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Thursday, July 10, 2008

It's NOT the Same

Last week we all stood around after the girls' dance recital: Canuck K with her girls Cinnamon and Spice, Strawberry with Peaches and Cream, the Tongginator and me, alongside several other excited, squealing girls running circles around their beaming parents and grandparents.

An elderly European woman, grandmother to one of the Tongginator's dance classmates, approached Canuck K and asked if Cinnamon and Spice were twins. Canuck K smiled, replied in the affirmative and then quickly chased after one of her girls who appeared bent on mischief. The woman then turned her focus to me.

ELDERLY EUROPEAN WOMAN: (pointing to Cinnamon and Spice, as well as Peaches and Cream) Two sets of twins?

TONGGU MOMMA: (smiling) Yes, they are.

ELDERLY EUROPEAN WOMAN: (pointing to the Tongginator) Just one?

TONGGU MOMMA: Yes, we have just one daughter.


TONGGU MOMMA: No. She's four. All of our girls are four. And your granddaughter?

ELDERLY EUROPEAN WOMAN: She is five. She will turn six soon.

TONGGU MOMMA: (smiling) She's beautiful.


I began packing up to leave at that point because this eerie feeling crept into my being. I sensed the conversation turning in a direction I did not wish it to go, even though I wasn't sure what it would sound like. Still, I did not expect this...

ELDERLY EUROPEAN WOMAN: (again pointing to the Tongginator) Did you buy her?

TONGGU MOMMA: Excuse me?

ELDERLY EUROPEAN WOMAN: (still pointing to the Tongginator, now speaking more loudly) Did you buy her?


ELDERLY EUROPEAN WOMAN: Yes. That is what I ask. You bought her?

TONGGU MOMMA: Children are not for sale. No one BUYS children; they ADOPT them into their families.

ELDERLY EUROPEAN WOMAN: Adopting, buying... it is the same in my country. So you bought her?

TONGGU MOMMA: That is an incredibly offensive thing to say. I cannot believe you just said that.

And then I walked away from her. She tried to apologize at that point, but I continued walking away. I only wish I could walk away BEFORE these comments appear from nowhere somewhere. And I wish I offered a more effective, Godly response - knowing what to do and actually doing it are two very different things.

For the record, adoptive parents do not purchase their children. They pay for the services of social workers, lawyers, translators and immigration officials... just as biological parents pay for the services of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. When someone asks adoptive parents if they bought their child, or how much their child cost, it reduces a beloved daughter or son to commodity status and indirectly accuses the adoptive parents of child trafficking.

Please remind others of that.

Otherwise those you fail to educate might really cast a shadow over someone else's dance recital wonderful memory.

I refuse to allow the memory of this conversation to completely steal our joy, however, so here are some wonderful photos of the Tongginator and her friends during their "Dance Around the World" camp...

Clockwise from Left: The Tongginator with two random dance
participants - is it just me, or is she totally praising Jesus?...
the Tongginator, Peaches, Cinnamon, Spice and Cream holding up
their "Dance Around the World" suitcases... Cinnamon and the
Tongginator during a maypole dance

Clockwise from Top Left: The Tongginator performs the
ribbon and fan dance, an ancient Chinese art... Peaches and
Cream shake their bebeneks, a tambourine-like instrument
played during Polish folk dances ... the entire class gathers
together during that same Polish folk dance

You can't buy Cute Moments such as these, y'all.

You can only cherish them as they occur.


Aunt LoLo said...

Wow. Just...wow. I try to keep an open mind when dealing with people from other backgrounds...who learned English from translating another language. Perhaps it IS the same word in her language...but, still...says something about the country, right? They say that the Inuits have 14 different words for "snow", because it is so important in their culture. I wonder what kind of a culture doesn't come up for a word for what you are doing for the Tongginator? I know, in Chinese, there are two words for adoption - "lingyeung" and "sauyeung". "Yeung" means to raise. "Ling" means to carry or take, "sau" means to receive. On some points, I think the Chinese language has ours beat for beauty, hands down.

I have to say, though, I was shocked when one of my friends told me of the fees associated with the adoption of her son. (He was adopted from within America, so it's probably different.) It was similar to my hospital costs, but insurance defrayed about 90% of my cost. It speaks VOLUMES for the dedication of adoptive parents! I thought it was interesting, also - my MIL told me that in Hong Kong, the government continues to check in on adoptive families through the years, and sends a yearly stipend check to help cover the cost of the addition to the original family. Everybody just wants what is best for the children! Does the government do that here? (Check on adoptive families.) My FIL and I couldn't agree on that one point. (If any of this comes across as rude, please ignore it. I'm genuinely interested.)

Oh, and that dance recital...priceless! TOTALLY praising Jesus. You're raising her right, Mama. ;-)

Briana's Mom said...

Wow - I can't believe how ignorant that woman was. I am bracing myself for the first time I come across someone like that. I know it will happen - and I am not looking forward to it. I think you handled it perfectly.

