I sit on a chair Ammu on my lap, her cheek pressed to mine, nuzzling as if in want of reassurance. I squirm and hug her tight before trying to dislodge her from me. We are in front of the twins’ class. Over twenty children and two teachers are looking at me expectantly.
I clear my throat and read a couple of books Pattu selected the night before. The books are based on India and Indian mythology. The illustrations are vivid, vibrant and very different from what is usually found in the school library.
I finish reading and look at the class expectantly. The teachers nod approvingly. I put the books down and wait for each student in the class to take turns to voice compliments and concerns. Laddu has most of them giggling. I feel like I should discipline my wards but the lead teacher gives me a head shake effectively stopping me.
I follow the girls’ out of their class turning one last time to say bye. “You are blessed,” the teacher says, her face a study in earnestness. I nod in acquiescence and reiterate what I know a thousand times over. I am blessed.
The drive home is uneventful. Laddu is engaging her sisters in animated conversation while I am still ruminating over the ‘blessed’ comment. I realize that our family is unique. Even if the children and teachers have seen us many times, we stand as a poster child for ‘different’ kinds of families. I volunteer to talk about adoption. I am open with my children’s teachers about our family circumstances if I feel it is in the best interests of my children to do so. I also realize this is something we will grapple with each school year, with each new class, with every new family we make friends with. For most parts I am OK with it.
Today however, I felt different. I did not resent being marked. I felt a whole new world open up. By embracing that we will forever be the outlier, I did not feel the necessity to linger, to explain, to validate what others were feeling. There is nothing normal about our circumstance. Our reality will always include multiple families, struggles with identity and a need for reassurance. We will go through life being a poster child for adoption. We will also be the target of well-meaning comments and misdirected anger.
We could choose to do so by ignoring the differences and pretending we are just like any other family or we could do it by embracing our differences.
It makes us pioneers. It makes us uniquely us.