Saturday, August 2, 2008

Alternative lifestyle?

Usually when I think of alternative lifestyle, I picture someone from the gay and lesbian community.  While they just consider their lifestyle as just that, life, the rest of us have taken to calling it alternative because it does not fit this prefabricated ideal of what we think family is. 

Not long ago someone commented about my alternative lifestyle.  I was confused...did they think I was a lesbian?  No, they realized I was hetero, but because I am over the age of 30 and still single that placed me into an alternative category.  They continued to argue that I had "chosen" to remain single when I could have settled at any time.  Add to that the fact that I am adopting and evidently I have suddenly found a new niche area. 

I fully to expect to lose some of my identity with having children.  At a certain point I will become "Haven's mom" and not much else, but shouldn't that wait until the kid actually comes home?

I'm starting to dread the Sunday morning chit-chat at church.  For a while now people have been introducing me as "Erica, the woman that adopts".  I'm starting to feel they view this has a hobby and not a way for me to 1.) build a family of my own or 2.) provide a family to a child that doesn't currently have one.  Adoption has always been viewed as normal in my family and I think it was my family that instilled in me that sharing the same blood is not a requirement for family.  As a teenager I remember having a lot of different people in the house--one of my troubled friends spent weeks living us, a foreign exchange student that I befriended moved from her difficult host family into ours (what kind of redneck asshole thinks hosting a foreign exchange student is code for indentured servant?), another foreign exchange student, and foster kids.  All became our family and not a single one looked a thing like us (although some people at the church we attended thought I was the foster kid and the foster kid was the bio kid).

When the US and VN officially released their plan to end the MOU come September 1st a lot of parents expressed dismay, and one quote that got repeated a lot was from a father that said it was fine for Angelina Jolie to have her own UN family, but that wasn't something he wanted for his family.  I guess it was good that he realized that and I understand why people wouldn't want to constantly explain why their kids don't look alike (yes, just because they have different skin tones does NOT mean they aren't siblings) or learn a new culture/language/food, etc. 

When I think of my family, or more accurately, my future family, I realize that the face of our family will change forever.  While I don't think "alternative lifestyle" is a really fitting description, I do admit that we will not fit the mold of the traditional American family. We will no longer be an Irish/Scottish family.  We are going to be an Irish/Chinese/Vietnamese family.  My little "alternative lifestyle" suddenly got upgraded to a mulit-cultural family and how cool is that!  While my face and my name won't change, I will no longer be able to claim my UK roots solely.  While my children will no doubt be forced to learn American culture, I certainly hope that I learn from their's also.  I'm reading about the histories of these cultures and not just from the textbook side; it has been invaluable to read the first hand accounts of living and growing up in these countries through times of war and peace.  I'm listening to their music and I'm learning that it stirs my soul much more deeply than I could have imagined.  I'm eating food from clay pots and steamer baskets and I am enjoying the smells of the Asian markets in my town. 

I know my family will draw stares, comments and questions.  I think every adoptive parent must be prepared for that fact, but I'm looking forward to being introduced not as "Erica, she is adopting" to "Erica and her two kids".  That day will be a beautiful day. 

3 comments:

Scott August 4, 2008 at 9:49 AM  

I get the same thing--perhaps moreso since I am a man who has chosen to raise a child by himself. I relate to the Jenny Fields character in "The World According to Garp" when she referred to herself as a "sexual suspect". She says: "I wanted a job and I wanted to live alone. That made me a sexual suspect. Then I wanted a baby, but I didn't want to have to share my body or my life to have one. That made me a sexual suspect too."

Before I got Henry I was somewhat more focused on dating and responding to my friends' entreaties to fix me up. I really don't have the time or the energy. Maybe someday. For now I am very happy with my life.

Kelli August 4, 2008 at 1:57 PM  

A beautiful day indeed....hope the family is started VERY soon!

mary kate August 5, 2008 at 11:54 PM  

"Alternative"---how cool?? Does this mean we'll see you at this summer's Lollapalooza??!! Hehe, seriously I don't get why everyone needs to label everyone else!! But you keep your sense of humor throughout all the weird comments and you still stay true to yourself and your goals for a family!

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This started as my story, but has evolved to OUR story. This is the story of life as a single parent to a wonderful little boy while we wait for baby sister. China LID 2.12.07.


But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, be patient! For it will surely take place. It will not be late by a single day.
Habakkuk 2:3

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