What I Wish Your Child Knew About Transracial Adoption

Kids often say hurtful things without meaning to.

Rhonda McClung August 18, 2015
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Picking my daughter up at summer day camp always provides an opportunity for children to ask questions or make comments to her about the mother who looks nothing like her.

One afternoon, I walked in to find Issie playing with a little girl I’d never met. I called Issie over and the little girl followed.

With the puzzled look we’ve gotten use to, the little girl asked, “Is this your mother?”

Issie said yes.

Still confused, the little girl said, “But you’re black and she’s white.”

I looked at Issie, waiting for her answer, always interested in how this is going to go.  “I know,” Issie said in her most serious voice, “but I love her.”

The two of us laughed, took each other’s hand, and walked away. The little girl watched us, still bewildered.

In the last eight years, Issie has developed a sense of humor about the stares and questions regarding the family that looks nothing like her. Born of a Hispanic mother and an African-American father and adopted at birth, she doesn’t know any other life. A white mom, a white dad, and a white brother is what she got. Sometimes we come with her one at a time, leaving the possibility that the missing parent looks like her. Sometimes we come all at once, leaving no room for doubt that Issie doesn’t look like anyone in her family

I always feel a little sorry for the child we’ve confused, wanting to pull her aside and tell her all the things I wish she knew about adoption, especially transracial adoption.

I wish every child knew that our family may not look alike, but we’re just like other families. We laugh and cry and argue. Issie is one of us even on the days she doesn’t want to be. She isn’t treated any differently than her brother, who is our biological child. Families are made up of people who love each other, regardless of how they came together.

I wish every child knew that they don’t need to point out to Issie that she looks different from her family. She already knows. Given the chance, we’d forget we don’t look alike. We don’t feel like we’re different from other families—and certainly not from one another.

I wish every child knew that it’s OK to ask Issie about her family, but not to keep asking questions after the answer “I’m adopted” is given. If she wants to talk more, she will, but asking why she was adopted or where her “real” mother is won’t get any answers. She wasn’t there when her family made the decision to adopt or her birth parents made the decision to place her for adoption.

I wish every child knew that questions about family should be asked in private. Asking endless questions and pointing out how she’s different isn’t nice. No one wants to be made to feel like their different from their friends and classmates.

I wish every child knew that adoption isn’t the result of something bad happening to her birth parents, or that they didn’t care about her. It can be a decision made by the birth parents to do what’s best for the child at the time. Adoptions happen for many reasons, but the bottom line is that the people involved want what’s best for the child. In our case, her birth parents and our family love Issie enough to make every effort to give her the best life possible.

Most important, I wish every child knew that it’s possible for a mother to love a child as her very own without the same color skin or hair or being related by blood. I wasn’t in the room when Issie was born but there isn’t a minute that she has felt like anything other than my own child.

Adoption is just how Issie came to our family. It doesn’t have any impact on our love for each other. When I walk away laughing, holding her black hand in my white hand, I know that she is my child.

Are you part of a transracial family brought together by adoption?  What do you wish children knew about your family?

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Rhonda McClung

Rhonda McClung is a professional fundraiser and has previously worked as a legislative aide and newspaper reporter. She loves to tell stories, her own and other people's. She is the mother of a son and a daughter. One is biological and one is adopted, but she can never remember which one is which.


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