Sunday, March 05, 2006

How "Not" to Tell Friends

Last weekend we had an impromptu playdate with friends across the street. While my son and his friend were playing on the floor, my friend T remarked how much my son looked like me. I turned to his wife R and asked if she ever told T. She replied that she had not. I had told R about two years ago, during another playdate, that my kids were donor conceived.

Now this is where the how not to tell part comes in. Rather than letting the resemblance comment go by and waiting for another time to explain how my kids we're created I went into it right there. What I should have realized is that by refuting the complimentary resemblance comment I may have embarrased T by going into it at that exact moment. I should have said a simple thank you and later mentioned to R that she should feel free to tell T. I haven't yet gotten the chance to apologize to T but I hope to soon.

5 comments:

lia said...

If your kids know and there is no embarassement about it around them then why should you feel the need to apologize to T? I don't know... its hard being different. I remember one year when my son was 3 I took him camping and the whole campsite was full of families (one mum, one dad) and all the kids were hounding my son with the same question "where's your father?" and we became a real freak show. But what the hell, we were there (I raised my son alone - don't recommend it to anyone btw) and everyone just had to do a crash course in 'alternative families'. I figured if I wasn't going to be embarassed or apologetic then my son wouldn't feel that way either. Whats happened has happened and all we can do is make the most out of things and do the best job we can. What more can a person do than their best?

Richard said...

Eric,

I wonder whether the reaction that you had to jump right in started from a defence mechanism for you.

I know that a lot of men with DI kids find the mention of a resemblance a painful thing to deal with and I wonder if, to start with, you may have covered that with explaining the situation to people and letting them know that you're ok with it.

Now I guess, as part of a group of people who want to open the closet on DI, any opportunity to explain is taken and the resemblance is a classic case of one such opportunity.

I don't know. Maybe I'm rambling.

DI_Dad said...

I don't think I was embarrassed in the true sense of the word and I truly had expected that R had told her husband T prior to that day. Both my wife and I know R better than T as we see her more often than T. But again realizing she had not I should have kept quiet for that moment. But thinking about it again the reaction to tell all probably did include some measure of a defense mechanism reaction.

The reasons to hold back I believe are that sometimes the recipient of this info may themself be uncomfortable with this topic and no one ever should be told they are wrong when their intent was simply to deliver what they see as a compliment.

Richard said...

Eric,

I think I already know the answer to this but, there is a question about why we feel the need to explain when someone does comment about a likeness? After all, I have seen a photo of a nephew of a colleague of mine, to whom I have no relation, who looks exactly like me.

In searching for a donor, most people's main criteria are a physical likeness to the infertile partner. While I understand that not responding with the true nature of our relationship with our children is a bad thing (it is after all a lie by omission), the statement that your children look like you is neither untrue nor surprising.

Our donors were selected because they were like us both physically and mentally and, in some ways, we should be pleased that people see a resemblance that we worked hard to ensure during the selection process. Perhaps, given our desire to be open with our children, we should start selecting donors that are, physically, very different from us.

On top of all that, a resemblance does not necessarily come from physical attributes but also turns of phrase and body language, both of which are learnt not inherited.


Just a thought.

Richard

DI_Dad said...

Richard -

It's a good question as to why we feel we need to reply. Probably has to do with the "lie of omission" thing you mentioned. Until we started telling folks I would just reply that I thought the child looks more like my wife.

We're obviously past the stage of donor selection but I don't think I'd ever go as far to use a donor that differs from my wife just to get around the comments folks make but it would solve one set of questions for another.

- Eric