Sunday, November 11, 2012

Transracial Parenting - Perceptions vs. Reality

It was a friend who first got me thinking about adopting outside of my race.

Sitting down with her, she asked me if I had considered adopting an African American child. The friend speaking to me, was black herself. And I do I tell her I'm scared to adopt outside of my race?

Opening up your family to an adoption outside of your race means a few things that you might not have considered when you first began pursuing adoption. For me, it meant that I was going to have to rethink how I had pictured my family in my mind.

I was going to have to realize that there was going to be more to parenting that what I might have intended in the beginning. It meant that I was opening up my family to fierce perceptions from the outside world. It meant that, in just walking by my family, strangers would immediately know our child was adopted. It meant that the things that are passed down through heritage - how you learn to care for your child, would need to be unlearned and relearned for me.

I was scared of how our family would be perceived from complete strangers. I was scared of how I would be perceived by another race. Was I taking care of my child the "correct" way? Could I care for her hair correctly? Skin? Would I be good enough for her that I would not be approached in public and scorned for my lack of knowledge?

My friend got me thinking of the way I pictured our family, and that turned out to be a good thing. We did, in fact, adopt outside of our race not once but THREE times after that conversation. I found out that things like haircare and skincare could be learned. That, like most moms, babies didn't come with a manual and I had time to learn about my child the same way all mothers do - regardless of whether they adopted or birthed their child. I learned that I had time to figure some all things out.

In the meantime, I also learned that there were some things I could never teach my daughter. I could never know, for instance, what it is like to be another race outside of what I am. No matter how hard I try to be the best parent for my kids, I will never be black. I can't be. And therefore, I had to admit that I can't be all things for my children. There will be things I cannot understand and during those times I will empathize and I will make sure that my children have strong black role models and friends they can rely on for those lessons. There will be times I will need to humble myself and turn to a friend and ask for help.

I'm lucky to live in an area in which we aren't perceived much differently. In our community we have families of many colors and types. Our schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces are diverse. We are lucky to have made friends with others who are different races and our children have friends who are black, white, and biracial. I am very glad that they will grow up in a community that supports all families.

In the meantime, we're a family regardless of our colors on the outside. We are learning what it's like to be a transracial family in a world that is becoming increasingly more diverse. I'm incredibly glad that my fears of becoming a mixed race family were absolutely nothing like my expectations.

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