Monday, July 04, 2011

Babies, Meet China. China, Meet Babies.

I have to admit the while I was excited to bring the boys home, I was a little nervous to bring the boys home to China.  As we shared with Chinese friends, neighbors, and strangers about our plans to adopt, their responses varied from excited & encouraging to skeptical & down right rude.  If I had a dollar for every time I was asked if I want my own kids (as if Micah & Sami could never truly be mine), then this adoption process would have been a lot cheaper.  I've had more people than I can count tell me that if I would just take some Chinese medicine (well, actually they said "eat" Chinese medicine because that's how they say it here!), then we wouldn't need to adopt.  I'm learning to respond gracefully and patiently, knowing that adoption is still a rather foreign concept for most locals.  But there are some days when we stay indoors to maintain my sanity by not having to explain for the millionth why our family is different colors.

I had hoped that maybe I was overreacting and that my fears of the barrage of questions wouldn't be as bad as I anticipated.  I was wrong though.  Very wrong.  No sooner had we set foot on Chinese soil at the airport in Beijing did the immigration official ask me if I  had my own kids.  "These are my kids," I replied, forcing a smile on my jet-lagged face.  "Oh...I you have other kids?" he corrected himself.  "Nope.  Just these," I replied as I gathered our passports and made our way through the customs line.  And so it began.

For the most part, people actually haven't commented on their skin color that much.  The first reaction we usually get is that they are twins.  They're not, which is obvious enough to me and anyone else who would take the time to notice that they are on incredibly different developmental levels.  But my merciful & patient husband reminded me that here in a one-child policy country, most people who see a family with multiple children automatically assume they are twins.  Besides, I'd much rather debunk the myth that they're twins rather than explaining that their skin is in fact not dirty and that in fact I bathe them quite regularly.

I know people all over the place say thoughtless things to adopted families.  Well-intentioned things but stupid nonetheless.  I keep having to remind myself that it happens in American too.  It's not just the Chinese who are out to get me and my little black babies.  On our first outing, a perplexed grandmother wrangled me within 10 steps of our doorway and started rapid firing questions.  "So do you know a black person?" she asked.  I hate announcing to the world that our babies are adopted because I don't want them to be labeled that way, but when I realized the intention of her question was more in line with the biblical sense of the word "know" (ie-and he knew a woman), I made an exception to my conviction. It wouldn't take long for there be rumors floating around our 2000+ people apartment complex that the foreign chick had an affair with an African and birthed two babies of different ages without any evidence of being pregnant at all.  Not only miraculous but juicy gossip!

She then turned to relay the situation to her friend, and for some reason included the detail that I was currently pregnant.  No.  Not pregnant.  No affair.  Just me and my babies.  Her friend then pinched the boys' cheeks and said, "They're too pretty to count as black!"  I'm still not even sure what she meant by that.

But then of course, we have had our dear local friends who have been counting down the days with us until the boys came home.  Friends who have prayed for us.  Friends who have helped us give them Chinese names.  Friends who have asked questions and tried to wrap their minds around the concept of adoption.  For these friends, we are incredibly thankful.

I even had a dear friend call me this morning and ask if she could come over and see the boys on July 12 at 9 AM.  Being in a culture where planning is often a peripheral thought, I was impressed with her commitment to coming.  So guess who now has plans on July 12 at 9 AM!


The other fun quirk of our China life with the babies is taking them out on our bikes.  We strap them into the Ergos and ride just like we used to.  Well, maybe not just like we used to.  Much slower now.  We're actually much safer with the boys strapped to us than we were before.  Instead of zooming and swerving around us, other bikers slow down and even stop to ogle as we pass by.   If we felt like we were living in a fish bowl before as two white foreigners, we've now reached a new level with the addition of two Afrikids.  The increased stares, points, and cell phone pictures are now just a permanent part of life.

Not that the attention is bad.  Our neighbor across the hall that has never once before paid attention to us came and knocked on our door the other night with gifts in tow.  We now have our first installment of rather strange Chinese toys!  We call the guy on the left Creepy Winker because he's...well...creepy.  The middle one is a bank whose shirt says "Happy Me Too."  Perfect for beginning to teach the boys about personal finance.  Not perfect for teaching the boys how to speak normal sounding English. The bear on the right seems tame enough but we didn't want him to feel left out from his other odd companions so we named him Lover Bear.  The innocent terms "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" are often translated as "lover" here.  It's hard to keep a straight face when someone asks you how old you were when you had your first lover.  We think Lover Bear will be helpful in teaching the boys how to make the differentiation in their own English skills.

So now we truly are a black and white family living in a yellow world.  It has its challenges but it certainly makes life interesting!


David said...

I can only imagine! If it helps, many of the things you are facing were the same for our good friends who adopted and returned to life in INDIANA.

Susan/Mama said...

People are amazingly thoughtless everywhere. It will be interesting to see the reactions we get in Hawaii. I can hardly wait.

Brandon and April said...

I still think one of these days you should act completely shocked at their comments and like you had no idea that they are black. :)
We love these boys and are so excited about your black and white family!!

Chris & Sarah Peek said...

We're so glad that some of your dear friends are as excited as we are to meet your boys!

Jamie Butts said...

Oh Becky Peek! The range of emotions I had in reading this post... I can't imagine having to answer to comments on your kids all of the time. My heart went out to you. But, as I kept reading... my spirits were lifted by "it's kind of hard to keep a straight face when someone asks you how old you were when you had your first lover" and as you wrote about Creepy Winker. You are a riot. And I love you 4 Peeks!

Whitney said...

I am so glad you have your boys home with you...even if your home is full of people asking very odd questions. I am so glad you can laugh and make a joke of it! People everywhere ask and say the strangest things when they see something outside of their "normal". I can't imagine though how hard it is to be around it every second you are out and about...They are the most adorable boys though and I am so excited they have parents like you!!