Sometimes I forget when I am talking with people about transracial adoption (or parenting in general) to share the happy quiet moments as well as the hard ones. When I stop and watch, I see that my family has them every day. Sandwiched in between the training and the conflicts, the school work and the chores, there are pools of quiet peace that help us re-center even in the midst of our hardest, big issue days. It makes me so thankful when I see the child who has been creating chaos for hours snuggle in beside a big brother as he reads them a book. It assures me, that even though we have many things to deal with in our family, there is an underlying peace that we are able to engage in together. For us it comes when we are not too busy, when our home is in semi-order and when our hearts are turned away from ourselves and back towards Christ. He is our oasis as well as our strong leader.
As the mom to 6 adopted kids I try hard not to be afraid when I need to research Attachment Disorders and all of the psychologically disruptive things that this diagnosis can indicate. Rather than reacting out of fear, I have learned to process what I learn with a sober mind and a prayerful heart. In the daily living with my children, I can see that there is no single answer to the problems we experience. Thankfully, my kids are not wholly defined by the fact that they were adopted, it is just one part of who they are, and just like their racial identity it isn’t the whole.
We have hard things within our family (Gasp! Didn’t you all think we were perfect?!) One child had a sleep disorder of violent intensity, another a learning delay that caused real concern, and a third with physical responses that indicated abuse where there has been none. It has taken a lot of research to figure out how to deal with each issue and each child. Sometimes I find the answers in Attachment Therapy, other times it’s through the medical community, and sometimes its beautifully been solved through prayer. The hardest things are when there is no answer and I just have to live with the issue, pray my way through it and trust that in God’s timing it may be resolved. I know that God made people relational and it’s my job to learn how to connect with my kids, where ever they are at, because that’s a huge part of being a mom.
If you are thinking about adoption or experiencing a hard place with a child, I pray you will not be afraid, but that you will be sober and trust the same God that builds your family to help you work through or endure the hard things that come with each child.
Who would have thought that figuring out how to verbally identify our children’s racial identity would be another one of the hard things about adoption? It seemed simple at first, they are African American and we are Caucasian. Then it got tougher, two of our children are also Cherokee Indian and two have unidentified fathers so they may be anything. So I say we are a multiethnic family, with a rainbow of children. Do you know that some people take offense that we talk about our rainbow? Some hate the fact that we talk about race in our family as chocolate and vanilla while others take offense at the term African American preferring Black. I admit, I haven’t ventured far into the Native American vs Cherokee Nation or Original Peoples designations but I am know there are lots of opinions out there about that as well.
So what do I do? I realize that I am not ever going to please everybody (and some days I think I am scoring closer to nobody) so I pray and use the words that God gives me to communicate the unusual makeup of the family he has built. I call my kids (adopted and biological) lots of things, all in love and respect and I need to be able to stand firm against the tides of political correctness and social awareness that want to tell me what is acceptable and what is not.
I couldn’t endure this parenting journey for very long if all I had were the Monday realities to look forward to. I thank God that for every Monday of transracial parenting there is an opposite and hope-filled Friday calling to me. Fridays are the promises fulfilled, the dreams unfolding and the needed rest from what can be the exhausting realities of adoptive families. This is my Friday list. The top ten quiet things that hold me centered when everyone else thinks what we doing is impossible. I know that these things are not limited to transracial adoption, but they are all part of the particular blessing God has given our family through the differences.
1. My family is beautiful. God put us together on purpose, for his glory and our joy and I can trust in Him alone to answer all of the hard questions. (Yes – I am biased as well as utterly dependent on Him!)
2. I experience a freedom in interracial relationships that would have taken years to develop if six of my kids were not Black. Conversations flow naturally with Black moms when they know I have a common journey. God opens many doors using our diversity as a family so that our earthly adoptions will point toward his eternal one.
3. People listen differently when God gives me something to say about minority needs and racial issues. They don’t automatically write me off as a product of white privilege and guilt, because I now live in two worlds. Continue reading
This is my ‘Monday list,’ todays top 10 tough realities of transethnic adoption that affect my daily life and weigh the heaviest on Monday. I know that all of them are manageable through Christ, but sometimes (especially on these long winter Mondays) they are seem a little overwhelming.
I will share my ‘Friday List’ next week – those are the innumerable blessings and joys that come with being a transethnic mom. By Friday is all looks good to me, what ever happened over the week is past and there is a break in the schedule with a Sabbath following.
Here are my Monday realities on transethnic adoption:
1. Not everyone will think transracial adoption is a good idea, and many people will feel the need to tell me. Even 8 years and 6 kids later!
2. Not everyone thinks I am up to the challenge and they tell me. (Of course I am not; it’s only through Christ any of us can parent well!)
3. I can’t avoid exploring many of the hard places of life with my adopted children because the issues are real and part of who they are.
4. Parenting is hard work. Adoptive parenting is hard +1 because there was a life before we met. Continue reading
One of the questions I hear all the time as a transracially adoptive mom is, “But what about their hair – can you do it yourself?” Our 6 adopted children all have variations of kinky, curly, African hair. The color ranges from dark brown to deepest black and the texture ranges from very soft to more of a thick, bouncy toughness. For now we keep the hair of all 5 of our boys (Black and White) short. It’s just easier to wash and I don’t have to fuss with them about being tidy for church and outings. When they get older I am willing to let them try other things, but to be honest, I just don’t need to add another item on my mental checklist before we leave the house.
