Parenting

Rule #5: We see color.


If you grew up in church, you probably sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children” as a young child. I can recall singing it just about every Sunday as a little girl. As a child, it was not one of my favorite songs. But now as a mother to three black girls, I am in love with this simple song.

Shortly after our three girls came home, I began singing this song to SW when rocking her to sleep. And to be honest with you, I would cry just about every time I would get to the line, “Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight…” Because the baby I was holding in my arms and her two sisters are precious. They are black. And they are beautiful.

Reflecting on this song and the particular line about skin color, it’s fascinating how easily we sang about skin color in church as a child. As a little girl, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that. I had a few friends who were not white and I could see the difference. We even talked about it as kids that we had different skin color. But I also recognized that God loves us. All of us. Equally.

Transracial families cannot be colorblind.

Now as an adult – particularly as a transracial adoptive mother – it’s fascinating how so many grownups don’t want to talk about skin color and do not want to acknowledge that they see skin color. For many white middle class families, seeing color is not necessary. We can use our white privilege and claim that we are colorblind. We may even say and do this because they think that seeing color is wrong. But being white and not seeing color is a dangerous luxury. And the moment Chris and I decided to become a transracial family, we no longer had this privilege.

Even if Chris and I had wanted to pretend that we didn’t see color, BW never would have allowed it. Just about every day during our first year as a family of five, BW pointed out that Chris and I are white and that she, MW and SW are black. She let us know that we are different. She let us know that we do not look the same.

And BW was not the only one. I recall walking into a grocery store in a nicer area of St. Louis one afternoon with SW when she was just a baby. A black woman walked over to me in tears. She instantly asked if I was SW’s mother and I said yes. The woman proceeded to tell me that her daughter was also adopting. She then told me know how long her daughter had had to wait to be placed with a child. And how much it meant to this woman – a complete stranger – that I had adopted SW. She gave me a hug, thanked me for loving SW, cried some more, and walked inside. I then went inside to do my grocery shopping.

I will never be mistaken as the birth mother for my three girls.

This was not an isolated event. Instances like this continue to occur. It’s difficult for strangers to not judge us instantly or, at the very least, not to make assumptions. Some of my friends and family have adopted children who are the same race as them. Unbeknownst that their children are adopted, strangers will tell these adoptive parents that their children look just like them. Strangers will never mistake Chris and me for the girls’ birth parents. Never.

And that’s because whether we want to or not, we see color. Strangers see color. Chris and I see color. The girls see color. Our friends and family see color. And the girls’ classmates certainly see color. When I’m at a school event with any of my daughters, I’m almost always confused as a mother to a white child. This is typically by one of the girls’ classmates because most kids are not afraid to admit that they see color. Once I let them know I’m BW, MW and SW’s mom, sometimes the kids will simply accept it and move on. Other times, questions arise. They’ll ask how I can be the girls’ mom when we’re not the same color. Sometimes they ask what happened to the birth mom or birth parents. And sometimes the kid wants to know the entire adoption story because kids are curious.

My standard response to these questions is to simply let the kid know that not all families look the same. Some families have two mommies, some have an auntie and an uncle and a nana, some families have a black mommy and a white daddy, but our family has a white mommy and a white daddy and three black girls. If they ask about the birth parents, I’ll let them know that being a parent is hard work, and you need a lot of support to raise kids. And sometimes, birth mommies and daddies are unable to provide everything that their kid needs even though they love their kid very much. Adoption allows the birth parents to find a forever family that will love and provide for their child.

It’s ok to see color.

My response typically satisfies the kids’ curiosity. It doesn’t always satisfy me, and I’m sure it doesn’t satisfy BW. But being a transracial adoptive family means that the world will see us as different and oftentimes be curious as to why we’re a family. Chris and I knew when we chose to be a transracial family that this would forever be our identity. We want to answer the curiosity. We want to let our girls know that it’s ok for us to look different. We want our girls to know that yes, we are a different color and just as much of a family as any other family.

And that yes, we see color.


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