Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Job We Have

So I'm going to get serious here for a minute. I've been pondering the job we have as parents, specifically on the topic of cultural identity. Most parents don't have to worry about that. You're children look like you, talk like you, and relate to your genetic heritage. But for those of us who have adopted children of a different race than our own, this is our greatest challenge.

It seems like a simple question. Can you love a child with skin a different color than your own? For many people the answer is yes. But the real questions are much deeper. Can you also love and embrace a culture different and/or unknown to you? Can you prepare your child for a life of experiences (both positive and negative) that you've never had? Can you prepare your child to face harshness you've never lived and can not even comprehend living? Can you teach your child how to respond to prejudices, racism, judgment, and assumptions that you've never had to respond to? How prepared are you to reach outside your comfort zone, and maybe physical location, to find mentors, coaches, friends, and teachers that are of a different race? How prepared are you to comfort your crying child when he/she feels excluded, outcast, and hurt, knowing you can't do anything to fix it? How will you feel knowing you can't mend this broken world and stop it from hurting your child?

Are you prepared to change your views on race and culture? Are you prepared to be angry with people you know and care about for their views on race and culture? Are you prepared to exclude people from your life, family and friends you've known for years, because of their inability to change their views about race and culture?

When my son comes home from kindergarten and asks why he is the only "brown" boy in the class, how can I, being a white person in an all-white family, explain to him what it means to be "brown"? How do I prepare him for what that means for his future?

Many transracial adoptive parents say that kids are kids and they don't see color. And that may be true, but the world does see color. And we can't shield our kids from it. But how do we prepare them? I've never been followed in a store, or told I couldn't date someone because of my race, or treated unfairly by teachers or coaches. But these are the realities my son will face. This is my biggest fear, but also my greatest responsibility as an adoptive parent.

I think my job is bigger and scarier than parents with biological children. And I'm not saying that to get more credit or have a pity party. I'm saying it because I'm genuinely afraid. I absolutely feel with all my heart that my son, being Hispanic and African American, is by far better being adopted into our white family living in suburban CT than lamenting in the foster care system for 18 years. But do I think he would have been better off being adopted by a Hispanic or African American family? Maybe...probably....I don't know. There are things he needs that I can never give him. There are parts of him that I can never fill. He will struggle with things I can't help him with. And of course, we all can't give our children perfect worlds, but to withhold a major piece of person's identity is especially cruel.

Sorry if this was heavy. I'm usually all about the comedy and keeping everything light. There is too much serious in this world and I like being able to loosen it up sometimes. This blog has been a great outlet for me in many ways. But I figured I'd use it every once in a while to bring up some bigger issues, mostly about being an adoptive parent, but things that impact us all. We should all examine our prejudices and think about how we are changing our nation, especially with the very real possibility of a minority president. To learn more about how you can change the next generation's view about race, visit (Sorry, I know that sounded like a public service announcement, but I couldn't help it).


Anonymous said...

This topic actually brings up a lot of my thoughts and feelings related to being an adult adoptee. I think whities who adopt other whities think they won't have to deal with issues like this because their child is of the same race they are. Despite that I have the same skin color as my parents, my genetic makeup could not be more different from my parents frankly. I knew it at a young age. I grew up knowing it and feeling it. And as an adult I'm even more acutely aware of it.

Being an adoptee, in my experience, has led to those feelings of being different, standing out from the other kids, and, also, being put on the center stage because I was adopted. As if I could explain as a young child exactly how I felt about being adopted, like I knew anything else to compare it to.

I think adopted parents, in general, need to face the issue of teaching their child how to handle being different all together and valuing it, whether they are of the same race or not.

Unfortunately, with the world we live in, transracial adoptions bring this issue even more to the forefront of concerns adoptive parents need to consider when pursuing adoption.

J-momma said...

yeah, they are requiring parents who want to adopt transracially to take classes about it more and more. which i think is great.