I stopped by Pottery Barn Kids today to pick up a few things and promised Luca it would be a quick trip in and out of the store. He didn’t want to go in but once inside, he saw the train table display and made his way over there with a huge smile on his face. Soon after, another little boy joined him at the table. Luca looked over at the boy and asked me if he was his friend from Korea. He obviously wasn’t but did look a lot like him. That’s when the boy’s mom looked at me and asked, “what was your son saying?”
“Oh, he mistook your son for another friend,” I responded smiling (thinking it was the cutest thing ever!) and then turned my attention back to the train table. That’s when I overheard the mom say to her friend, “she has to translate for him.”
The mom was Asian (like me) and her son was a few months younger than mine, but unlike Luca…English was his first language. At first I thought the comment about translating was odd, but quickly let it go. However, after spending the next few minutes watching our boys play together and exchanging small talk, I started to feel more and more uncomfortable.
Wow, he’s tall for his age.
He only speaks Korean?
So he can’t speak any English?
How does he communicate in school?
I let her know that he just turned three not too long ago and school was something we are just now looking into. She stood silent for a bit and I thought that was probably the end of our conversation but…nope.
I wouldn’t send him to school yet. He should know English before he goes.
Hoping she’d let it go, I told her we weren’t too worried because he seems to pick up on cues here and there and already learned some words just by going on playdates and at Sunday school.
She didn’t take the hint too well and continued to tell me that her mother made the mistake of putting her brother into school before he knew English and he almost starved everyday. She actually said to me “You don’t want him to starve. My brother would come home and eat 4 pieces of white bread everyday after school before my parents finally picked up on what was going on…Think about it.”
What she didn’t know was, I have. I’ve thought about it A LOT actually. The ironic thing is that right before going to Pottery Barn in the first place, I had just finished lunch with a couple girlfriends where I told them about my concerns about putting Luca in school and language issues. But the difference between that discussion versus the one I had with this stranger is that that one was a discussion amongst friends I was confiding in and trusted their opinions on, rather than an unsolicited opinion that felt more like judgement was being passed on my parenting.
This is such a tough topic to write about. It’s one of those things where you want to take the ‘high road’ and not say anything but at the same time wonder if not saying anything is really in fact the ‘high road’ at all. Before becoming a mom, I was very aware of the types of mom-shaming debates that circulated: working moms vs SAHM’s, breastfeeding vs formula, natural birth vs epidurals…you name it, anything and everything you can think of…people had strong opinions on. But what I was not aware of was the type of mom-shaming that comes in the form of subtle comments that could make you second guess your capabilities as a mother.
Dramatic much? It can seem that way I guess, and maybe that’s why for a while I thought it was me who was being too sensitive. But when you are sleep-deprived and trying to do the best you possibly can, an opinionated comment can really hurt you. Being a mom via adoption and also sharing our journey publicly, I knew it meant I was opening doors for both wanted and unwanted thoughts to come our way. I prepared as best as I could and for the most part I think I’m able to take most things in stride, but sometimes…I just can’t. I know I don’t have to explain myself and to be honest, most of you who are reading this post directly from me are not people who have mom-shamed me at all so please don’t feel like you have to walk on egg-shells! But for anyone who has ever felt belittled as a mom…or maybe even passed judgement on another mom’s parenting…I want to emphasize that each of us have our own stories that we are living and our own personal styles as moms should be embraced.
I will end this post with this particular thought. When I became a mother, my son weighed in at over 30 pounds. His foster mom had a weak shoulder and was unable to carry him much while he was with her. When we took custody, he was obviously grieving but would rarely let us hold him except on our backs with a carrier and only when he was extremely tired. Fast-forward to today (four months home) and Luca has been ridiculously clingy these days. He wants me to carry him almost all the time. I am very aware that he is humungous and over half my size, but if you think about it…everyday from this moment on is the smallest he will ever be for me. We are bonding in ways where he feels more comfortable to whine and cries for that heart to heart, physical touch. Is it spoiling him by carrying him at the age of three? If you think of it that way then maybe it is. But after reading this explanation…would you really consider it as spoiling or could you possibly look at it as a bond that has formed between a mother and son who are uniquely getting to know each other on a daily basis? Our journey may not look like yours and vice-versa…but isn’t that what makes both your story and mine as special as it is?
Think about it.