It's with a heavy heart that I even have to consider writing a letter like this to you. I wish racism didn't exist. I wish you were always going to be given fair chances and equal opportunities. I wish that every person you meet in your life would acknowledge and celebrate your brown skin, eyes, and hair, your history and your future as a person of color.
You are young, and you've already encountered so much ugly evil. My son, you've been called a "thug," when you were freshly two years old. My girls, a cowardly and pathetic man drove by our home and hurled the n-word at you twice. You've had strangers try to "pet" your hair: your intricate and beaded cornrows, your afros, your coils. One woman looked at the two lovely girls, side by side, and pointed to one and said, "She's got the good hair." It's been assumed that you are good at dancing because it's "in you." Parents have proudly boasted to me how they raise their kids to be "colorblind," and I want to scream. Because you are beautiful and wonderful just as you are, not "in spite of" your Blackness.
These occurrences strike fear in my mommy-heart. Because I know that racism is just getting started. The culmination is happening; the storm is brewing. As you grow up, becoming bigger, louder, more visible, you will more likely encounter racism. More microaggressions. More stereotypes. More systematic hurdles.
And I have the really, really big job of preparing you for life as a person of color. For the inevitable challenges that will come your way.
The news reminds me every day of how BIG my job is and sometimes how incredibly inadequate I feel. How unprepared and untrained I am. I have enlisted help: friends of color, your mentor, those in positions of power who are of color. I need guidance and encouragement and advice. I need assurance. I need hope.
I'm not, as you know, a pessimistic person. I am a dreamer, a passionate advocate of justice, and an enthusiastic parent. I believe that some people are going to treat you well. I believe you will be given some of the many wonderful things you deserve, things you earn with your education and your talents.
But I also know I won't always be able to protect you or advocate for you. I have a few precious years to prepare you for days when you may see flags waving in the breeze, flags that represent hatred and a bloody history. I have to prepare you for police encounters. I have to prepare you for the word "no" that you will hear on the basis of your brown skin. I have to teach you how you might respond to insults like "you are pretty for a Black girl" or being called "Oreo." I have to prepare you for parents of peers or prospective boyfriends or girlfriends who will be fearful and ignorant upon meeting you. I have to prepare you for those who will treat you like their token Black friend. I have to prepare you for those who will assume things about you long before you ever speak a word.
Every single time a brown face fills my computer or television screen, another innocent Black person who has died at the hands of injustice, of racism, of evil, I think of you. Tears brim in my eyes as I think of these victims' mothers and fathers, siblings, and friends. I want to protect you forever. I don't want anyone to ever treat you as less-than.
I can't fix the world. But I can do a good job raising you. I can instill in you values. I can teach you your history. I can give you wisdom that will hopefully guide you as you navigate injustices.
As I've been thinking about these things, a few Bible verses have resonated in my heart, and I want them to resonate with you, too:
Psalm 139:13-16: For youformed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
1 Timothy 4:12
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may havepeace. In the worldyouwillhave tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
I want you to have a full life. A happy life. A life where the sky is the limit. I want you to be resilient, fulfilled, joyful, compassionate, empathetic, strong, fierce. I want you to be confident.
I pray that with God's guidance, with the village we have around us, and with our convictions, education, and commitment, we, your parents, will give you the very, very best.
And we will always, always have your back. We will always be on your team.
I am your mom. Your warrior. Your #1 fan. And I will never stop fighting for you, teaching you, or listening to you.
I know a lot of families-by-adoption take on the "it was hard but now it's over" attitude. They easily forget how tough adoption can be, for the long-haul, not just in the waiting seasons. This is one reason Madeleine and I wrote our book: Encouragement for the Adoption and Parenting Journey: 52 Devotions and a Journal. We know the hard times ebb and flow. There is no such thing as "easy" when it comes to parenting, and sometimes adoption can add complexity to our stories, our journeys.
When I am faced, as I still am five years later, with guilt, sympathy, confusion, and heartache, I stop, I breathe, and I embrace these. These feelings are not to be feared or ignored. They are part of the journey. This bittersweet adoption path has conditioned me to see with clarity, respond with love, and simmer in possibility.
This is a heart-matter post. Get ready. See that sweet baby boy in the photo? He's one of my three, and he was adopted through ethical practices. Because ethics matter. Because the choices parents-by-adoption make have a forever print on the lives of their children. Here we go, Sugars:
In the adoption community, questions like these come up often:
Which states are the most adoption-friendly? (Aka: which states have the shortest TPR of birth parents' rights) How often should I contact the parents I'm matched with, getting assurance that they aren't going to change their minds about placing their baby with us? Which agencies, facilitators, and lawyers offer the shortest wait times? How much money should I expect to spend to get a baby quickly? How can I best advertise ourselves as a couple waiting to adopt?
