“Oh my word, I could just take you home with me RIGHT NOW!” She bends down and starts talking directly to Lian.
“Oh, you’re just so cute! How old are you, what’s your name?” He’s ignoring her because he’s rolling a roll of tape across the hardware store’s floor.
“I love it when they’re this age and they don’t talk yet, it’s when they get older and start talking that drives me crazy.”
Ouch…I sigh….what I wouldn’t give to hear Lian speak to me, hear what he’s thinking, hear his little boy thoughts. The countless hours I have spent with flashcards, letters, slowly saying words, coaching, bribing, singing…..Progress is painstakingly snail slow.
“He’s not really speaking much yet.” I state, inwardly cringing a bit. I know what’s coming and I mentally brace myself.
“Oh”, she pauses, “does he have autism? Oh, Down Syndrome? You know, you can teach those kids how to talk.” She beams upon me as if, in that one statement, she has rescued me from all my travails, enlightening me with the knowledge that he can be taught.
Those kids. The “us” and “them” thing.
“Well, every child is a bit different in their abilities.” I wrestle a can of spray paint from Lian’s hand.
Stop the madness!
“You know…(why is every uneducated statement always predicated by ‘you know’), I read that in China, these kids are just abandoned just because they have Down Syndrome and it happens all the time. Parents just leave them. Can you believe that?”
Oh dear. God, how do I gently educate this person while keeping my composure? I’m so grateful that Lian doesn’t understand…yet….but does he? I’m not sure what he does or doesn’t comprehend about adoption yet. I want to rush over and cover his little ears. It’s as if she thinks he can’t hear because he’s not talking.
I smile and shake my head. I tell her about the hard choices that some parents have to make with medical care and the cost of some children’s needs. I tell her to not believe everything she reads. I tell her that we love him to pieces and that he is so incredibly valued.
“Well, I could never do a thing like that. I just don’t have the patience for it.” She flatly states.
Okay then…and I tell her to have a nice day and we leave.
Let me pick your brain with the “what if’s” of this conversation.
What if Lian had been old enough to understand? How incredibly damaging it would be to his core self-worth to hear a stranger make a judgment call as to why his biological parents made the decision they did. This is HIS story.
Would he assume that he is somehow flawed, that was HIS fault he became a orphan, that his parents didn’t love him enough to keep him?
How hard the car conversation will be when he IS old enough to comprehend the heartache of his past.
How do I constructively navigate and cut this conversation short? I’m truly at a loss here because this is new to me. If someone were coming at my child wielding a knife, I would step in, take the blow, protect….but these words are like knives for my child’s tender heart. How do I take the blow, somehow anticipating what’s coming?
I felt torn and guilty that I should have known what was coming. I should have circumvented it somehow, I could have cut her off (SUCH a hard thing for me to do, since manners have been drilled into me from a young age.)
Mamas who have done this a long while, help me! I don’t know how to handle this well, introvert that I am. I need kind suggestions, not mean or snarky ones (although those are fun to contemplate). I don’t want to cut people down, I want to educate, but not at the expense of my son’s hurt.
Any words of wisdom? I could use some. Leave your thoughts in the comments.