea and I am very pale with red hair. When we first brought him home I did get questions. One person asked me about his "chinky eyes" another asked me if he was "delivery or carryout." Some ask me what he is "mixed with". I got to the point where I would just shut down when I was out, and not have a friendly face so that no one would talk to me.
The other day I got a letter from a doctors office and it said "He lives with his adoptive parents." It made me so mad. I'm his mom, that doesn't need to be qualified! Birth parents don't get letters that say "He lives with his mother and father who had him because she forgot to take the pill one day and oops!" LOL :)

Jen Kershner said...

But your hearts have a remarkable resemblance and that is all that really matters. I think you would enjoy my friend Shannan's blog http://flowerpatchfarmgirl.blogspot.com/ She has 3 adopted children, 2 korean and 1 biracial and she is so inspiring.

Jessica said...

In high school I had a friend who was adopted. He was Korean. His parents... weren't. He was one of two minorities in our white midwest town. The funny thing was they were just a family. Nothing weird about it. In fact, when he was diagnosed with an extremely hereditary thyroid disorder he laughed at the number of people who asked if Bill his (adopted) father had it... Strangers may see it, but those closest to you will be complete blind to any "differences".

Lynne said...

Well said, Amy.

Tamera @ the Stone Fence Cottage said...

Amy--I've an adopted korean daughter. People would ask me if I was going to tell her she was adopted. Like she wouldn't NOTICE that she is asian and we are caucasian?? People can be so dumb sometimes. She's always known her "story"
Alfredo is your son--no more, no less.
Let me leave you with this little verse that a dear friend embroidred on a picture as a gift....
"Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone....
But still uniquely my own.
Never forget you weren't born under my heart.....
but in it."

Jeanie said...

I don't have any close family that have adopted but I have a friend who has eight siblings and all of them, except one, are adopted. I support adoption 100%, though I would encourage parents to be honest with them even at an early age, I attend church with a family with one child she is 12 and is adopted and doesn't know it, and it causes problems with kids her age, cause everybody knows it excpet her. My friend said that they were told that they were adopted even before they knew what that was, so to anyone who is reading this please be honest with those special children that you are loving and caring for, because they derserve to know and I think that it's your job to tell them, adoption isn't bad is wonderful, you were able to choose them, and you are able to love where someone else isn't, or didn't want to, you have that privilege.

Annette D said...

My sister adopted a wonderful little girl after a still birth and a miscarriage. So my sister was almost 40 when she adopted Olivia. My sister is full of energy, has natural blonde hair like my niece, the same noses,everything looks alike. But it never fails, someone always calls my sister her daughters' grandma. People can be such jerks.

Heather said...

Amy, I am going to say something really mean....People are STUPID sometimes, and insensitive without even knowing it!! One time while my son had his NG tube (feeding tube that runs through his nose)a woman came into OUR store which was like our home, my son helped to wait on her and after he handed everything over to her..she asked for "a spoon that he hadn't touched..." I was mortified, outraged and basically ready to attack because I saw the hurt on my sons face. There was NO denying that he heard the woman, she said it directly to him...PEOPLE ARE STUPID sometimes! We like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are only like that sometimes!

For your little guy, I am sure he knows how lucky he is to have you as his mom and could care less if he shares the same physical traits as you. I would hope that the mans comment was innocent and went right over Alfredo's head...and you my friend, you are one of the hero's of today. You have given a loving home to another human being and there are few things more special than that!

jknapp00 said...

He may not ever realize how lovable he is but he will know always that you love him more than anybody ever could, because you show him that every moment of every day in the way that you delight in him. He is obviously thriving and happy and I am so glad that God made you a family!

Kathy said...

My BIL gets asked all the time which of his three daughters is his biological daughter...well ALL THREE. They do not LOOK alike or related when they stand together and since they are all of 4 years total apart its kind of funny. And really none look like my sis either.
So, even when there is a biological relation it doesn't always show. I recommend just ignoring the comments. If you give it no credence he won't ever worry about it I bet.

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M. said...

