Choosing to Parent a Child with a Need Others Can See

In 2013 we adopted a little boy from China who was, at the time, 3 years old.

1269158_649741421727529_806365536_oHis Chinese name was Bo Wen. In our home, he is Bowen.  Bowen happens to have Dwarfism.


For us, that was pretty much all there was to it. But, for the world, there is so much more.

When we arrived home it wasn’t long before someone referred to my beloved 3-year-old son as a “baby.” If you’ve spent any time with a 3-year-old, you’ll know that this is NOT appreciated. They’re THREE. They are NOT a baby. He hated this. It happens still, to this day.

We’ve had to fight against lowered expectations for him because he’s small, people not understanding that while he’s the size of the average 2-year-old it’s actually not acceptable for him to act like one, and people referring to him as “midget” (this is an incredibly offensive word to people with Dwarfism, born out of circus acts and freak shows).

Our daughter’s arrival was even more jarring. Shortly after arriving home she needed her left eye removed. If our son could blend in at all, all hope of that was lost for her. All of the sudden, everyone felt the need to comment on the bandages covering where her eye had been or the open eye socket on the right side of her face. “Oh my goodness! What happened?!?” People are rude. It’s true. Most of us transracial adoptive parents know that already. Having a child with a visible special need adds a whole other layer to the comments. Our daughter was eventually fitted for a eye prosthesis. She is 3-years-old now. Occasionally she will remove it and simply hand it to me. It gets dirty. It gets uncomfortable. She’s 3. It happens.

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People still gasp. People still stare. It has become part of our family culture to educate, accept, and move on. It’s not about the other person. Our kids are amazing. Here in the U.S., stares, gasps and rude comments won’t affect our child’s ability to get an education or to, eventually, be gainfully employed. We have laws that protect children from discrimination. China does not. For a person with a visible difference in China there may be no education. There is even less of a chance of gainful employment.

My kids are people first. All of the amazing things about being there mom far outweigh any anger or embarrassment I have felt when other children run away screaming because my daughter only has one eye (yes, that has happened). I would listen to the rude comments one thousand times over to be their mom. That’s me though. I live in a large city, with a diverse population and a wonderful school system that caters to kids with differences. If you don’t have that, if the stares are upsetting to you in a way you can’t stomach, if your family is not accepting, or worse yet, rude to people with visible differences, then that should factor into your choices when it comes to special needs adoption.

If that’s not the case, and you’ve simply never thought about adopting a child who needs you as much as you need them, then I’ve got a couple of people I would LOVE for you to meet.  You can click on each picture to take you to the individual child’s profile.