We were out to dinner as a family this week and we had one of those incidents where a stranger said something incredibly stupid in front of my kids.
We are all guilty of this. A phrase, opinion, stereotype, example that has become so ingrained as no big deal that out of our mouth it goes and no one really bats an eye unless of course they are somehow connected to said thought.
As adults we learn to ignore other people's insensitive statements. We agree to disagree when beliefs are opposing. But how do you handle when your kids are watching? And the statement might affect them? And you have a family member who is also witness to said conversation?
Well right or wrong here is what I did:
The waitress was trying to be friendly. Having no idea that I was a foster mom or that I had parented kids from hard places she shared that she was also a proud Mama to a son, now in college, who had spent time in a behavioral school. We commented on how busy she was at the restaurant and she said:
"Yes! I feel like one of those kids that was adopted from foster care and then had to do all the cleaning for the family."
Exact words. True Story.
Most of the kids weren't listening. Sarah was but I wasn't sure she heard the words.
In that split second I had decided to change the subject by asking for a refill. And then pull her aside as we were leaving to ask her not to use that phrase again in case a family like ours was in ear-shot.
My Dad felt the need to start to explain.
So I jumped in with "Let it go." And he of course got mad. His grandchildren were just attacked. This lady just said something incredibly rude! My Dad isn't as practiced about how much to share and I had no idea what about to come out of his mouth. (He thought he was whispering but my Dad had never whispered once in his life.)
I didn't want this lady to know my kids were in foster care because it was none of her business. I especially didn't want to share in front of the kids. Not because I'm ashamed or trying to hide it but because it's unimportant in the context of who is serving our dinner. I didn't want to give the words any power*.
I also knew that she was the type that would feel really bad about what she had said and my goal isn't to perpetuate hurt. (Also I'm pretty sure she would have been the type to lay the "angel/saint" speach on us and that would have perpetuated the inappropriate conversation.) She was a front of the battle lines Mom too. And she was really sweet to the kids so I know she had a great heart.
My intent was to discuss with Sarah later on if she had heard what the lady had said and go from there. Given that she loves the song "Hard Knock Life" and the cleaning scene from Annie I'm sure that's the context she gave the statement and not the one our adult brains applied. (That once adopted she would be doing all the cleaning. Okay, that is true but not after she was adopted. Kids in my house have to clean. Foster, adopted, or just visiting.)
We spent a lot of time talking about adoption this week and none of the kids asked a single question about cleaning. (Sarah wanted to know "if we could get a snack or something" after the adoption hearing.)
My Dad did pull the lady aside after we left and to her we were a foster adopt family. She felt awful as predicted and I hope she will educate herself on the topic.
*Words do have power and simply not repeating them does not make them any less real nor does repeatedly brushing them under the rug. There is a time and a place and I had determined this instance was neither, nor was the statement so offensive that I felt a need to openly defend my kids situation so they could witness me doing so. Had she said something like "I feel like one of those abused foster kids, ripped from their real parents and chained in the basement " I would have it handled differently.