On Saturday (tomorrow), I am going to Raleigh with my son to talk on an adoption panel about being in a transracial family. I am honored and nervous.
I am honored since I remember sitting in the audience several years ago hanging on every word of the panelists while I was waiting to adopt. Adopting someone from another race seemed so foreign to me. Now, I am one of the few people asked to talk to others about what this journey is like. I understand the anxiety of the people in the audience. I am so honored that they are letting me help them through this.
I am also nervous. People waiting to adopt are tense by nature. They don't know when things are going to happen or if they will happen. They worry about making the right decisions. Being a "second-glance" family can be tough stuff. Do they have what it takes. I understand their worry.
Here's my truth.
I don't have all of the answers when it comes to raising an African American male as a white woman. I know that I will make mistakes. I have already made some mistakes. No parent has all of the answers. We are all just making this up as we go.
Right now, it's still easy. We venture into familiar places with people who know us already. We encounter few people who give us dirty looks. The people who have given us dirty looks have gone unnoticed by my son since he is only 18 months old. That will change. He will notice and I will have to help him understand what is happening. I just hope that I can do this with honesty and grace.
I am quite comfortable with my son's race. I am not always comfortable with the ways people around me talk about race especially people younger than me. For example, it's considered appropriate to ask someone what you are "mixed with" - as if your race was a list of cake ingredients mixed together in a bowl. When people ask me this about my son, I pause. I pause because I am angry and I am trying not to react to that word, but to the intention of the question. I will have to get over this.
The biggest challenge to having an African American male as a child has been the hair. Learning about his hair care has taken longer than I expected. All kinds of people are trying to give me advice and even say mean things either to me or through other people directed at me. Like most new things, you have to find the people that you trust, ask them honest questions and shut out the rest. My job as his mother is to keep his hair as healthy as possible so that he can make whatever decision he wants later about how to wear it.
That's my truth, or at least part of it. I just hope that I can provide some insight about what it's like to be in my family. Everything seems so natural and easy.....at least for now.