Saturday, February 20, 2016
Some may accuse me of spending too much time explaining things to my kids. I always felt it was necessary to provide a reason for why something needed to be done or could not be done, or why a rule was set. I also made clear why treating others with kindness and respect was important. As I watched my daughters’ interact with others, I saw they got the message loud and clear.
Now I am doing the same thing with my grandson and am very mindful of the behavior of other parents and caretakers. So, whether walking the streets or riding New York City public transit, I am always listening and observing.
I do not understand not holding a child’s hand when crossing a busy intersection, or letting them rush ahead on scooters or lag behind as they make their way down the busy sidewalk. In New York, cars and bikes move rapidly, and while we would like for them all to observe that pedestrians have the right of way, many don’t. Children may not be aware of the dangers. I believe safety should come first. When walking around the city, my rule is hold your child’s hand, keep them at arm’s length and in sight.
I am also blown away by how parents talk to children. There is the simple “hold on”, “sit down” or “put your feet down” I hear over and over again on the bus. I said the same things but would add why. “Hold on so you don’t fall.” “Sit down in case the bus jerks. I don’t want you to get hurt.” “Put your feet down, so you don’t get the dirt from the bottom of your shoes on the seat. If you do, someone will sit in all that dirt and grime.” Yeah, I talked a lot. I also taught them to give a seat to an older person, pregnant woman or someone who seemed to need to sit down. I would put my child on my lap. Sometimes, I would give them my seat and I would stand. Sometimes, my child wanted to stand. I do not understand parents who allow young children to occupy a seat when an older person is standing. I remember well, who offered me a seat and who didn’t when I was stumbling around in a cast with a cane when I broke a bone in my foot.
I observe people. I notice children who do not resemble the adult they are with and wonder (inside my head) if it is a nanny/babysitter or an adopted child. But I do not understand strangers who feel they can ask for that relationship to be explained. I have heard “Is that your child?”, “Is the father Asian?” and even “Is he adopted?” Less obvious, but nevertheless intrusive are the “Where did she get the blonde hair”, “Are they siblings?” or “Are you the nanny?”
Why do people feel they have the right to ask such questions?
Our world is complicated. We encourage freedom of speech, yet need to control some conversations. I believe those of us connected to adoption in any way, parents (birth and adoptive), children (adopted, siblings or friends), extended family or professionals are in the position to educate others so that they know what and when to talk about adoption: when conversations should be private or who should be sharing information with the adopted child, family members and those in the child’s daily life and community. But this puts a lot of pressure on those of us in this adoption “club”.
As I go through my daily life, watching those around me or viewing how adoption is portrayed on television and in the news media, I will continue to observe how others handle these situations. And most importantly I will be watching the faces of the children and how they respond.
Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program from March 1992 to March 2015. She is Head Writer for Adoption.net, member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and has a private practice in New York City. She was a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL.