Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dear Sugar: Don't Get Too Busy That You Forget What's Most Important When You are Parenting a Child By Transracial Adoption

Dear Sugar:

I love finding books, dolls, movies, music, tv shows, art, even bedding that feature kids of color.  I get giddy-excited.  The same goes for greeting cards and Christmas ornaments/decor.   I love showing my kids how beautiful their skin is, how wonderful Black culture is, why Black history matters.

Lately on social media, I've seen many, many posts asking where to find Black dolls, Black books, Black movies for kids.  I think the increasingly awareness and willingness to purchase these items for children of color is fantastic.  


I want you to know that all the art on the walls, all the books on the shelves, all the music on the playlist, all the toys in the bins:  these are important, but they are not the MOST important.

When I talk to parents who have recently adopted transracially or are considering to do so, they are often receptive to me sharing the importance of filling the home with art, toys, books.  But when I talk about living, working, and playing among diversity, I can practically hear a GULP.

For one, parents by adoption feel a reign of constant evaluation and judgement from the general public.  The parent is rendered a hero and savior (not true) or a less-than, not "real" parent because they didn't biologically conceive and birth the child.   Adoption can be isolating, overwhelming, and daunting.   To willingly subject oneself to making new friends and meeting new people can be very hard for families like mine.   I get it.

So many parents opt to be wallflowers.   It's easier.  Avoid eye contact.  Don't ask questions.

This is not the way to go.  For one, you NEED a village around you to navigate parenting when you've adopted or are in the adoption process.  For another, you NEED relationships with people who racially match your child.  And your children need relationships with people who racially match themselves.

As I've said before, if you are parenting a child by transracial adoption, you are not enough.    The sooner you accept this, the better off you will be.

Making new friends requires humbleness.  It requires you to listen and learn.  It requires you to be honest.  And it definitely requires a big dose of vulnerability.  

Your child needs you to be willing.   Your White friends cannot be your Black child's racial role models.  You, as a White parent, cannot be your Black child's racial role model.   No matter how much you teach your child Black history (something that is certainly valuable and important), a Black role model you see in the media isn't going to be there for your child when someone excludes them or suspects them because of the child's brown skin.  

Besides any personal friends of yours (who racially match your child) with whom your child can see and interact with, it's important to help your child find and develop relationships with:

1:  Someone at school.  A principal, a teacher, the librarian---someone.  Someone they see on a frequent basis.

2:  Their hair braider/barber.  This person can nurture the child in a way that's been done for many years:  a Black adult helping a child maintain their appearance while conversing with them.

3:  A mentor.   I've shared many times that my girls have a Black, female, Christian mentor who is an incredible role model and family friend.  

Now, I've been asked, does all this seem calculated?  Planned?  


Having these individuals in my children's lives is intentional.  And proactive.  And mindful.  And realistic.

Yes, it takes time.

Yes, not every person of color you meet is going to be your friend.

Yes, your friends will change over time.

Yes, you will make mistakes, stumble, and eat a lot of humble pie.

That is okay.  Because making an effort and accepting the successes with the failures is better than not trying at all.  

From personal experience, I have never, not once, approached a person of color to ask about a hair product or style, for example, and been turned away or shamed.   I greatly appreciate that in Black culture, community is valued.   I see this beautifully when a person of color refers to my kids as "we" and "us"---including my children in the collective Black community and experience.   Questions are welcomed, it seems.

You need to wholly accept your children, appreciate them, nurture them, and celebrate them, and to do this, face to face, honest relationships are required.

This week I want to challenge you to be brave.  Take steps.  Extend hands and hearts.  Convey to your children that they matter.  Accept your role as their parent, but not their only navigator through life.   Ask God to bring the right people into your life and give you the courage to be vulnerable.  

You've got this!

For more, follow me on social media and check out my books.  All links in the right-hand column.  

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