Tuesday, April 2, 2019

To My Children I Adopted: I'm Sorry for the Mistakes I Made

It was in those earliest, sacred days that I failed my children the most.  

With our first child, strangers would take a peak in our stroller or baby carrier.  Their eyes would suddenly grow wide and they'd say, "Oh!"

They weren't expecting a child with smooth brown skin, deep brown-black eyes, and the tiniest afro.  

Then they would ask.  They would ALWAYS ask.  "Is she yours?"  "Are you a foster parent?"  "Why didn't you have your own kids?"  "Why did her real mom give her away?"  "Why didn't you adopt a white child?"  "What country is she from?" 

You know the questions.

And I'd tell those nosy strangers too much.  I'd entertain their nosiness and withstand their interrogations.  

I think part of it was my drive to be friendly.  I had a lot of experience in customer service before becoming a college teacher.  Talking to people is just what I did, and sometimes, I was talking to educate them.  My personality (I am my father's daughter) to conjure up an enthusiastic conversation with any willing person was doing more harm than good when it came to being a parent-by-adoption. 

We had been warned.  My cousins, parents-by-transracial-adoption, told us, "Once you put something 'out there,' you can never take it back."  We listened to them attentively and thankfully, but we didn't always remember their words when in the heart of a situation.  

It wasn't that I didn't respect my child's privacy or love their birth families.  It was BECAUSE I loved being a mommy to my little girl so much and was so honored to have been chosen by their birth families that I over-shared, in order to shed light on the beauty of adoption and my newfound motherhood.   

Later, of course, I learned that my children's stories were THEIRS and not MINE, and just because I shared in that story didn't mean I 100% owned it.  Ultimately, my story is mine, their story is theirs, with a lot of overlap.   

There were times I didn't speak up when a stranger would fondle my kids' hair.  Or the time a family friend said that my toddler loved to dance because it was, after all, "in her."  There were times I didn't correct people who used incorrect terminology or brought a racial tone to a conversation.  

There is one situation in particular that I am still dwelling on.  It happened about a year-and-a-half ago.  To this day, it's almost too painful to acknowledge.   Perhaps you have one of those, too?  

Granted, with experiences come lessons, and with lessons comes courage to do what is right.   

I know this.  

But oftentimes it's hard to forgive ourselves for those earlier mistakes, especially when they come back to bite us.  

And guess what?  Failure doesn't have a term limit.  It just crops up in new ways.  

There are still times I don't do the right thing.   I'm too dumbfounded to speak in certain situations that catch me off-guard, even when it's a question I've been asked for a decade.  There's been times I've been too annoyed or apprehensive to talk about adoption, too.  Sometimes it could be I'm having a bad day, or I'm just overwhelmed with parenting four kids, or I'm not in a "peopley" mood.   And I worry my children will interpret that as "mommy doesn't like me" or "adoption isn't OK."  

Like many women, I was raised to be polite, to feel too much guilt, and to always consider "the other" in the conversation when forming my words.  Being a "strong" and "direct" woman doesn't come easily to many of us.  We don't want to appear angry or "bitchy."   We would sometimes rather be humiliated than rude.  

Women are supposed to be warm, welcoming, and willing.







But our kids need us.  They need us to pause and consider our words, because like it or not, we do represent adoption to the world.  Some of us represent multiracial families.  But, above all, we are our children's protectors and guides.  And we owe it to them to be our best and model the right ways to engage with others. 

Our kids also need us to forgive ourselves, to not dwell on past mistakes, but instead, learn from them and do better next time.   They see us fumble, but they also see us rise when we choose forgiveness.  And that matters.  Because we're teaching our kids what to do when they make mistakes, any mistakes.  

I am sorry, deeply, for the ways I have failed my children.  I am also sorry to myself, for not letting go of these mistakes after learning from them.  

And with each passing day, I work to reject the "musts" of womanhood and replace them with the attributes that make me who I REALLY am and who I want to be. 








And most of all?



The reason I wrote The Hopeful Mom's Guide to Adoption?  To give you the book I wish I would have had twelve years ago.  I pray that it educates you, inspires you, and prevents you from making the mistakes I made early on.  

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