Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Token Child?

As we begin to settle into a routine with two children and I'm able to get out and about more, well...I'm not satisfied. I want to continue. Yes, life threw us a little bump in our planning with two boys who were closer together than we planned. Seeing them play each day tells me they were exactly what was meant to be for our family. Exactly. For OUR family. So those of you with kids further apart, don't feel like you are missing out on anything. I'm sure you have exactly what you are supposed to have for your family. But for these kiddos, for this family? They are perfection.

As I said, we're finally adjusting to this...perfection...so I'm ready to get going again. Build this family while we have any semblance of a young couple who can handle all these young kids. As is typical for me, I'm all over the map. Foster Care, international, domestic, special needs. I have to research them all. This time around I took a really strong look at international. An adoption from Africa really is in my heart, and I think we WILL do it someday. I'm not sure if now is the right time for that. Some of the programs I've looked at seem shaky at best, and one closed while I was in the process of finding an agency who would work with us for that country. In the process of researching several African Countries, I also came across several blogs of people who were adopting or have adopted from African. Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, etc. I am struck by the make-up of some families who have chosen this path to African adoption. I'm more than struck honestly...I'm upset. Large families of 5, 6, 8 biological children. All white. In the middle of Idaho or some other place with less than zero diversity if that's possible. A blog filled with pictures of family and friends, and one lone face of color. Their token adopted child from Africa. The child God called them to adopt to complete their family. Now their family is complete...with their one black child surrounded by a sea of white faces. Really? That's what God wanted for that child? They wanted the child to be ripped from their home country and moved to a place where no one looked like them, or understood any of their culture? I guess I can't question God, but I WILL question their interpretation of what they think God wanted. Yes, African children need help. Yes, they live in poverty. Yes, many of them die young because they lack basic health care. That is very sad. I completely agree all of that, and it tears at my very heart. What the children are NOT lacking is culture, community, and heritage. Traditions. A feeling of belonging, even if it's only with other homeless children all in the same place as you. There is a feeling of community, even as there is nothing to share. To take all of that from a child? Really the only things they have ever "had" in their lives...it seems quite selfish when you know you can not provide those things for them. You know you have no plans to adopt another child that they could share their culture with. You know you have no plans to move to a more diverse area where the child could see and be friends with other people and children who at least look like them.

Selfish.

I parent two black children.

Everyday I judge myself on my ability to provide for them the things they lost when I adopted them. Diversity. African American role models and peers. Culture. I can not replace all that they lost when they left a black family, and joined ours...I know that. But I certainly will do all I can to nurture who they are as a person. They are a black person. I can't understand that with complete certainty. I can empathize, encourage, and love them. I can provide for them siblings who WILL understand exactly how they feel. Who will get it. I can make every attempt to expose them to the culture they would have if their birth parents had parented. I can find and reinforce positive black role models for my children. What I won't do is isolate them in a sea of white like a cute little black doll that I took because I wanted it. I do not have token black children I rescued from Africa. Even if we adopt from Africa, that is not what my children will be. They will be my children...who happen to be black, which bares with it a responsibility to respect that they inherently may need more effort than a biological or even a white adopted child would need from me. They need a lifelong commitment to expose and try to rebuild to all the things they have lost because I am white. If I can't give that commitment to them, I shouldn't be adopting black children.

3 comments:

Led About Mama said...

This is something near and dear to my heart and something I really struggle with. When our move (which was not optional) was decided just after we brought home our youngest daughter, we simultaneously were able to guarantee a more diverse life in the future than here in this small town (something we hoped would eventually be the case but never thought it would happen that quickly) and also a very small chance of adopting again due to the cost and space limitations we will have in our new home.

These are tough things to deal with, but I agree with you that we never went into it wanting a token anything. We wanted to help a child where they were, which will change from day to day and year to year. And because our youngest daughter's ancestors were plagued by so much injustice (trying to explain slavery to our oldest daughter a few weeks ago took on a whole new meaning), it is imperative for us to make the future something different. We might not be able to fix all of the deficiencies we bring to the table, but we will try to be a family she can be proud of in the future.

Kelly said...

Totally agree with everything you said! Yes, I do have one black child and two white children, but would like to add another (waiting for some $$ to drop from the sky...). But yeah, I 100% get where you are coming from, and it's something I feel like I can't say in certain circles lest I get flamed. There's something that creeps me out about the "calling" for a poor little African orphan to join your white family of 6-8 bio kids. It does make me wonder why it seems to be heavily dominated by fundamentalist churches.
I am doing what I can to keep my son (our whole family, really) exposed to AA role models and culture. Anyway, just want to say amen sister, and I need to read your blog more often!

Aileen said...

I LOVE this post. It is exactly what I was saying to my hubby when we talked about when/if to add another child to our family. We have our 2 white nephews (18 and 16) and our two Hispanic sons (2.5 and 9 months). I told him that I was totally open to adopting another child of any race-but that if that race was other than white or Hispanic then we would need to adopt a fourth child as well. I don't want to have one child who is the only one in our family who "looks" like him/her. My two nephews have each other, my two sons have each other, and if the third child doesn't "match" either of those groups, then he or she deserves someone who looks like them as well!

I also totally agree about finding role models and trying to increase diversity for our kids of other races. Hubby and I are looking to move to a more diverse area as soon as we can, and in the mean time, we head to diverse areas to do our shopping, museums, etc. It's not ideal, but I'm trying!