As I already shared, a couple weeks ago we took Anna with us to Wildhorse Canyon for Young Life leadership training camp, and she was a great traveler and made lots of friends. This phenomenon was an interesting experiment, in fact.
The first night she was being chatty so I took her outside to the "baby zone" where a dad was trying to jiggle his little guy to sleep too, but of course Anna saw that she could soak up attention from everyone standing there and immediately enjoyed making big eyes at people and smiling so they could tell her how she's the cutest, most adorable baby ever in the whole wide world with the biggest eyes and oh so sweet. Which is true, of course. Still . . .
She was like a freaking celebrity with all the attention she got. Everyone was always watching her and saying hi and asking her name and (occasional grr) touching her head. This happened quite a bit in the store this week too. I know people like babies and especially cute, alert babies . . . but at first Control Group Baby was right there and it was Anna that got all the oohs and ahhs. And I know she really is cute and adorable and alert and with big eyes and oh so sweet. And we her parents do find her to be the most beautiful thing in the whole wide world. But twice total strangers have said, "She is the cutest [or most beautiful] baby I've ever seen in my life." In your life? Really? You don't have children or grandchildren or neices or friends' children whom you've seen for more than ten seconds and whom your affection for might give them a bump up to the top of the list? I mean, these were older women. They had to have seen a lot of babies in their life. But it's official, and we're making a plaque for the house: Cutest Baby EVER Slept Here.
Young Life leaders are awesome people so all the attention was positive and we had some nice conversations with people about adoption and babies/parenting, so I didn't really mind. Actually it was a lot of fun having her there and we are proud to have adopted her and be her parents (and prideful in a selfish way to be seen with celebrity baby). I know a lot of the attention she gets is because she is black in places most are white, and she doesn't "match" us either. She just plain stands out in a crowd, and the consensus does seem to be that she's exceptionally cute, and even we are amazed at her beauty. So I don't blame people for watching her--I would and I do! That's an illustration of differences in racial privilege, but I don't take offense as long as people are positive, not offensive, and it's not making her or us uncomfortable (at this point).
Still, it's a little strange to know that a lot of that attention is because in our white world, she's got a novelty factor as well. And I wonder sometimes about how much of the praise for her beauty is a kind of surprise. When people seem amazed that she could be so cute, or have such fine features, or whatever, is that a slightly different kind of response to her race? Did you not think she could or would be cute? (Then again, maybe just not that cute, because she's even more beautiful than even I imagined. But I see with mommy eyes.)
I don't want to read too much into people's comments, but it's interesting to observe the patterns. Seems like maybe white people overcompensate: they get caught staring and so feel they have to give a compliment so we know they approve. Or tell us about someone else they know who adopted. People do this a lot in general; when we told people we were adopting, we almost always got told about someone else's adopted kids in response, and often about how cute (and/or maybe how small or curly-haired or whatever) so-and-so's little girl from wherever is.
It's human nature to try to make that connection, maybe. To show your support with examples of others you support. But I wonder if there isn't a bit more to it with adoption and especially transracial adoption. (To show you're not racist by talking about your personal Stephen Colbert's Black Friend Alan?) We don't need these people's assurance, but maybe they do.
Or, then again, maybe she just really is the world's most beautiful baby.