Georgia Peach said...

What-was-she-thinking? That sounds like some kind of bad Saturday Night Live skit.

I think you played that out just fine.

I'm afraid I would have said something like, "How much do they charge for common sense in your country? Because I could loan you some of our money."

Janet said...

Wow. I am amazed. I think what you said was appropriate. That was just plain offensive, especially after you clarified for her. HOnestly!

Love the pics!

Anonymous said...

I would like to think it was a language barrier of some sort, but the fact that you corrected her and she still used the word "buy" tells me otherwise. I think you handled it wonderfully. Some people are just ignorant no matter what!

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

You handled that situation extremely well.....where do these people get the nerve to say such things!

I hope it did not ruin the recital for you.....they look so precious!


Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm extremely horrified and angry, on your behalf. I've witnessed my sister receiving looks and offensive questions from ignorant strangers, too. She's adopted both of her daughters from China and it slays me that people are this ignorant. Or, they choose to be. Horrible. I'm so glad you didn't let this woman ruin your day or your memories. It looks like the kids had tons of fun!

Susan said...

Hi there. I found your blog through Dusty, and I love it.

I had a similar conversation (actually TWICE, if you can believe it) with a man I work with. He is originally from Iraq, and the first time I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he just wasn't expressing himself clearly. When he asked if we "bought" our daughter, I just shook my head and sternly said, "no, we ADOPTED her" and immediately ended the conversation. So another time he brought it up again, asking if we went to China to get her. Then he said, "Well, didn't you have to give money to people in China to get her?" So I said yes, there were fees associated with the adoption and we paid them, just as other people pay fees to doctors and nurses and hospitals to deliver their children. I got all wound up and told him that she was 10 1/2 months old when we adopted her, so someone had fed and clothed her, housed her and given her medical care for all that time, just as we would have had to pay to do if she were our biological daughter. I went on about some other things, too, and he hasn't brought it up again.

The only good thing about these conversations was that he instigated them in the break room at work when my daughter wasn't with me. I feel for you having your daughter running around while you're getting those questions. And I know about that creepy feeling beforehand and the inability to think clearly because you're so busy sputtering at the idignity of it all, too.

I had another highly insulting "cost" question, too, but that was an ignorant native-English speaker, so he has no excuse except that he's completely clueless, as well as tactless.

Hang in there! I might link to your entry from my blog, if that's OK. You did a beautiful job explaining why those questions are so insulting.

Shawnstribe said...

What beautiful children, thank you forsharing such great photos.

hugs!!!!!and more hugs!!!!
what a silly woman....shake her off and don't let it get under your skin.
My very country norfolk old boy neighbour said....pity you couldnt get an english one...What!!!!!
people are so ....well you know what i mean....

Alyson & Ford said...

You did very well. I hope I can keep civil when inappropriate questions come my way!

Alyson LID 01/27/06

Gerbil said...

Word to the Peach, there. I am pretty certain I'd have shown less grace. wow. just... wow.

Kathryn said...

Wow I can't believe what some people will say, I don't know what I would have said in that situation but you have enlightened me on an appropriate response!!! (If this wait ever ends)
Thanks for visiting my blog. The first time I saw that penguin picture I nearly spit my coffee out!!!! It really gets the point across.
Take care and those are a bunch of cuties in the pictures!!!!!!!!!

Heidi said...

Those dancers could not be any cuter! And the Tongginator does look like she is praising Jesus. DARLING!

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

All I can say is that some people need to be slapped around the back of the head... hard...

Chinese Takeaway said...

Love the pictures, its just the ignorance we could all do without. Let it go, and be proud of your baby girl!

Mamatini said...

(Sorry I'm late to the discussion; we've been without internet for a whole day!! The Horror.)

As a on-hiatus ESL instrustor, I kind of agree with Aunt Lolo about trying to be patient with non-native English speakers; however, she was rather rudely insistent. Not that this exact situation would occur again, but perhaps a response like, "Well, in English the words are absolutely not the same, and in fact, using one word in place of the other is quite offensive. Allow me to explain so that you do not offend someone in the future..."

Just a thought.

I totally know that feeling that creeps into a conversation! You know it's coming, you sense where it is going, and you do all you can to diffuse the situation before the bomb drops. I'm sorry you had to face that.

discombobulated said...

I can't imagine having to constantly be ready to educate everyone everytime your family goes somewhere. At the beginning of the conversation with The Ignorant Woman, it did sound maybe like it could have been innocent, but after you clarified the difference, she continued to use the word.
After reading The Skin I'm In that you linked one day I was very humbled. Though I would never outright ask a stranger "How long have you had her", I didn't realize how offensive that question is either until the author explained that one might use the same words when referencing the family pet. The same author's take on the use of the phrase "Gotcha Day" was also very interesting.
One final thought. My friend's husband is Chinese-American and they live in California. He says he'd never live back East again. Though I've never asked him, I wonder if he experiences less racism there.