Hi Amy. I smiled when I read your post. I, too, have been asked many times over the years "Is she yours?" about my daughter. I gave birth to her, but she looks nothing like me. I am brown-eyed and Greek and Mexican and she is blonde, blue-eyed pale skinned. I used to ask my husband if they asked me that because I looked too old to be her mother (I had her when I was 36). He assured me no, she just doesn't look like you.People used to ask me where my son, who looked like he just came off the boat from Greece, where he came from. Also, none of my three kids look alike. A schoolmate of my daughter's didn't believe her when she said her brother was her brother when he heard they had the same last name. And someone once told me, You know those families that all look alike and you know they're family just by looking at them. I replied, Yes, I grew up in a family like that. Her response: Yours, not so much. People, biological or adopted, just look like themselves sometimes. And, honestly, I don't feel people are meaning to be insensitive or mean. They're just curious. I'd just say "He looks like my husband."

Johwey Redington said...

This is a wonderful post. Reminds us all to think twice before we open our mouths - especially when little kids are involved. I'm sure your little boy is secure in your love for him :)

www.WildOliveKids.etsy.com said...

Bravo-Well said.

The French Bear said...

Amy, Alfredo may not look like you but he is you in his heart and spirit......
He loves to create and imagine and play, he loves to sing, he is caring and loving and happy. That is exactly like you, I can't imagine someone not seeing that!!!
I can hear the love in your words when you write about him and to me he is yours!
Hugs,
Margaret B ;)

Anonymous said...

We all, even those of us who know better, can say things we shouldn't, or say things that come out "wrong". Looking back, I probably hurt someone's feelings when I commented that her daughter didn't look Vietnamese. (The Mom is Vietnamese, the Dad caucasian.) I was shocked when a woman pressed me (repeatedly) for info about my child's father. She is adopted, but interestingly enough shares several unique traits with my biological family. And people have said many, many times that she looks like my Husband, or even that she looks like my Mother. Genetics are so interesting! Biologically related families are can look unrelated and those of us biologically unrelated can look completely alike. I feel like my daughter was always mine, even before birth. We were present at her birth, my husband cut her umbilical cord, and we stayed in the hospital with her like every other family. I dislike it when people act as if adoption makes us any less of a family. We do not share our story with everyone because of this. However, we have talked about this story with our daughter since the beginning. I don't feel like we need to go around saying "our child is adopted" because I wouldn't expect or want someone else to be giving me intimate details of their child's conception, etc. We always emphasize that families are about WHO YOU LOVE. We casually talk about this often, so she will have confidence in herself, but also so she will have understanding of others. Because just like there are families where parents and children do not look alike there are so many other families -- 1 parent in the home because of divorce, 1 parent in the home because of death, living with a grandparent/or other family member, 2 moms or 2 dads -- that need understanding too. Back to your situation... my suggestion is if someone says Alfredo doesn't look like you, don't explain, don't bring up adoption, just state the obvious and reply ISN'T HE HANDSOME! When people comment on my daughter's gorgeous auburn hair and ask where she got it, I just say "I don't know, but isn't she lucky." or "somewhere in the gene pool and I wish I had it too!" Your son KNOWS he is loved. He KNOWS you are his family. This is what matters most. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Suz said...

Amy,
You clearly are a family. Alfredo clearly knows he is loved. You can tell that just by looking at his sweet face. You know that. Sometimes we just need reminding!

Hugs,
Suz

Kacey said...

My son is 1/2 Guatemalan and has lovely bronze skin and dark hair/eyes (I am pale and blonde) if I had a nickel for every time someone did a double take or flat out asked me if he was "mixed with something" I'd be a rich woman indeed.

I understand the curiosity, I think it's a natural impulse left over from our hunter/gatherer days to want to categorize our surroundings. I do not, however, understand the rudeness and I'm sorry you had to deal with it.

