Not Just Like Me
Respecting the differences I have with my children and providing adult role models for them to identify with.
My adopted children are not just like me. While we share the same general culture of the United States middle class (California version), we have differences that need to be honored and respected. I cannot be the only model for my children of how an adult life is lived.
I am white; my children are African American, Mexican, Salvadoran, and Native American.
I am hard of hearing; my children are hearing, hard of hearing, deaf, have CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), and have hyperacusis (hypersensitivity to everyday sounds).
I learn academics easily; my children range from brighter than I am to PDD-NOS (on the autism spectrum), with some specific learning disabilities thrown in.
I am a Midwesterner, raised all my childhood in the Midwest, and transplanted to California as an adult by a corporate transfer 20 years ago. My children were born and raised thus far in California and are about to be transplanted to the Midwest.
I was raised by my biological parents, knowing my genealogy for a dozen generations on both sides; mostly my children do not know anyone related to them biologically.
I am a lesbian; I do not know whether or not my children will be gay, straight, bisexual, or asexual.
So, what do I do about all these differences? When I first adopted black children, I was given scare stories about how I, as a white parent, would not be able to give them what they needed. As a hearing person (sort of), I was told I could not enter the deaf world of my deaf daughter. As a person who was not adopted, I cannot know the loss they may feel for their biological families. Nevertheless, this is the life we have to lead, and I believe that they are better off being my children than they would be if they were not. Now, I need to make their lives as complete and nurturing as possible. I need to be sure they have all they need, whether it comes from me or not.
I surround my family with people that I truly want to be with, who also share characteristics of my children that I do not have. We have adult friends who are black, who are deaf, who are straight, who were adopted. I want my children to know a variety of types of adults, and to see that I respect and value the lives of those people.
Community for us means many overlapping circles of people. There are places where they will belong and I will only ever be a guest, but I hope to have found them a guide for the journey where I am unfamiliar.
Adoption across a cultural difference requires a new way of defining family and community in order to provide adult role models for our children who are like them, in whatever way we are not. Please, for anyone who adopts, share your family and your children so they can have a fuller sense of who they are and that they are precious to you, just the way they are.