Thursday, December 11, 2008

Transracial Adoption

Paul and I spent some time last night listening to NPR archives about transracial adoption. Three that we found most interesting were Growing Up Black in a White Family, When Mom Doesn't Look Like the Kids, and Black Family, White Child: Another View of Transracial Adoption.

We're still new enough to this that I don't have many of my own insights. One thing that has hit home for me is how conspicuous our family is. At first when we came home with Atticus and Norah it seemed normal to me that we attracted a lot of attention. They were our new babies and it didn't feel too weird that people asked questions about them everywhere we went. We had just become parents and it seemed commonplace that the rest of the world was taking notice of it!

These days, our family seems so average to me. Two parents, two kids, two jobs, a dog, a house, and a partridge in a pear tree... We spend our days like all the other families of young children we know. We go grocery shopping and to the park. We rejoice in tiny daily accomplishments like one of the kids mastering a new word or looking particularly cute while doing something. We juggle daycare pickups, dread gross diapers, read about how to handle toddler tantrums, pray to the gods of baby sleep, and sometimes miss sleeping in on the weekends together - normal, normal, normal.

Yet, it's not unusual for us to attract attention when we do these things. We've been introduced as "Paul and Betsy who have two kids adopted from Ethiopia". Someone recently remarked about the fact that one of us referred to Atticus as our son. The cashier at our local supermarket started recognizing me after our second visit. I thought she just had a good memory when she asked where my other child was, but then she pointed out that there aren't too many white moms with two brown babies who shop there.

When we were preparing to adopt, I was mentally aware that we would stick out. It doesn't really bother me, but it is kind of weird to think that for the rest of our lives together as a family we will be labeled this way and set apart from others. We want our kids to have a healthy understanding of our identity as a family created through adoption, but it's a rather bizarre notion that for many people this will be the predominant identity of our family. My kids are just my kids to me. We hug and kiss them, give them baths, repeat random actions that make them laugh, would throw ourselves under a bus to save them... It feels miraculous yet completely normal all at once - just as I imagine most parents feel about their kids.

With all of this said, it's our job to continue educating ourselves about transracially adoptive families and how to raise happy, healthy children in them. Some of the comments in the NPR segments listed above really hit home and led to some great discussion between the two of us.


Lonnie said...

Great post. I'm inspired to be a "normal" family - but still pay close attention to the differences we'll have. I will find some time to listen to those NPR archives with my wife soon. I enjoy your blog- thanks for sharing.

Diandra said...

Just wanted to know if you are having any trouble with your children's hair? Do you have friends who are black to help you? And the lotion?!? And books featuring black children - one of my favorites was 'Amazing Grace' by Mary Hoffman, and a series of "traditional" fairy tales featuring black charactors such as 'JATS Fairytale Classics' found on Amazon.
I have lived all this....both of my children are black, my husband and I adopted our kids at birth. They were both born in our state of Indiana and they are both now in many years ago and to see them become loving, caring, "speak their mind" brings tears to my eyes.
I read your blog about how surprised you were for your family to be noticed so much as "different". It is true and remains true to this day. It always amazes me when people say, "It (race) doesn't or shouldn't matter. We are all the same." As much as we would like it not to, it does matter and thinking it doesn't is being naive. I raised my children to be proud of their race, to celebrate it.
If you would like to talk about anything, I'm available any time.
Thanks for writing your blog.

Life in the Bend said...

Thank you for your comment Diandra. I love hearing from moms of adult children!

We do have some friends who are black and willing to give us advice about hair issues. In fact, I just contacted one today because I'm panicking a little about Norah's hair. (Does it look shabby most of the time because I'm doing something wrong or because she's a toddler who rubs her head against stuff constantly?)