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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mama Bear on Mother's Day

When I’m out with all five of the kiddos, it’s hard for us to be inconspicuous. Even if everyone is calm, fairly quiet and well-behaved (which happens sometimes, but not always), our crew still attracts attention. We’re a multi-racial family with five children, ages 7 and under – and when we’re out in public, we just stand out.

Being the recipient of tons of attention in public is far less glamorous than it sounds. In fact, it can be very hard and even hurtful. Because along with the attention, comes the comments. OH, the comments. The unsolicited, uninvited words that, for some reason, people feel perfectly comfortable sharing with me. Often, right in front of my children.

These comments mostly come from well-intentioned but curious and confused people who have never before seen a family like Team Owens.

The comments also come from people who do know us but often, just don’t know what to say. I guess you could say that our craziness makes them uncomfortable.

And sometimes, these comments come from people who are truly offended by our family in some way… people who think it’s inappropriate to have a “mixed race” family or that our “real children" have suffered some injustice because we've grown our family through adoption.
But it’s not just adoptive families that bear this burden. Any family that steps outside of the boundaries of the nice, neat, typical American family mold will be criticized at some point or another.

So in honor of Mother's Day, I'm posting a list of The Top Ten Things You Should Never Say to Me or Any Momma. Ever. I Don't Care What the Circumstances Are. These were pulled, with permission, from the Storing Up Treasures blog. Which is awesome.

1. Never ask an adoptive family which ones are their "real kids". All children are real.

2. Never ask an adoptive family if the children are "real brothers and sisters". Siblings are siblings no matter how they became that way.

3. Never say to a big family, "Your house must be huge". Usually our homes are not.

4. Never say to a big family, "You must be rich!" We usually are not.

5. Never ask a homeschooling Mom how she manages to teach all of her children. Teachers have 25-35 students each day they have to teach and they aren't even their own kids.

6. Never make an Angelina Jolie reference to an adoptive family. Almost none of us have nannies, personal trainers, housekeepers, errand runners, life coaches or personal assistants.

7. Never say things to the older children of a big family like "You must have to work so hard." Or "It must be really hard to have all of those siblings."

8. Never ask an adoptive Mom about her children's birth parents, especially in front of the child. Things like "Why didn't they want him?" Or "Why was she given up?" are hurtful to the child and often times the adoptive parent prefers to keep the details on birth parents private.

9. Never say "Wow! You sure have your hands full!" Moms of big families don’t see it that way and this comment is hurtful to our kids.

10. Never ask an adoptive Mother "What about his real mom? Or "Where is his mom?" Or "How old is his mom?" I AM HIS REAL MOM!

To this list, I’d also add my own personal notes:

Hannah and Joseph don’t want special treatment or extra attention because they used to be orphans – they just want to be treated like normal kids.

Hannah and Joseph don’t want you to laugh at jokes that aren’t really funny or praise them for things that you wouldn’t praise your own children for – believe me, they can see right through that stuff.

Hannah and Joseph don’t want you to point out, over and over, how beautiful their skin is – because you’re only drawing attention to the fact that their skin is different from mine, Dan's and most of the people around them.

Sometimes you can’t help what you feel in your heart… but you can always control what comes out of your mouth. I pray we’d all strive to think before we speak and to build one another up in love.

I’m not saying that people cannot ask me questions. Heck, I’m not even saying you can’t criticize me if you’d like. If you have something to say, then bring it. I can take it. Just don’t mess with my kids.

And those are the thoughts of a true Mama Bear on Mother’s Day. Love y’all!


Christy said...

Love it! And the picture of you all is just precious!!!! You are one blessed mama, and you bless all of us by sharing your heart. Thank you, and happy mother's day! :)

Isabel said...

Happy Mother's Day to one amazing mother!!! I am very inspired by your story and your blog!!!
I also have a heart for the orphans - particularly in Uganda. I've been there and going back. Coming alongside a local initiative of christian families adopting the orphans from their country. "Orphans Know More"
anyways, one question: could you give some examples of NICE or GOOD comments that you'd like to hear?
Or would you rather not hear any??
I sincerely would like to know!
Blessings to you,

Anonymous said...

Such a great post! I am a mom to 5 children ages 6 and under- 2 by birth and 3 by adoption from Guatemala and Haiti. And the comments.... oh, the comments! We never go anywhere, ever, without being told that we have our hands full or asked whether we are running a day care. But, especially difficult, I find, are the questions as to whether my children are "real" siblings or my "real" children. Thanks for putting the word out and helping people to be informed and sensitive with their words. I follow your blog regularly and always find it to be an encouragement! Thank you for being a family of faith living in response to God's Crazy Love for His children! Bless you!

Anonymous said...

Well said! Love certainly does not have a color. Unfortunately, when things seem different to others, their mouths react before their brains. I am grateful there are parents like you and Dan to continue to teach others. Happy Mother's Day.

Jennie said...

Great post, Shelly. I should do a similar "top ten" list about being a mom to a little one with Down syndrome. My favorite: "Didn't you get prenatal testing?"

Audrey @ The Brown Brigade said...

Great post! I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Alison said...

Love it, Mama Bear!!! And LOVE the picture!!