What's the Deal with the Black Kids?


Just a few weeks after bringing him home, I brought Mikias to the YMCA.  I was excited and proud when I went up to the desk to add him to our family membership. I told the woman working there that we had just adopted him.

She looked him and said, "We just need some kind of documentation that he is your son."

"When I joined the Y, I wasn't asked for proof that my daughters are mine."

"Just an adoption certificate or anything like that will work fine."

"Do you ask other parents to bring birth certificates for their children when they join?"

I was making her uncomfortable.  I didn't care.  

I yelled to my friend across the lobby, "DAWN!  WHEN YOU GAVE BIRTH TO BRADY DID YOU HAVE TO PROVE HE WAS YOURS BEFORE THEY ADDED HIM TO YOUR MEMBERSHIP?"

Dawn has impeccable manners.  She says Ma'am and Sir.  She is southern, and therefore would never act the way I was acting.  She shook her head no but clearly did not want to get involved.  I know I was embarrassing her but I couldn't stop.  I felt all the blood rushing to my head.  I suddenly understood how people are driven to commit crimes of passion over seemingly small things.  I was enraged.

So, I continued, even louder, "THEY ARE TELLING ME I NEED TO PROVE MIKIAS IS MY SON!  ISN'T THAT BIZARRE?  YOU DON'T NEED TO PROVE ANYTHING WHEN YOU GIVE BIRTH! YOU JUST TELL THEM AND THEN THEY ADD YOUR KID!  DOES THIS SEEM RIGHT TO YOU?"

I was grateful that Mikias did not speak English and did not seem distressed by my shouting. Perhaps he thought that this is just how American moms act.

The next day I brought in Mikias's green card.   It showed that we have the same last name and I hoped it would be enough.  It was.  The same woman was at the desk. She told me she felt badly about how upset I was.  She apologized and explained that sometimes people try to add others to their memberships that weren't actually family members.  She knew that I wasn't doing that.  She was just following policy.  I apologized for overreacting. 

I still see that woman at the Y.  She is always friendly to me.  I still feel embarrassed that I didn't handle that situation with more grace.  I could have quietly told her why I didn't feel right about having to prove Mikias was my son.  I could have asked to speak to a Y director.  I should not have yelled.  

It has been almost 6 years since then. I have developed thicker skin.  I know one thing for sure, I won't be able to predict when someone is going to say something that just doesn't feel right or good to me about adoption. It happens, but not very often, and I am much cooler about it.

You want proof?   Kurt and I recently attended our high school reunion.  I was catching up with an old classmate and about one minute into our conversation, he leaned close to me and quietly said, "So...what's the deal with the black kids?"  I looked around and saw no black kids.  I was pretty sure he didn't want to discuss black kids in general.  I correctly concluded that he was referring to my sons.  We are facebook friends so I assumed he had seen photos of my family.  I gave him a quick version how we came to adopt the boys. It was friendly enough and then we both went off to mingle with other old friends.  

Good thing for him I have mellowed.  If it had been six years ago I might have been yelling across the room to Kurt, "THIS GUY JUST ASKED ME WHAT THE DEAL IS WITH THE BLACK KIDS?  DO YOU THINK HE MEANS OUR CHILDREN?   WAS HE THIS MUCH OF AN ASS IN HIGH SCHOOL?"

Yep, lucky him.  I am so cool now.