Since E has come home, we have been consumed by caring for him, feeding him, changing his diapers, getting him on a routine, putting him down for his afternoon nap, putting him to bed, etc. Yet I have also been reading a lot on a group I joined regarding transracial adoption and the issues that can bring up. Some of the things that have come up (and will come up in the future) are related to him being adopted in general, but it is more obvious that he is adopted since we are white and he is black. Here’s a list of things that we’ve had to figure out or are working on figuring out as we move forward in this whole parenting thing.
(1) Hair and skin care – what products to use on his hair and skin, chemicals or natural products for the hair, how often to bathe him, what lotion to use on his skin, etc. We have figured out some of these things (bathing has nothing to do with his race, but simply that he is a baby and doesn’t need bathing quite as often as adults…), and others we are still working through (using coconut oil on his hair presently)
(2) “Caregiver”/”Babysitter” assumptions – I have had to deal with a few of these when taking E out to things like story time at the library or taking a walk in the neighborhood. It is difficult for me to hear these things, but I have become more bold in simply saying, “Nope, I’m his mom.”
(3) How to answer questions related to his adoption – lots of people ask these questions, including family, and I totally know they mean absolutely nothing by asking them, but simply want to know about him and his background. Where was he born? Why did his birth parents “give him up”? And similar questions…For us, as his parents, it is difficult to know how to answer some of these questions for a variety of reasons. One is that we simply don’t know the answer to the question. Two is that we feel like it is his story and he should be the one to decide to answer the question or not (obviously when he gets older and knows his own story), but since he is still a baby, we want to be conscious of not divulging too much information to others before he is able to understand (the whole idea of people knowing more about him than he does about himself). We are still processing and thinking about how to answer these questions politely and respectfully, both of the person asking the question and of E.
(4) Dealing with looks – Sometimes, actually most of the time, I can deal much easier with the people that simply ask the questions rather than those that simply look, see that we are white with a black baby, and (I interpret) have a reaction simply by their facial expression or body language. For example, we were at a family reunion for my mom’s family and my cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. were there. Many of my cousins have children and one of these kids asked us “why is his skin that color?” He is 6. My cousin apologized for his asking the question, but I was actually glad that he did just come right out with it and ask. It gave us the opportunity to explain adoption in terms that my cousin’s son could understand. I explained that B (my cousin’s son) was in his mommy’s tummy before he was born and that E was in another mommy’s tummy, not mine. But that mommy couldn’t take care of him and so we are taking care of him as his mommy and daddy. He seemed satisfied with that answer. But, this is one of those rock and a hard place situations with the issue listed above. I want people to ask, rather than giving a look (my interpretation), but then we have to figure out if and how to answer the questions.
(5) School issues – Though this is a long way off yet, we will have to deal with this eventually. How do we work through the issues with things like school assignments that might be about family heritage, family trees, story of my birth, where do my traits come from (eye color, hair, nose, dimples, height, etc.)? Do we preempt with the teacher at Back to School Night or in some sort of email or conference? Or do we wait and see if there is such an assignment and then have a conversation with the teacher? Additionally, do we have a conference with the teacher(s) to show that we are E’s parents, we are involved, that he’s not “one of those kids” whatever that means, etc.?
I’m sure there are more things I will add to this list as time goes on…