Where a dad of two great kids (one on the autism spectrum) muses about life.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
She's So Beautiful
These are the words that come out of 4 out of 5 people's mouths when they first meet our daughter, and it's been bugging Liz and I. It's not something that we think about every minute of every day, it's just one of those little things that bug us.
Why, you ask?
Well, we've asked ourselves the same question. Why does this comment rankle us and just not feel right? It's not that she's an ugly kid. In fact, she is very cute (you'll have to take my word for it, as I'm not going to post pics here that would fully identify her). She has a smile that lights up a room, and enough social skills that she could compete with a politician in working a room. And we don't dress her like she's in a beauty pageant. So what's so wrong about pointing out that she's a good looking kid?
Well, for one thing she's only 5 years old. And people have been saying this for at least the last 2 years. And I just don't think it's appropriate to talk about really young girls as "beautiful". At least not when you first lay eyes on them. There's something in the comment that just sexualizes this young child by referring to her as beautiful. I mean, isn't there anything else that you might say? Like "She has a nice smile", "My, she's well behaved", or just "Hi, Sweet Pea!". OK, so most days they'd be stretching the truth if they said she was well behaved, but we wouldn't mind.
Unfortunately, we think that that the base reason that people say this probably doesn't have to do with people purposely trying to make her a sexual object, but it's just as bad. We've come to the conclusion that people do this because we are white and Sweet Pea isn't (we are a family thru adoption-both of our kids are bi-racial African-American/Caucasian). So when people first encounter Sweet Pea being introduced as our daughter, they're naturally a bit taken back. I get that. She doesn't exactly look like us. So while they're feeling awkward they feel the need to say something nice, and so come out with the "She's so beautiful" comment.
While I don't really think people are trying to be malicious, I wonder why this particular comment comes out. I suspect that it might have to do with the "unofficial racial preference rank order for adoption", which places relatively more value (in decreasing order) on kids that are white, asian, hispanic, and finally African-American. Being of mixed race (with half being Caucasian) bumps you up a half notch. So I think a big part of this comment thing is just people feeling sorry for us that we adopted kids that were of "lower preference", and wanting to say something to make us feel better.
Thus far Liz and I just usually mumble something non-committal, and go on from there. We don't think that people are consciously being rude, so don't make a big deal out of it. We sometimes think that maybe we're just being overly sensitive, but the comment just has never felt right. So, dear readers, let me know what you think. And if you ever happen to meet us on the street, you now know what not to say.
Me- Joe, husband of a great wife, and dad to two great kids, who were both adopted at birth.
Liz- My ever understanding wife, who manages to wear many hats (mom, advocate, therapist, teacher) for our kids.
Buddy Boy- Born in 2000. Funny, intelligent, inventive, and autistic. Loves machines.
Sweet Pea- Born in 2002. Typical little sister. Competitive, outgoing, and smart. Loves anything pink.