There are so many things that I never considered before we became a transracial family. I never thought that when I'd call the black barber for an appointment that I'd be turned away because of my obvious white country hick voice (only to have to explain to the man on the other end of the line that my son isn't white). I never thought that I'd learn how to do things like cornrows and spend a mini fortune on hair and skin products. I never thought I'd say, "Yes, he's black, but he does like to swim and no, he's not a good dancer" to people who want my child to fit into a racial stereotype.
But more than anything, I never thought that I'd constantly have to prove to the general public that, despite the fact that our skin doesn't match, I'm still this child's mother. Dozens of times this little scene has played out:
Miles is a few steps ahead of the grocery cart that I'm pushing through the aisles. A well meaning person looks at him, looks around and assumes that he's lost. They always bend down to him and say, "Oh sweetie. Where's your mommy? Are you lost?" From 5 feet away, I always say, "I'm right here. He's with me." People look confused and then embarrassed and then always say something like, "Oh, he's just precious" to try to redeem themselves. I don't blame them. After all, before our family was multicultural, I'm sure I might have made the same mistakes.
However, that's as far as it's ever gone. Until about a month ago.
Several weeks ago we went to a museum in the deep south USA. We were shuffled through the museum kind of in a line (not one of those museums where you just roam at your leisure) The same people were in front of us and the same people were behind us for most of the tour. We finally got to a room where you could do your own thing. There was some tactile stuff for the kids. Sadie was working a puzzle of the Titanic. Noah and Miles were walking up these ramps that depicted the angle of the Titanic at different stages of sinking. Kamron and I were both roaming between all of the kids and knew exactly where they all were- after all, it wasn't a big room and there weren't a ton of people in it. All of a sudden, the woman who had been behind us in the line on the tour came up to me and said, "The little boy that's with you... they took him!" WHAT!? I looked right over to the ramp where Miles had been 15 seconds earlier and he was gone. I panicked.
The staff at the museum assumed he was lost since there were no black adults in the room and instead of saying, "Is anyone with this little boy?" they just picked him up and took him. I yelled something at Kamron alerting him as to what happened and took off running toward the entrance to the museum. Ahead I saw a worker who had a walkie talkie and told her to radio someone and tell them bring my son back. A million things flashed through my head. I wondered if they'd make me somehow prove that Miles was my son. I wondered if Miles would be terrified. I kept hearing a voice in my brain saying, "Megan, you really should carry around your adoption decree everywhere you go" battled with another voice saying, "Megan, you really shouldn't HAVE to carry something around like that- he's YOUR son!"
Finally, I saw Miles and a big man walk around the corner. Miles saw me and started yelling, "MOMMY!" and ran toward me. I picked him up and walked away. It was no time to educate people that you just don't take a child away without first asking if he belongs to anyone. It wasn't a time to give a speech about how families can all look different. It was just a time to reassure my child. For the rest of the time in the museum, Miles had a death grip on me and Kamron. He wanted to be carried and didn't want his feet to touch the floor. He went mute for the rest of the day. These kinds of things scare the daylights out of our kids who've been hurt and abandoned before.
Miles woke up the next day and seemed to not remember it at all and was back to being his normal chatty, wild self. But for me, it was a wake up call. When we got our ID cards from the state saying that we were foster parents, I put it in my wallet instantly. Even though we wish to live in a world where people recognize that families can have two moms or two dads or be all different colors and abilities- the fact is that to most people, this is still a foreign concept and we need to figure out how we'll deal with these situations should they arise and how we'll "prove" our parentage if it's ever called into question.
I'm curious... has this ever happened to you? How did you deal with it? Do you carry around your adoption decree/ foster parent ID/ judges orders, etc.?