Marci said...

wow this touched my heart. we are two caucasian parents raising three bi-racial girls. i know people say things like that because they are curious but sometimes i wonder if they think for just a moment about your little one listening to them. maybe that little one isn't quite ready to hear that story but it forces them to think about something that they shouldn't have to think about quite yet. ahhh if we would only think before we speak!

he'll know. it may take a while but he'll know it in his heart eventually. i have had some shaky moments with my 7 yr old because of things others have told her but she's finally starting to grasp it all. i just wish we could have waited until it was time for her!

adoption is one of the biggest miracles there is. we get to love someone and it has nothing to do with blood. we get the unique opportunity to truly love someone for who they are deep down inside and not because they look like us.

he is adorable and so are you!

Anonymous said...

My kids are not adopted nor bi/multi-racial but we are surrounded by friends and a population who are. My son looks like me, my daughter like my husband. My husband is also a redhead, so has endured a lifetime of unwanted attention. One day, I was at a nearby store where the clerks are very kind to children. One clerk looked at my daughter and said, "You are very pretty. You have very pretty eyes." My daughter thanked her. The clerk glanced at me and asked, "Does she look like her daddy?"
Fortunately, I burst out laughing loudly and the rest of the line behind us did, too. The clerk mumbled an apology and looked embarrassed but I was fine with it. It WAS a compliment for my daughter. People do say the stupidest things. Thank you for sharing your family story. I would be (and often am) very defensive where the welfare of kids is concerned. Bravo, Brave Mom!

Valerie said...

Well said, my friend. I'm a red-headed mama of a beautiful Guatemalan. :) We get the questions and the comments all of the time. I can't say that some of the comments don't hurt, but I just don't care as much anymore. The way we've always told my son, is that just like Papa and Mama picked each other to marry and we aren't blood related to each other, we (and God) also picked him for our family, and that's all that matters. We are in the process now to adopt through our state (very soon) and could end up with even more of a beautiful melting pot of skin colors in the family.

Recycled Rita said...

Isn't it funny how people think they are entitled to say whatever they want? I am White-(european background) and my hubby is 1/2 Mexican 1/2 white. Our son came out blonde haired-blue eyes-white skin and freckles. Our daughter came out with black curly hair-dark brown eyes and olive complexion. A lady walked up to us when they were toddlers and said "2 different fathers?"
I was mortified that she even asked!!! Go figure!
Alfredo knows he is loved by many...that is what counts! karen....

Bev said...

I find it amazing what some people feel is important for them to say....and how wonderful it is for them that we don't always tell them back what is on our heart to say...

Love is the glue that holds your precious family together.

Don't worry about Alfredo, he'll be fine...and personally, I think he looks alot like his mother in the "sweet heart" album:)

Never apologize, and if well meaning strangers can't understand that God takes all kinds of avenues to create families, than it's simple not worth explaining...a simple "Thank you...we think he's adorable too" will do.

Julie Loeschke said...

Next time just smile,say"Nope" and move on.:)

April@ Natural Nester said...

You may be overloaded reading comments, but I just wanted to add my story. My husband and I had our first daughter in February. He is of Thai descent, I am caucasian. He has dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes and I'm white as can be with blue eyes. My daughter inherited his gorgeous traits and I love that! But at the grocery store the other day, a woman was remarking on how beautiful my baby is when my husband walked up. She looked at each of us, then looked at me and said, "She doesn't look like you AT ALL!" I was completely caught off guard and said, "Well, she's mine! I birthed her!" I add my agreement to the others...some people don't think before speaking...myself included. :)

Rose Brier Studio said...

Amy, I learned this lesson the hard way. At my first job, and I was awfully young (which is the only excuse I can offer), I made a very thought-less comment to a co-worker. She was white, her husband black. They had two children (biologically both of theirs), one looked white, the other black. I saw a photo on the mom's desk and stupidly said they looked like two families. The mom righteously took me to task, saying, "No, we are one family." I was so embarassed. I am also enormously grateful that she didn't let such an idiotic statement stand. Since then when I see kids who don't look like the people they call mom & dad, I just think how wonderful that they are a family.

I know how much you love your little boy and I'm so sorry that man was insensitive. But just look at Antonio & your smiles, look at the love expressed -- you can't miss the family resemblance!

hugs,
~Marilee

Laura Ellington said...

Beautiful!

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