As an adoptive mother, I’ve become very sensitive to people being labelled on the basis of their looks. There is nothing more annoying than when a complete stranger’s first question about your child is not ‘What is his name?’ or ‘How old is she?’ but ‘Where are they from?’ I know some adoptive parents answer such a question with ‘They’re from here, where we are. This is where we live.’ I can’t see much point in that. My children themselves will proudly say ‘I was born in Korea’, so that’s the answer I give –‘They were born in Korea, but they’ve been with us since they were babies’. Nevertheless, the question still rankles. Their older brother (our biological son) never gets questioned about where he’s from. So why should they? They sound just like him, dress the same (well, no, my boys don't wear dresses like their sister - but you know what I mean) and eat the same foods.
The other day at the shopping centre, the checkout lady greeted me with a cheerful, ‘Hello, you’re on your own today. You are the lady who normally comes in with her Asianny daughter, aren’t you?’ Asianny? Now, there’s a new word. I think she thought it less blunt than ‘Asian’, but when I laughed at the use of it, (she's a pleasant woman, I knew she meant no offence) she backtracked quick smart, adding ‘I always notice you both, because she’s so beautiful’. How could I be offended after that?
I've found out, though, that I am as guilty of labelling as the next person. Since starting at Preschool, my daughter, M, has made herself two new friends – A and K. I don’t think they’re related, but unless they’re together, I have trouble knowing which is which. They both have the same short dark hair, the same big brown eyes. When they’re together you notice that one is taller and one is slightly prettier, but on their own, I still don’t know them well enough to work out which one I’m talking to. On the way home from school yesterday, M was busy telling me about them. ‘Do you know, Mummy,’ she said, ‘A***** was born in India. She’s Indian.’ Without thinking I said, ‘Isn’t K Indian too?’ M looked at me with one of those looks children give to adults with no brains. 'Don't be silly, Mummy,’ she said. ‘K was born in England, she’s English!’
Oops. Excuse me, while I go and take the mote out of my own eye...