Duzi and I had an interesting experience in his Kindergarten classroom this morning. Every Monday morning, I volunteer to help with centers. For the third time this year, one little boy in the class felt the need to announce loudly to me, within earshot of Duzi,
“I know Duzi is adopted. My mom told me Duzi is adopted. You just adopted Duzi.”
This particular kid is actually very sweet, very innocent, and also very precocious. The first time he announced Duzi’s status as an adopted kid to his fellow Kindergartners, I patiently smiled and replied,
“Yes, Duzi is adopted. He has a mommy and daddy, just like you!”
He also told me he wanted to have Duzi over for a play date. The second time this kiddo mentioned this information loudly during class, I dismissed it, chalking up his comments to the fact that Duzi was probably the first adopted child he had ever met, if not the first black child. Today, though, when he announced the exact same thing, several other kids chimed in, saying things like, “I didn’t know that!” and “What’s adopted?” This time, I was supremely annoyed.
Duzi heard the whole conversation and reacted by coming over to the table I was at and demanding, with a gleam in his eye,
“Why didn’t you tell me that?”
He was making his silly-crazy-I want a laugh-face, which told me he didn’t know how to navigate the situation and that he felt really uncomfortable. He is obviously aware that we are an adoptive family. This wasn’t news to him. He was being sarcastic (evidence that he is a Howerton).
I had to smile at my son. If he could articulate his thoughts like a grown-up, I think they would read like this, “Duh! Of COURSE I’m adopted! Thank you SO much for stating the obvious. I am already aware of this fact and so is my mom. I don’t know you very well so, when you announce this to the class over and over again, I feel marginalized and SUPER PISSED.”
I might be projecting my own thoughts here.
I ended up hugging Duz and kissing him 10 times on the lips right before suggesting kindly to my table that they not report things about one another to the class, that they should only share their own news.
When I tucked Duzi in to bed tonight, he remarked, very seriously,
“Mom, everyone thinks I’m new.”
We talked for a long while and in his Kindergartner way, he expressed how frustrated he feels when people single him out, whether it be for positive attention or negative. We talked about how he used to be new to America, to Washington, to his family – but that now he is not new. He’s a son, a brother, a grandson, a cousin and a student. He belongs here.
He’s ready to be treated like any other American kid.
I understand that I cannot expect other, non-adopted 6-year olds to innately understand how a simple declaration about adoption can make an adoptee feel stigmatized and inferior. I don’t think this little boy meant to hurt anyone’s feelings.
I’m debating whether or not to call the little boy’s mother and invite her over so we can chat about the whole thing over coffee. I think I will. When I think about what I knew and didn’t know about adoption 5 years ago, even 1 year ago, I only have kind thoughts about this family.
In the meantime, I’m trusting that God’s grace is vast enough to protect my little man’s heart.