We’re her parents, and we would have hoped that if something was really bothering our child, she’d tell us. But in some cases, maybe she’s embarrassed or ashamed. Imagine finding out your child has been teased and talked about by her “friends” for more than a year, and you only find out by accident.
Karen has always known she was adopted. It’s no secret, in fact, it’s something I’ve always been proud of. I always think of how far she’s come since those early days when she went into shock over her new environment, and stopped eating, lay down on the floor and wouldn’t get up. That passed after several days.
Sure, we’ve had our share of setbacks, but her overall ability to cope has only improved over time. Today she appears to be a fairly well adjusted girl with friends and lots of activities. She recently began tennis with several other girls from her class. One girl, in particular, invited her to join them, and loving sports and the opportunity to socialize, she immediately took her up on it. The class isn’t very challenging, since Karen’s already spent a lot of time practicing tennis in more advanced groups, but the social aspect seemed a bonus, and the coach is an absolute diamond.
Imagine my surprise when I received a very concerned phone call from the coach. Apparently during an argument with a friend of hers, she became very upset and there was a brief shouting match between the two. The coach wasn’t concerned about Karen’s behavior, in fact, she said that Karen was clearly doing her utmost to control herself. But she was shocked at the reaction of some of the other girls. At the first sign of irritation from Karen, they ran to the coach and loudly “explained” to her that Karen “always acts that way because she’s adopted”.
The coach went on to tell me that the way in which it was framed, she got the impression that Karen hears this a lot, and suggested I speak to her to find out the extent of the bullying.
I took Karen out to lunch at McDonalds (her favorite) and asked her about it. Turns out, it’s been going on since last year, but appears to have gotten worse lately. Perhaps because Karen doesn’t hit anymore, so girls aren’t as afraid of her. In any case, after tears from her, and my realization that she never told us because she was ashamed, I decided to discuss with DH. He was horrified, and when he later questioned her and discovered which of the “good” girls regularly insult her by telling she’s adopted and whispering about adoption when she’s nearby in an attempt to hurt her feelings, he was ready call each parent and ask them to speak with their daughters. I dissuaded him because it sounds like the ringleaders are the same girls who’s parents made the loudest complaints to have Karen thrown out of the class last year when she was having such a hard time.
After talking to her teacher at school, who was apparently aware of the issue, but not of the severity, we decided to let the teacher try to deal with it first.
Karen has always been very open about being adopted. In fact, in kindergarten, when we spent 45 days in the middle of the school year together with her in Ukraine to adopt Matan, she returned to a hero’s welcome, and had the opportunity, with the support of a very caring teacher, to tell her class about adoption and what it meant to her. While she has mixed feelings about not being our bio child, she’s never been ashamed or felt bad when people use the term “adoption”. These girls have turned it into a dirty word to her. I hope her teacher is able to make a difference, but I’m not optimistic. DH wanted to write an open letter all the parents in the class, but I talked him out of it. Still unsure the best course of action, if any, apart from our unconditional love and support for Karen.