We had a first in our family last week. Someone made a rude, thoughtless, ignorant, and hurtful comment to DearWife about one of our children.
Our eldest, the three year old wunderkind referred to here as BigBrother, is adopted. Someday, I’ll get into that whole story of why and how…suffice it to say that we ended up going through the Cradle, and were happy with the whole process and how it was handled.
Being an adoptive parent is a little more complex than being a biological parent. You have all of the normal parenting issues to deal with, but you also have an entirely different set of issues that biological parents do not have to deal with.
One of those issues is other people’s ignorance. Last week DearWife was in a social situation with our kids, a bunch of other kids, and all their moms. The moms were talking about how the second child imitates the older child. DearWife related a story about our youngest, LittleBrother (who happens to be biological) and how he imitated something his BigBrother did (climbing to dangerous heights, banging cutlery around, but not putting toys away).
One of the moms, let’s call her Hepzibah, responded with “But it’s almost like LittleBrother is your first child.” That’s bad enough just because it makes no sense in context. The discussion was about what LittleBrother saw, and he clearly saw BigBrother doing things. So the comment is inane right off the bat.
But its implication, that somehow BigBrother didn’t count as much, isn’t ours, or isn’t real in some way, is a very hurtful and a dangerous implication. And particularly so when the kids are around. DearWife, socially appropriate as always, gently, subtly tries to point out that BigBrother is real, and relates another story about how LittleBrother imitates him.
Hepzibah: “Well, LittleBrother is your first real child.” Had I been there, I would have been in stunned silence deciding between a pimp-slap or a witty yet mean retort. Thankfully, I didn’t have that choice, because all my witty retorts come to me about 5 minutes late, and I would have ended up sounding like a Chris Farley character.
Eventually, Hepzibah realized what she was saying, and went into the ol’ “But some of my best friends are black” routine. So at least she realized the effect her comments were having. I don’t think she was being intentionally malicious. But that doesn’t stop the effects of what she was saying. This was the first time someone makes a thoughtless comment, but it certainly won’t be the last. And even though we knew it was coming, it didn’t make it any easier.