On Being Conspicuous



I am white.  My daughter is not.

In my 27 hours of foster care and adoption training classes, one thing they didn’t teach me was how this would make us feel conspicuous almost everywhere we go.

It was especially hard in the beginning.  My daughter moved in and I was over the moon.  But we’d go out to lunch or to a store or to the park and there it was.  It wasn’t just the stares and the awkward greetings and the little children asking the questions that everyone wanted to ask.  It was feeling like we were “the lesson”—that families can look different, that adoption doesn’t need to be a secret, that white mamas can take care of hair too.  It was the pressure of being the face of adoption, transracial adoption AND foster care adoption to the world.  And that face better look pretty and behave nicely or no one will ever consider any of the above, right?

Apparently, the longer we live together, the more we start looking alike (this is only half a joke, as she has indeed perfected what she calls my “Shannon face”—an expression I make when I am trying to pretend I am not amused).  It started with the little girl in a parking lot who noticed our matching outfits and knew that we belonged together.  And (bless him), the wise gentleman at the post office who referred to me as “mom” without hesitation.  And the friend whose introduction was perfect.  She met my “Hi, I’m Shannon and this is my daughter,” with a simple “Hi, I’m (insert name of smart friend here) and this is my daughter.”  No staring.  No audible gasp.  Perfect.

Two years in, I don’t feel the weight of being conspicuous as heavily.  I blame this on my ridiculously predictable routine (as in, we’ve been to the same restaurants and stores and parks enough times that the people there are used to us).  And the fact that my daughter and I interact more confidently together.  And the realization that the families who will choose adoption (of the transracial, foster care or any other kind) are pretty much awesome and unflappable.

And yet, I run into a store alone and have a weird feeling.  I am unnoticed here.  Who knew unnoticed was even a feeling?

Just last night, I was reading a book while my daughter was speeding around our neighborhood on her scooter.  Another mom came out with her kid and asked my girl if she was outside alone.  “No,” my smart daughter replied, without skipping a beat, “my mom’s right over there.”

Always, baby.  Always.


A caveat: From the very beginning, church and school (and, of course, family dinner at my mama’s house) were our safe places.  Somehow, the people there were smarter or knew us better or something and made us feel welcome and accepted.  I am very, very grateful for this.


6 thoughts on “On Being Conspicuous

  1. Sara N.

    Thanks for sharing this. Our mutual friend Erin O’Hara sent this to me. I have two children: full siblings that I have had the privilege and been blessed to call my kids for just over 4 years now. They are 7 and almost 6. Thanks again for sharing. Sara.

  2. Erin

    I can relate to SO much of this. I had no idea how it would feel to stick out that much, but it is interesting how slowly we’ve become more comfortable and for that reason we stick out less.

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