How I plan to protect my kids from negative Adoption comments — thanks to 3 lessons from my own childhood
As a dark-skinned girl growing up in Northern India, my skin colour was an open topic for social commentary. Teachers asked me if I did indeed belong to Haryana/Punjab or did my ancestors migrate from a far off state where apparently all the dark-skinned people lived. Random relatives wondered how my fair-skinned mother could produce a dark-skinned child. Neighbours told me not to walk in the sun because it would make me even darker and that would be so undesirable. Shopkeepers looked at me twice when I was standing next to my mother wondering whose kid she had brought along.
Yet somehow I was fine. Not just fine, I was a confident over-talkative kid with a mind of my own, and the social commentary never bothered me. For a long time, I thought that was because I had thick skin. But after my daughters’ adoptions, when people started asking me how I will protect them from all the rude comments in the world, I started thinking deeply about my own childhood. Did I really just have thick skin or was it something else?
I thought about how I was raised and three things jumped out. Three things that not only made other people’s comments irrelevant, but also made me comfortable with being whosoever I am. I hope to apply these same life lessons in my daughters’ upbringing.
1) My closest family circle was always supportive
I had tons of relatives but a very small circle of close relatives. This small circle never uttered a single word about my skin colour. In one instance, my maternal grandfather told me about all the smart successful people who were dark-skinned when a teacher commented negatively about my skin. This circle made me feel that I was valued. Children can ignore the rest of the world when those closest to them support them. Inversely, nothing hurts a child more than being put down by the same people.
So I am very particular about who forms the small circle around my kids. I am brutal about cold shouldering people if they show the slightest bias against adoption. I can’t fix the world but I can choose my closest circle.
2) I was told that “people can sometimes be idiots”
One very practical thing my parents did was to tell me that people can sometimes be idiots. This did not mean that I could be disrespectful or talk back. This did not mean that I could forget my manners. What this meant was that I didn’t have to take everyone seriously. If someone said something rude about my skin-colour, I could assume he/she was immature and walk away, irrespective of who that person was.
I plan to teach the same golden rule to my kids. If someone says anything rude about adoption, it shows that person’s immaturity and lack of sense. Ignore them, walk away, and know that you have the right to remove such people from your life.
3) Parents’ self-confidence rubs off on kids
My dad speaks heavily accented English but if he was to meet the Queen of England, he will be the more confident one in the room. When we are fine with who we are, our kids see that. It makes them fine with who they are. I want my daughters to be completely comfortable with the knowledge that they were adopted. Which means I need to show them time and again how proud and happy I am about being their mother, and in general, how okay I am about being different in any way.
Being overly concerned about the world’s or society’s comments is a mental monster we create. Yes it’s true that people can be rude. But it’s also true that we can teach our kids how to handle the rudeness, so they have a shield to protect themselves from whatever the world throws at them.