Staring

April 7, 2014

  Oh, the staring!  Man, did we get some looks on our trip.  I don't think I realized until we went on this vacation how spoiled we are here on Kwaj.  People here know us and they know our kids.  No one questions that our family is a family.  Everywhere we went on our vacation, people stared at us.  For the most part it wasn't mean staring, just surprise and curiosity, and it was better in Singapore than it was in Malaysia.
  I think a big contributing factor was the fact that the kids are Marshallese.  It's a natural human instinct to try to categorize people and our kids didn't fit into any of their usual boxes.  Sky is part Indian, so I would guess that people thought she was adopted from India, but Fire is 100% Marshallese so they really didn't know what to make of him.  He could sort of look Malay, but not quite, and he wasn't anything else that they were used to seeing (Caucasian, Chinese, African, Indian).  All of that brought on some confusing looks. 
  For the most part, I was okay with it.  I get it- we stand out.  And at no point on the trip did anyone question that Sky and Atesh were our kids.  We even got a few understanding looks when the kids had meltdowns in public- those familiar ones from other parents that say, "We've been there."  At the end of our trip when things got hard, I started getting tired of the looks.  I'm ashamed to admit that I snapped at a group of Korean ladies in the Seoul airport.  They swiveled their heads as we walked past and that was the last straw on the staring camel.  I turned and snapped at them and of course they were smiling and waving at the kids.  I felt like such an a$s.
  Maybe I'm just used to the more open American way or maybe I've lived in a small town for so long that I've forgotten the inherent anonymity in cities but the thing that really struck me about the looks was that no one asked any questions.  There was one person who asked if Sky was mine, and he asked if she was my son (probably just a pronoun mix up there).  And interestingly enough, it was a little person that asked.  Sky and I had gone into a store to buy some water and juice and he was at the register.  After we paid he said, "Your son?"  I put my hand on her head and said that she was my daughter.  I could see the question in his face so I said that she was from India and that her mother had asked me to take her (both of which are a little bit true.  Believe me, there is a whole 'nother post out there somewhere about explaining inter-country adoption to people who don't  speak your language and understand the idea in the first place).  I would guess that he felt comfortable asking because he got plenty of stares and questions himself for being different.  I know it would get old if it happened all the time, but in the moment it was refreshing.
  I've read about interracial families in America having to keep their kids birth certificates with them all the time and about parents wanting to have T-shirts made that say "Yes, we're a family".  We're so lucky that we live someplace that lets our family just be ourselves.
 

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