Being a transracial family demands a humility and awareness every parent—regardless of their family makeup—should have.
Unfortunately, not every parent who has adopted transracially has learned these lessons, and I hope for their children’s sake that they do sooner rather than later. But for the most part, parents who have adopted transracially (outside of their race/across racial lines) have learned these lessons and it has only made them better people (and better parents).
Not too long ago I would have read through this list quickly and nodded, thinking I could check most of them off the list as something I do. But in reality, I hadn’t truly learned these lessons. I didn’t truly sit on my hands in humility or feel the urgency of each listed lesson. I beg you to do that: I beg you to slow down, pause, sit, and really analyze yourself.
If you feel defensive, that’s something to take note of and explore. Usually when we feel defensive it’s because we aren’t comfortable with being wrong; we always want to be right. But the thing is: we aren’t always right, and we sure are not the experts on other people’s lived experiences.
The best avenue to truly love our children – and neighbors, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, community, and nation – is to sit on our hands, listen to other’s experiences, and set down our need to prove ourselves or be right.
These lessons learned by from parents in transracial adoptions could be learned from every parent (and person):
1. Maybe you don’t know everything.
Listen and learn from other people’s lived experiences. Parents from transracial families are some of the most humble people I know because they know firsthand that they don’t know everything.
If someone other than you is saying their experience is different than yours, it is. You have no right to tell someone their experience or feelings are wrong.
Parenting children of different races and cultures forces us to seek out and listen to people from those same communities. We must do this for the sake of our children, because we don’t know what it is like to grow up as anything but ourselves.
We have to set down our defenses and excuses and choose to sit on our hands and be the learner here.
We are the student to other people’s experiences, not the teacher.
Transracially adopted voices to listen to, seek out, amplify, and lift up: Angela Tucker, Rhonda Roorda, Rebecca Carroll, Jessenia Parmer, April Dinwoodie, Tony Hynes, JaeRan Kim, Susan Ito, Susan Harris O’Connor, Harlows Monkey.
2. Your kids are listening.
As we parent children of different races, they will hear how we talk – our tones and words – about people belonging to their community and culture. They will see how we treat people. And this will reflect how we inherently think about them, our children.
The things you do and say are the things your kids do and say. If you aren’t open to other cultures – or people not like you – your kids will be the same. If you look down upon or talk poorly about people of other races and cultures, your kids will grow up subconsciously (or consciously) believing the same.
3. Ask for help.
When we parent children of other races, we must ask for help. There are plenty of people willing to help, but you have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. This pertains with hair care, skin care, culture-care, and more.
This is true for every single parent.
And when we ask for help, we must listen.
4. Expect to be misunderstood.
Far too often we are entirely misunderstood and unseen by our friends and family. It can be lonely and gravely disappointing. We sort of have come to expect this; we continue to grieve it and hate it and work towards understanding one another, but we are not surprised when it happens.
5. Microaggressions are a thing.
No more white-splaining (see definition here) things away.
Microaggressions exist and we cannot tolerate them. Whether or not we are raising children of color, we must work hard to put a stop to these.
Don’t know what a microaggression is? Here.
6. The black community is welcoming.
Seriously. What is it with this stigma that the black community is hostile and unwelcoming? I mean, come on.
The black community has been nothing but kind, welcoming, and helpful to me as a white mom of a biracial son. I have had nothing but support and immense love. I know this is true for many of my friends raising children outside of their race, and their experience with those cultures.
7. You must actually care about injustice.
Don’t wait until it’s personal to care about injustice. Surround yourself with diverse voices and experiences. Again, sit on your hands and truly listen.
Have hard conversations, get uncomfortable, talk about injustice and help dismantle white supremacy.
Your children have their own identity: let it influence your family’s identity.
8. Let your children’s identity influence your family identity.
Often as parents, we see ourselves as the ones who set the tone for what kind of family we are. But our kids are people too, and their contributions are incredibly valid and must be valued.
Example: if your child is into soccer, you’re a soccer family—even if you weren’t a soccer person before. If your child has special needs, your family becomes advocates for special needs. If your child is of color, your family works to defeat systemic racism.
You cannot bring a child into your family (through any method) and expect your family to remain unchanged.
I am a white adoptive parent and I cannot ignore the concerns of the communities my child of color came from, or I will end up silencing my own child.
We must make our children’s problems, aches, joys, fears, our own, no matter what.