Y’all, life is hard. It’s so hard. And the older I get the more forgiving I become because I realize that I mess things up a lot and a whole lotta folks have been so kind and forgiven me for my stupidity over the years. Nearly all the time, my idiotic actions or words were out of pure ignorance. I just didn’t know any better because I didn’t have the exposure to know the difference. But I’m a quick study. I so appreciate those who assume the best instead of the worst and kindly teach me better…and when I know better, I sure try to do better.
I’m a white mom with black kids. You think I know what I’m doing? No. Mothering is hard to do as it is, but throw racial differences in the mix, and it gets harder. I know that. The hard thing is that the more you know, you realize there’s so much more you don’t know! You also realize that there is so much that you will never be able to know simply because you are white. Knowledge comes in many forms, and because I lack certain experiences, I just won’t know everything in order to help my kids grow up in their skin. So, I may not know how to be the best mom to my children, but I sure know how to totally mess up a transracial adoption. Here’s my ABC’s (and a D) of how to mess things up royally.
1. Assume your kids will be fine because you love them.
Here’s the deal. Love is good and I do happen to believe that love is stronger than hate. But guess what? Hate is really bad and actually kills. Create a home that is full of love and a place where your kids feel safe. After being out in the world all day long, it’ll be a place they want to be. That’s love. But if you neglect to educate yourself, you’ll neglect to prepare them for what’s outside the doors of your house.
2. Believe that you need and/or have all the answers.
As parents, we’re supposed to be the ones with the answers, right? I’m not so sure. Why should we have all the answers? I certainly don’t have some answers for my kids with black skin because sometimes…there just aren’t any answers. I’m okay with that. I have found that most people just want to be heard. I haven’t had too many tough questions yet, but I’ve had some. I’ve found that a lot of times people don’t care as much about the answers…they just want to be heard. I’ll always listen to my children, and help them find the answers for themselves.
3. Continue to think you can do it on your own.
So, you can’t answer all their questions? That’s okay. There are others who can because of their experiences. It takes a village to raise any kid. Don’t feel bad just because race is involved here. It doesn’t make you a bad person for needing other people to help your kids develop into strong leaders who are proud of who they are. As you’re creating your village just include others who mirror your child’s race. You’ll be so glad you did, and so will your child.
Some will get upset with me saying this, but I think the basics of transracial adoption is similar to parenting in general.
4. Declare that you don’t see color.
(blargh!) Now, with my vomiting in parenthesis, I admit that I’ve had this experience a bit. Our daughter has really deep, rich brown skin. When she was a baby, we were together all day and all night. One day, my dad was holding her and from across the room I looked over and was shocked because she was so much darker than I realized. I had never seen her from a distance and so it was a new perspective for me. In a way, I didn’t fully see her color maybe. But I always knew she was black.
As I rubbed coconut oil into her skin each day, I’d admire her dark skin. I’d rub her scalp and feel her tight coils of thick, black hair between my finger tips. I looked into her midnight black eyes as we’d laugh and smile at each other. I loved our differences and I was drawn to them.
But I honestly believe that people say that they don’t see color because what they are trying to say is that what is most important to them about a person is who they are…not what they look like. So, they should say that. As a white parent, never tell your transracially adopted child that you don’t see color because guess what? They most likely identify themselves with a color and you’ll be discrediting part of who they are if you say you don’t see it. Embrace it. Different isn’t bad. Color isn’t bad. Saying that you don’t see it, though, that could be damaging.
No one is perfect. You will mess something up because every single parent does. According to some Facebook groups and articles I’ve read, I’m the worst mom out there. Take note, and move on, committed to doing better. Our children don’t need perfection, but they need us to love them and we do that when we try our best. So study up so you know what your best should be and can be. They need us to advocate for them. They need us to not give up. They need us to admit when we are wrong and learn from our mistakes. They need us to listen, and they need us to speak up on their behalf. Don’t ignore racial issues or brush them off as people being too sensitive.
Take time to study so you at least can understand a perspective that isn’t your own. Some will get upset with me saying this, but I think the basics of transracial adoption is similar to parenting in general. Love your children so much that you will see who they are, what they need, and never give up….love them so much that you leave your own insecurities and pride at the door and, in humility, learn about a world that you’ve never experienced. Ask your own questions. Seek help from those with experience. Ultimately, it does boil down to love…but love is a verb, right? It’s what you do with your love that will make the difference.