My darling eldest child was astonished to see these previously-lost pictures from when Paul and I bought our house nearly eight years ago. I'm too short on time to make Blogger behave and put my photos in correct before-and-after order. Hint: A certain child thinks it all looked better before we ripped out the wall-to-wall carpet and added color to the walls.
One message that comes up over and over again in interviews
with adult transracial adoptees is that growing up in an environment where
there are other people who "match" them is important. It is quite
frequently cited as the best thing their parents did do or the one major thing
they wish their parents had done differently. We've seen adoptive parenting
friends grapple with this and have felt good about our old house being in a
diverse neighborhood that allows our children to attend a great school where
they are far from being the token children of color. In addition, Paul and I
felt strongly when we bought our first house that we didn't want to raise our
hypothetical kids in a homogeneous suburb where everyone appears to have a
3,000 square foot house, two newer cars, a neatly tended lawn, and an empty
wooden swing set in the backyard.
The reality of living in our city, however, is that racially
and socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods are few and far between. As we
frowned through the listings of available homes, there were many times that I
was tempted to throw in the towel and move to a nice sheltered subdivision even
if it meant that the kids would be growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood.
As we've worked our way into parenthood, the lure of the previously scorned
suburbia has called to me. I see its appeal quite clearly now.
Fortunately, a clearer head (Paul's) prevailed and we were
able to find a great house just a few blocks away from the one we were selling.
I love the new house which has plenty of historic charm as well as some of the
thrills that only make your heart go pitter-patter if you're an adult (More
than one bathtub! A garage! A mudroom closet by the back door so that all the
kids' snowy, muddy clothes don't end up in the front hall where they're visible
to everyone who comes in! A new furnace, roof, and windows!) Still, I was
harboring doubts about whether we'd made the right decision. Does living in a
racially diverse neighborhood really matter that much? More than quiet
cul-de-sacs and schools that can boast that the vast majority of students pass
their standardized tests? Had we made the right choice?
Then, a couple of days ago, as we drove past the new house
to wave hello to it, Atticus piped up from the backseat. "Mama? You know
what I really like about our old house? A lot of the neighbors have brown skin
like me and Norah and Tegegn and Tiruye. I'm really worried that there won't be
anyone with brown skin who lives near our new house."
There are so few moments in parenting when you get to feel
that you clearly made the right decision for your own family, but this was one
of those rare moments that felt like a gift. Even though none of our kids had
mentioned it before, they've clearly been taking note of their surroundings. It
does matter to them. This one time, I'm 99% sure, we made the right choice.