That leaves me free to concentrate on the beautiful hair that God has given my 3 adopted daughters. After several years of experimenting, Continue reading
“Why am I in this family anyway?” Words casually thrown to me over the shoulder of my 8 year old as he disappeared up the basement stairs with the umpteenth load of clean laundry. This is the child that God is using to sharpen me and break down the self-sufficiency that I suffer so dreadfully from. On his next trip past I set a ‘date’ with him to meet in the bathroom and talk about it in 5 minutes. The bathroom is almost the only place in our house for this type of discussion and I can keep an ear to the kitchen in case the little girls get into mischief. Dutifully, I finished sweeping the laundry area, prayed for wisdom and approached my bathroom meeting with the totally wrong idea about where we were headed. You see, I thought he was warming up for a good complain about why he had to carry all this laundry up all these stairs, all by himself. I was ready with my standard lecture, “God has given us all tasks to do with our days and in a large family…” Thankfully, when I took this big boy into my lap, God had me ask ‘why’ he asked the question rather than launching automatically into the 3 minute mommy sermon.
He wanted to know the specifics of why he had to be adopted. Continue reading
I have to confess a personal and deep-seated desire to get rid of the ‘Purple Jesus’ print that hangs on my living room wall. I acquired it accidentally when we rebuilt a portion of our church and I became the caretaker for some of the more obscure art we found stashed in various corners of the condemned building. This particular print was wisely squirreled away in a cupboard under the various trophies, awards and pictures that were occupying a wall near the library. Somehow, when the building was completed and the art returned, they didn’t want the Purple Jesus back and it’s been on my wall ever since.
It’s not that it is ugly; actually, the purple matches almost exactly the pattern in my wallpaper, and it’s not that it is damaged. Years in the cupboard kept the colors bright and true. The problem for me is that he is Caucasian, with soft almost blond hair and pale Northern European skin. Not much chance that Jesus really liked like that, is there? I have talked about it with the kids during devotions. Discussing what people who are of Jewish descent look like and how funny it is that this Jesus is so pale. We have talked about the reality that making him look African American wouldn’t work either. As nothing in the Bible says he had African ancestors or that he looked darker than the general population around him.
I have told the kids that the Purple Jesus is leaving my house several times, but the cry has gone up and it has been spared. They know it isn’t a good representation of Christ in the same way that they are aware Mary didn’t have a glowing halo around her head. But I forget that my children are able to see flaws and weaknesses in things and love them anyway. In this picture they love the way Christ is portrayed as praying so desperately, the bright colors in his cloak, and the way the light falls on his face from above. To them there is no reason to throw out the Purple Jesus just because his skin is white. Good food for this adoptive mommy’s mind as I pray and ponder the place of race in our lives.
This week I mail off the last letter and photo updates to the biological mother of my three- and four-year-old daughters. It is the end of a sweet season in my life. I have been writing letters and taking photos with Aris (not her real name) in mind for the past 4 years. She has received more mail from me than any of my own family members and this is the last time I have her name written on my calendar as a milestone in the girl’s lives.
One thing that stands out with Aris and the other birth parents we are linked with through our children, is that none of them has been overly concerned that we are White or about how we are going to teach our children Black culture. We hear fears about it from the larger adoption community, from strangers on the street, and through the media. But never has it been a prominent issue for the African American families (birth parents, grand parents, sisters and cousins) we have met during the adoptive process. When they choose to entrust us with their children they are each looking for something different, but never has it been our ability to raise those children as Black. Or maybe it has, and those birth parents have not chosen to place a child with us. In those situations we may never know the underlying reasons, but the issue was never brought up so I have nothing but speculation to work with.
I believe that the women who bore my 6 adopted blessings were looking for families to love and enjoy their children. They wanted adoptive parents who felt called to protect, treasure and accept their children. This was much more important to them than our ability to teach the children about being Black. I see the halo of birth parents that surround our family as a beautiful testimony of God’s drawing people from every tribe and tongue into fellowship. I am reminded often not to neglect or to overemphasize the color of our skin or the origin of our ancestors. But rather, to celebrate each of our unique identities in Christ staying far away from any idols we have built regarding racial identities.
In an earlier post I wrote that we become a ‘city on the hill’ when we adopt trans-racially. Simply put, we look different from most families and we stand out almost anywhere in our culture. But I have encountered another way that people view our family that I never would have guessed in my naiveté. Hopefully, you can learn through my experience and have a good response prepared if you find yourself in the same situation. Laugh with me and walk though this moment in life … and please, feel free to share your ideas, I haven’t found a strong but loving response to this situation yet and would love to have one.
Our kids are intermingled by age; we birthed two, adopted two, birthed one and so on. The conversation that stumped me was when someone assumed with a very negative tone, that I had birthed them all. Let that sink in for a moment. … It would mean I had at least 4 different fathers for my children and I would be a beacon in an entirely different type of city than I had planned. Am I saying that a few people who meet us see our ‘city on the hill’ as similar to Sodom or Gomorrah?
Yes, that was it exactly. It drove me nuts trying to think it through the first time I ran into it. It hit on so many levels: my marriage, my faith, my morals, and my self-control. In my human state I was offended and wanted to ‘clarify’ things with that poor neighbor. Thankfully, God didn’t allow that and I have learned to pray through these strange moments when windows are opened into another world and I can see what sadness lurks there.