Monday, January 10, 2011
Thoughts on Color
Color ... I have been thinking a lot about color ... particularly how color affects/impacts/changes lives in relation to adoption. Let me state first off that what I share here is only "my" experience on this issue. This in NO way is intended to speak for all adoptive families. EVERY single adoptive family is different. Every single HUMAN is different. I am only one mom .... who happens to have a huge burden to serve my children well. I am no expert. Just a white mom with both white and brown children. Now that we have that disclaimer over .... here are some of my thoughts on color.
As a child, I grew up in a predominately white community. Usually my experiences with people of color were at McDonalds or people walking along the streets of a nearby city going to catch the bus. I remember having this sense inside that I didn't feel the same boundaries that others in my family did towards them. I didn't think a ton about it, yet it was there. One year I asked for an African-American baby doll for Christmas. I will never forget the extreme surprise I experienced and JOY when I actually received it. I knew that was a stretch for my parents. I treasured that doll. Little did I know that one day I would be a momma, in real life, to brown children.
I remember an experience in my teen years of being in a nearby city and noticing an African American family pushing their baby in a stroller. I will never forget hearing someone commenting about it ... "Black babies are SO cute ... until they grow up ... and then are quite ugly". That comment stung to the core of my being. I remember my insides just twisting up in knots ... everything in me rebelled at the comment, but I said nothing. That memory would come back to haunt me again and again in later years as I responded to the needs of the Fatherless.
So now here I am, momma to two little brown girls. One born in this country and one in another. Two adoptions. Two very different adoptions, which I'll share more about in another post. One of my daughters cares very much about her ethnicity (since she was a wee-one) and one could not care less (yet, the day might eventually come or might not). This alone has taught me much in remembering that the journey is different and unique for EACH person.
As adoptive parents we can't go through this journey with rose-colored glasses. We need to have ears to HEAR our children ... both what they are saying to us and what they are NOT saying to us. We need to have eyes to SEE what they might be facing and to remember that we will not always be there to see everything! We need to have arms to HOLD them when they need embraced. We need to have a heart to FEEL with them .... even the things that make us uncomfortable ... even the pain, the loss and the racism. Ouch. I said the word. The word is still real. In America. Today. As adoptive parents we can't just be focused on "adopting that sweet, adorable brown baby". We must stop and consider what that child will be going through at 3, at 8, at 12, at 16, at 18, into adulthood! They deserve that!
Back when our daughters were 3 and 1 I wrote about "Things People Say". You just never know when those moments might come up when you can draw in close to them and grow together. Sometimes it will be the "feel good" times .... other times it might come during pain. Either way .. the key is your willingness to be there. To walk WITH them. To have cultivated that "safe place" where they know their thoughts and feelings will have a voice.
Recently I was dialoging with some fellow adoptive moms. One mom recounted a painful experience their teen adopted kids (from Ethiopia) have faced in their local school. It happens during lunch hour with segregation by tables. They don't feel welcomed at either table ..... the "black" or the "white". That is going on TODAY, in America, my friends. Yeah, go back and read that three times, please! That is not dramatized. That is REAL. So often the comment is made about adopted kids ... it goes something like this ... "Oh, aren't they so fortunate/lucky ... fill in the blank." Adoption is not a complete JOY RIDE!!! There is also pain. We must give voice to that. Our homes need to be a safe place for those experiences to be shared. The amazing mom of these precious kids mentioned is doing just that. She's providing a safe place for dialogue. Mom isn't waiting around for dialogue to happen, but she's also encouraging dialogue. And I have no doubt that momma is pointing her kids to the One that brings true identity and hope and safety.
Some of you may be wondering after all of this if I'm "for" adoption. MOST DEFINITELY I am for adoption ... but not just for parents to have kids. I am for these children no longer being Fatherless. I am for them having a family to call their OWN. I am for their loss and pain to have a voice and be heard. I am for them having a place to begin healing.
I hear so many times that people fear the challenges that children will face growing up in a family that is of different ethnicity than their own. To be honest, what would concern me even MORE is a potential parent NOT seeing that as an issue! But we can't let that fear be an excuse to not do anything. I think of my precious 6 year old ... born here in America. I remember how she laid in a hospital bed alone recovering from open heart surgery at 4 days old. I think back to my conversations with her doctors and how it felt for them to be caring for a child that had no family to call her own. I recall discussing her situation with the social workers and how they had no one but social services to call for her if we had not come. THAT. SHOULD. NOT. BE. GOING. ON. IN. AMERICA. Oh, but it is! It is going on for children of color, for children with developmental issues, for children with extensive medical needs, for children with complicated emotional and physiological needs. It is going ON.
Not every family is in a situation to adopt. Yet, dare I say that MANY are and sitting in FEAR and prejudices and "American-Dream-Chasing-Mode". I've been there. We had every reason NOT to step forward. It causes me to just shudder at the thought of what we almost missed out on. Our lives have been radically changed. FOR THE GOOD. Oh how THANKFUL I am for God opening our EYES and ARMS and HEARTS. He so patiently and relentlessly drew us in and taught us about His heart for the Fatherless.
What about for the families who HAVE opened their eyes, arms and hearts. Would you be willing to help care for them? The journey is not OVER when the children come home ... oh no friends, for many it is JUST beginning. Do you know an adoptive family? It could be near you or far away. Maybe you could reach out and love them. Some of you could probably provide an evening off for mom and dad. Maybe you aren't in a season of your lives to take on 18 years of care, but you can handle and evening here and there. :) What about a meal ... for that momma who is in over her head meeting those moment-by-moment needs ... do you have ANY idea what a meal would mean to her? That is something you can provide even for families who live far from you. And if you don't know a family personally? ... I have a huge list of families that could SO benefit from such an act of love. Contact me!! .. I would LOVE to put you in touch with them.
Back to color ... we are no longer a Caucasian family. We are no longer even just an American family. I am so thankful. My daughters and I will never share the same color tone of skin .... but I pray that we will share the same love. More to come.