November is National Adoption Awareness Month. It’s a chance to share stories, link arms with each other and grow deeper in our understanding of adoption in all of its beauty and brokenness. Adoptive parents have so much to learn from the rich stories and sharing of experiences of other members from within the adoption triad. Whether you’re new here, you’re waiting to adopt, you’ve adopted internationally, domestically or you have foster children in your home, there’s room for you at this table. If you’re a birth mom or an adoptee, welcome, we’ve saved you a seat. Your voice is valuable, needed. Let’s gather here and let our collective voices rise to a greater understanding; we’re better together.
I’m writing this post only 28 months in. I know we have a lifetime ahead; the years of raising our son, and his lifetime of experiences. But our family has this title, one we’re honored to bear, and one that’s obvious if you see us out together. We’re a transracial family. While we are still new at this and far from being “experts”, I thought I’d shed some light on what our experiences have been like so far.
In general, people are kind.
In all of my experiences in public and online, no one has been mean-spirited towards me/our family (to my face, at least) based on the way we look together. I know there are sadly always exceptions to the rule, but mostly, people are kind. I also know experiences can vary widely based on geography too. But it seems for the most part, people recognize that love makes a family and loved children can exist in a wide variety of family structures. Just like the saying goes for new babies, “fed is best”, so it seems to be true that “loved is best”.
People are curious.
If someone asks me, “are you babysitting?”, which has happened a handful of times, I try to regard their question as interest. They are asking to hear more of our story. As someone with intense interest in the stories of others, I understand the curiosity. And while I don’t invite strangers into the heart of our son’s adoption or his story, I recognize the spirit of inquiry that others have. I recognize it because I see it in myself too. Just the other day I just had my two youngest, Frankie and William and we were playing at the park. Another mom was there with her two children. After they had played together for a bit, she asked me out of earshot of the playing boys, if we’d adopted our youngest son. It turns out that she and her husband had just completed requirements for their foster care license, and are eagerly awaitIng their first placement. I remember so clearly being in the wait for our son and spotting families that looked how I imagined ours might one day. I usually, (possibly creepily), watched them as I dreamed about our reality. But I get it, and for the most part people are mostly interested in the heart of the story, and I try to extend grace. Sometimes people outside of the adoption community use all of the “wrong” language. I have felt offended, bristly and insulted by some things people have asked or assumed. Here’s the thing, a slice of humble pie: I didn’t always have the right language to use regarding adoption and cringe to think of things I might have said. When I try to answer horribly phrased questions with correct adoption verbiage it becomes a door to teach, however small.
People are there to help.
There are so many people to reach out to as resources. Why go it alone when you can ask and do it better? I have a friend who once stopped a college student at Wal-Mart to ask him what product he used in his hair. She noticed he had the same curl pattern as her African American son and wanted to try whatever product he was using. It’s ridiculous to expect every person of color to drop what they’re doing and be my teacher, but I’ve learned when it’s ok to ask questions. There are websites, blogs, Facebook groups and books dedicated to the purpose of helping white mama’s learn to better care for their African American children’s beautiful hair and skin. It’s important to read them. But nothing can replace asking someone. Ask a friend you trust; humble yourself and ask someone who knows more than you do. If you’re fortunate enough to have a relationship with your child’s birth mom/family, ask for their advice. Our son, Frankie, won the genetic lottery and bears his birth mama’s gorgeous complexion and skin. I reached out to her shortly after we brought him home to ask what she likes to use best to moisturize her skin. Since he takes after her, I figured she’d be the best person to ask what might work best on his. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but learning from each other is beautiful.
This post isn’t meant to be a “how-to”, there are so many beautiful resources for entering into transracial adoption, and you should read/watch/listen to them. It is meant to serve as encouragement and maybe even a push forward to bravely pursue transracial adoption if it’s on your heart. Maybe someone reading this is in the midst of paperwork and hovering over certain boxes on that (dreaded) preferences page. I hope this serves to encourage you to move forward bravely and chase love.