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16 July 2014


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Catherine Baier

Brilliant response!

Melanie B

"We're practicing!" I love it. If they don't practice independence how are they ever going to learn?


I like that. That is, after all, my primary reason for giving my children measured amounts of freedom early on--because I don't expect them to become competent adults all in one fell swoop. And because I know I can't always be with them, and they'll have a better chance of dealing with new or difficult circumstances if they have a bit of confidence and experience to fall back on.


I'm glad you wrote this and it's a heartening story to read. I'd just add that when it comes to conflict with people you actually know, you don't have to know what to say in the moment. It's perfectly fine to come back to a neighbor or a fellow parishioner later and say, "Hey, I've been thinking about the other day." I do always say "I appreciate your concern for my kids," because you catch more flies with honey than with socking them in the nose, no matter how much they might deserve a sock in the nose.

I am an extremely (perhaps pathologically) conflict-averse person, and so I always leave room for my neighbor to disagree with me. "Seems like you might have a different perspective; just wanted to let you know that my husband and I have talked about it a lot and we'd like our kids to ___."


Twelve! Seriously. Twelve year olds used to be old enough to babysit! Now they're too young to stand outside alone.

I'm always surprised by people's attitudes toward kids in the US when I am over there, especially now that I have my own children. Living as I do in Scandinavia, where we leave our babies outside shops, let them sleep outside unattended, let school age children ride their bikes or take buses/trains (in the city) by themselves... It's one thing to be afraid that a crazy stalker pedophile is going to do something to your child but it's something else to have such a fundamental lack of trust in just about everyone: kids can't be trusted to be alone (or do just about anything responsibly), the community can't be trusted to look out for one's child in a neutral disinterested way, whether that's in a baby carriage napping, or at a park, or waiting to be picked up in front of a church. And it seems like it goes all the way to not trusting other parents to parent their own children responsibly. I wonder if it has something to do with the legal system, that there's this culture of presumed guilt and negligence, if not outright malice. At the same time, there's this fear of involvement, I remember being at a playground over there, and a girl around 2yo tripped and fell literally at my feet, so I picked her up and dusted her off, and then her mother was there, and it was evident, although she was nice about it, that she found it really stressful that a stranger had touched her child even in a helpful way.


The person who then gets to go about her day thinking of herself as a swooping rescuer, and doesn't have to live with the long-term consequences?

Veering off a bit, this is something that gets discussed in adoptive circles because of the tendency other people have to intervene when a child is with an adult who doesn't match. And while white adults with asian or mixed race kids is often considered acceptable, there minorities adopt too and people find it extremely troublesome if an Indian couple has a Chinese child or a black couple has a white child.

This story isn't adoption specific but it was passed along a lot in adoptive circles:

Here is a more typical account of an intervention: http://gazillionvoices.com/the-unbearable-whiteness-of-being/#.U8fMdY1dUuY



I typed out a rambling, hot mess of a comment to try to explain the strange interpersonal culture we have here. Needless to say I am sparing you that, but to try to sum it up, basically here in the US, we are completely responsible for everything that goes on around us and are also supposed to always mind our own business all at the same time. Helpfulness is viewed with suspicion. Doing anything that might require help is also viewed with suspicion.


Kelly, that latter link is really interesting and it must have been so upsetting to the dad both to be (a) identified himself as a sexual predator and (b) to have his daughter verbally identified as a sexual target.

This line - so obviously true once you read it -

"Our language choices and ethnic and racial adjectives and descriptors identify transracial adoptees as the ones who must be explained to others. However, it is white adoptive parents who should have to explain and identify themselves and their choices."


Interesting article about the man and his daughter. I think maybe he is too caught up in the idea as race as the driving indicator as to what people will think of the relationship between them.

I semi-regularly go to lunch with my father since our offices are only a few miles apart. I am also semi-regularly mistaken for his girlfriend. This *is* creepy, but it has nothing to do with race since we are both white and, in fact, I kinda look like him. It is because he is an older man in public with a younger woman, which speaks volumes about the expectations of men in our culture, but not about race.

I also found it odd that he keeps coming back to the subject with his daughter. Why would a random, brief, and ultimately harmless interaction with a stranger be a cause of so much discussion at his house that he keeps asking how she feels about it six months later? I daresay his continued reminding her of the incident is giving it more significance than it actually has. I understand that racial and cultural differences are an issue in their household, but she's nine.


I have similar mixed feelings about it, Jenny. I'm sure the man who intervened was picking up on the tension which was due to the family argument, but he had no way of knowing that. Many adoptive families are hypersensitive about people not understanding that there are many different kinds of families.

Racially mixed families have similar experiences, where a parent might be asked if a biological child is adopted because they don't match. I've found many parallels in adoptive issues with racially mixed families, and immigrant families, but people tend to view situations through the lens that relates to them. I'm sure that's why this guy keeps coming back to the adoption/race angle.

All of the incidences I've run across where someone intervened like that with an adoptive family, it was a time where they were not interacting as a family. This family was split up on the subway. Others are on a playground or aquarium where the kids are roaming around in a group and someone notices a non-white child but there is no corresponding non-white parent in the room. I think that it indicates that people are generally aware of adoptive and racially mixed families since they don't usually walk up to families eating in restaurants, riding bikes together, etc.


Jenny, I'm actually American, I've just been living abroad the last twelve years (whoa, that's a long time). This stuff with Americans and kids - also the childfree people - is just so weird to me, it wasn't really on my radar when I left. It's like having reverse culture shock.

But, like you say, there's a sense that there must be someone responsible, even to the nth degree, which there isn't here. Tragedy strikes the undeserving, even when precautions are taken.

Margaret @ Minnesota Mom

Calmly handled and beautifully written.

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