This week we're focusing on one of two topics: maintaining birth family OR cultural ties within the family-by-adoption.
Both topics are dear to my heart. We have three open, transracial adoptions. What does this mean in our day-to-day lives, in the "maintaining"? A lot of work, learning, and changing. A lot of joys. A lot of challenges. Seasons of elation and seasons of confusion and seasons of difficulties. Comes with the parenting territory.
What's kept us going, as the kids' parents, is a commitment to empathy, education, and empowerment. The three Es. And, above all, listening to God's whispers (and shouts) in our day-to-day parenting.
I write and talk a lot about openness in adoption and transacial adoption. Books, media appearances, articles, and, of course, blog posts. I'm incredibly passionate about these topics, mostly because I remember what it was like to be at the starting line and how oh-so-very-long-and-bumpy the track ahead appeared. And then as we started that journey....the unexpected. I felt like we were sometimes running with our eyes closed, never knowing when we'd fall in a pothole, stumble over debris, or find ourselves off the path completely.
Certainly, I cannot boil down my thoughts on transracial adoption and maintaining cultural ties to just a few bullet points. I couldn't even boil it down to less than 200 pages. :) But I certainly believe there are some highlights that are incredibly important, worthy of their own post. So here goes...
1: Find a mentor for your child. I cannot even begin to express how much my girls adore their mentor, she adores them, and I adore her. I've been asked a few times how in the world do you find a mentor? We called our local university (where I used to teach) and connected with faculty who were willing to send our information and request to a few students they felt would be a good match for us. Through that, we interviewed about six young women. We asked questions, watched them interact with the children, and asked about availability. We wanted a female, someone who would be living in the area for some time, a Christian, and someone actively pursuing a college degree. This relationship has been so beautiful, for all of us. J has blessed us with hair advice, meeting her family and boyfriend, spending time with our girls, listening to our fears and struggles and offering suggestions. We've been able to dine with her, advise her on college/educational matters, and encourage her in her goals.
J and Baby E
2: Get your child's hair done by someone else. I am capable of doing my kids' hair. And often, I do their hair. I take pride in my growing ability to care for their hair. However, there's nothing like the beauty, the experience, the investment, of having a person who racially matches my children doing the kids' hair. It's worth the money. The distances driven. The relationships that have formed are invaluable. And in case you haven't already heard, IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT HAIR. It's about history and culture and pride and confidence and joy and possibility. And when my girls' hair is styled perfectly, created by the hands and experience of a person of color, and I'm asked, "Do you do their hair?" by a strangers, I can say with happiness that no, no I didn't. Because between the knees or in the chair of a Black professional, memories were made and values were instilled.
The latest hairstyles, done by our friend Miss R
3: Fill your home with literature and art and toys by Black creators. Reflections of your children throughout your home demonstrate that where your heart is.
One of our favorite books displayed in our living room
4: Never stop learning about your child's racial culture, history, and present. Follow Black news media sources on Facebook and Twitter, watch YouTube videos on how to style hair, take a class, subscribe to magazines like Essence, visit Black historical sites and monuments and festivals and restaurants, etc. Watch movies. Listen to music. Just learn.
Our subscription to ESSENCE has been a great resource for our family.
5: Have a diverse group of friends. There is no substitute for face-to-face interactions and meaningful relationships with those whom you can listen to and learn from and love. Though it's easy for today's adoptive parents to log on to any social media outlet and ask a question, having friendships that involve personal, intimate, and face-to-face interactions are priceless.
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!
Todays topic is maintaining birth family and cultural ties. Grab a button for your post and join Erin, Jamie, Jenni, Jill, Madeleine, Rachel, and me! New to linking up? We'd love to have you join us, here's how.