Thursday, December 31, 2009

A nice change

Being the mother of Natalie, a freakishly beautiful 5-year-old Chinese girl with a speech delay, sometimes involves having to address or avoid answering inappropriate questions or comments.

"Do you know where her mother is?"

"Is she yours?"

"Couldn't you have your own children?"

"Is she just learning English?"

And sometimes even Natalie is dragged into it. Recently a woman asked her: "Do you like your mommy?" As if I were on loan.

I try to be gracious. I smile, and gently correct them. If I can't think of what to say, I simply pretend I hadn't heard. These comments usually come from basic curiosity, ignorance, or biases that grew out of some personal experience. Sometimes I'm able to shake them off. Sometimes I let it torment me for hours afterward.

The other day I took Natalie with me to get a haircut. She followed me to have my hair washed, and stood next to me as the woman worked shampoo into my hair and I watched a fashion show on the overhead bank of televisions.

As Natalie chattered about hair and princesses, the woman washing my hair said, "My cousin adopted a baby from Russia ..." And I thought: Oh, here we go. I'm always braced.

I tensed up a little.

"And hearing your daughter. Wow, she's so advanced, compared to my cousin's son. Probably from you talking to her in the womb."

In the womb. So advanced.

Well what a nice change. I smiled. Closed my eyes. And felt her fingers on my temples and neck and then the rush of hot water on the back of my head.

"Don't worry," I told the woman. "He'll catch up just fine."


  1. Perfect headline to a wonderful post!

  2. I love this post, Elizabeth! What a great story and beautiful pictures to go with it.