Hold up. What you should be asking:
Ask how you can support mothers in crisis pregnancies. Ask what books and blogs and articles promote ethical adoption practices...and read them. Ask how adoption has impacted triad members: adoptees, biological parents, and adoptive parents. Ask how your agency supports moms who choose to parent. Ask your attorney how he/she respects the rights of the biological father. Ask how you can give the expectant mom you are matched with both support and space. Ask how you can support your adoptee when he/she has questions, concerns, and hard feelings about adoption. Ask your partner what situations you will say no to because they aren't ethical.
Most likely, you are a mom-by-adoption or mom-by-adoption-to-be. This post is for you. Because when you adopt, many people don't know what to do. They might say or do the wrong things (or nothing at all). Though these nearest-and-dearest are by no means malicious, they are ignorant of adoption, as most of the general public is. So please, pass this along, helping them know how they can support you and others like you, those who choose to adopt. Here you go:
HOW TO SUPPORT A FRIEND WHO HAS ADOPTED AN INFANT
Throw her a baby shower.
With her blessing and her schedule confirmed, throw your friend (or the
couple) a baby shower. The new baby will
need many things!
Respect her family's privacy.
Adoption means that the family might have certain rules or constraints
when it comes to sharing the baby’s photo and personal information.
Don't probe. If your friend
wants to share information with you regarding their adoption situation, she
will. And any information she shares
with you should remain with you. You can say, "What would you like to share with me about your adoption journey?"
Don’t make any sarcastic or off-handed remarks about
comparing her situation to yours. Things
like, “At least you got a baby without dealing with weight gain and stretch
marks.” Nothing about adopting is
easy. Your friend may have battled
infertility, for example, and remarks about how “lucky” she was to avoid the
hardships of pregnancy, labor, and delivery can be hurtful.
Finally, treat her as you would any new mom. Be there for her. Encourage her. Answer her questions about what you've done with your children when she asks you. Take her on a mom date. SHE IS A REAL MOM, JUST LIKE YOU!
Hi, I’m Rachel. I’m a
mom by adoption to three children. All
our adoptions are domestic, transracial, and open. I write and speak about adoption for a
living. I have a blog, three books, and
hundreds of articles. I’m passionate
about adoption ethics and education.
Because of my profession and my “status” as a mom by
adoption, I’m often prompted to share photos of my children and parts of their
personal stories, particularly by news media outlets. I always decline. The public photos of my kids (in
articles or blog posts) are always from behind, never showing their faces. I don’t share my children’s names, anything
about their biological parents, or any other personal details regarding their
My decision to keep my children’s photos and information
private was an easy one for me to make.
I’m not just protecting their right to privacy, but I’m protecting their
biological families. I’m sending a
message that there are lines I do not cross, because I believe in privacy. I believe in good manners. I believe in respect, dignity, and honor. And I know enough from adult adoptees to know,
the last thing they want is for their vulnerability to be exploited by their
parents (or for their vulnerability to be blatantly ignored out of ignorance and fear by the parents).
We have nothing to hide, despite what some think. When we are interrogated by strangers, I
don’t “pony up” answers because I’m embarrassed, ashamed, or unconfident. We are asked questions like: Where
are their birth parents? Are they real
siblings? How much did your kids cost? Why
couldn’t you have your own babies? Why did you adopt Black children? These questions are full of stereotypes and
inaccuracies and entitlement and assumptions.
They are problematic in and of themselves. I refuse to engage in conversations that
take from my children and give to strangers, people who have absolutely no
bearing on our happiness and well-being.
My children are people.
They have personalities, feelings, opinions, and rights. They are confident, because they know Mom and
Dad don’t give away pieces of them to anyone who asks. We don’t allow their lives to be subject to
judgement and criticism, because we don’t “take the bait” and offer up their
We are, in essence, assertive parents. We are teaching our children to be the
Now I’ve heard it all.
People are “just curious” and they are “well-intentioned.” People are asking for an adoption
education. I, as a parent by adoption,
should get over being politically correct or easily offended. I should respond immediately and with full
disclosure in order to appease the asker, to be perceived as friendly and
But I don’t.
There are other bloggers and book authors far more popular
than me. They freely share their
children’s photos, names, personal stories, and current struggles. They say their openness helps educate
As my children get older, they ask more and more questions
about their adoptions. They will soon
learn how to use Google. They will learn
to read and will be able to pick up my
books and grasp what Mom has shared with the world.
I want to make sure that every word I write, every example I
offer, and every photo I share is something that makes the adoption world a
better place, without ever compromising my children’s trust.
My children never signed up to be adopted. They sure didn’t sign up to be adoption’s
poster children. Nor do I want them to
be. What I want for them is to be free
to be themselves, to explore their adoptions without reading about them on the
Internet or hearing Mom “educate” a stranger who stops us at Target.
I want them to know that in my arms is a safe place where
they will be met with empathy, education, and empowerment. Not
the ideas for the next blog post, book, article, or Twitter update.