What is transracial adoption? I’ll be honest…I had no idea until a year ago when My wife and I needed some training hours to renew our license. I went online looking at class options and stumbled upon a new class titled Transracial adoption. After 8 years it was kind of hard to find a new class….I read the description and it seemed like my wife and I wouldn’t be bored in this class.
Now if you have been following us, you know we had already adopted not 1 but 2 bi-racial children before ever hearing about a class like this. How had I never seen a training like this or even heard this term? We had to take this class!
Before class started, I was so excited to learn something new. I was also a little concerned about how ignorant we had been for the past 7 years.
We had not researched adoption or how to raise a bi-racial baby. I was sure we were failing and were going to be awakened to some wonderful insights. I left the class feeling…underwhelmed. I had not learned anything new. Why?
Other foster parents loved the class. They had learned so much. Why had I not. It turns out that without knowing the term or taking a class, I had gained a great deal of knowledge about the topic through our many experiences with our son and daughter. Maybe had I known these things sooner, some experiences would have been different.
Here Are 5 Things We Have Learned
1. People are going to stare.
My wife and I grew up in a very diverse community. We had many friends of not only different races but different ethnicity’s and cultures.
As the instructor talked about being treated differently in public, I began thinking about how once we were at the library and a black woman walked by me and my 6 month old and she did a double take. She looked around and then said, “who that baby daddy? He’s beautiful.” I was so shocked I couldn’t speak. I said he was my foster son. Her faced changed and she just walked away. I knew in that moment on that day that we were going to be starred at and questioned. Although there would be many positive experiences, I accepted that this was what life as adoptive parents would be like for us.
As the instructor talked about how he was not accepted by black people or white people, I understood completely. This was nothing new for me though. Being in a same sex relationship, my wife and I had already gotten used to people starring.
As class continued I realized how lucky we were to have been in a diverse community. There were foster parents in class with us that really did live sheltered lives and had little experience with other cultures, races or ethnicity. Which brings me to number 2.
2. People will ask questions.
People are going to ask questions…good, bag and intrusive. Some people do not think they are not offending you because they are just asking an innocent question. When the cashier says ” Oh My God! You are so lucky your son is sooooo cute, is his Daddy as handsome?” When I told her that my wife and I had adopted him and we did not know who his father was, she did not believe me. ” Who would give up a baby that cute?”
Our son was already almost 3 by this time, so he didn’t exactly understand the depth of that question, but sometimes you learn that people just do not have a filter and will ask inappropriate questions no matter where you are or who is listening. You have to do your best not to fly off the handle in Walmart and just smile through your transaction and avoid that cashier at all costs from now on!
Somehow we always get the most intrusive questions when we are at a grocery/clothing/home-goods store. We were shopping for groceries with all 6 of our children (we like to torture our family and ourselves) when someone was being friendly and asked if we had adopted all of these kids. “Right now they are all ours!”
“Will they get to go home, or are they all orphans?” asks the “friendly” shopper.
“We can’t really discuss their history or their future with strangers.” says my quick thinking wife.
“Its just so nice they let the gays adopt now, you have a beautiful family” the “friendly” shopper says as she tries to touch our youngest son.
This is not an out of the blue occurrence. My wife and I order groceries online now…. not Joking. In all seriousness, you have to be ready to put up with the ignorance of other people no matter where you go. We may have a special circumstance being in a same sex marriage, but a lot of our friends who have children of differing color than their own have experienced similar opinions from “friendly” people.
3. People will share their opinions.
We all know that everyone has their own opinions, but some of them stink. Just like that old saying: opinions are like a$$holes…. everyone’s got one. People may say, “they know how to raise their children better than you.” People may say, “you are not qualified to fix that girls hair.” And, unfortunately, people may say “all foster kids are messed up…”especially in front of them.
The best thing you can do is smile and say, “Thanks for sharing” and walk away. Another great one that my friend has said, “Oh, I just found these kids in the parking lot?!” or “We only do this so we can get the group discount when we go places.” The point is, you can’t let other people’s opinions get to you or make you start questioning your parenting, your choice to foster, or ruin your shopping trip.
4. Your kids will surprise you.
Let me tell you about a time when our son made me proud and said something to a complete stranger that neither my wife nor I had the guts to say.
“You are so blessed to have such a beautiful family! Are they all real brothers and sisters?” says the random stranger.
“We don’t have the same birth moms, but we all have the same 2 moms now.” says our son at 7 years old.
I have also over heard him talking to another child:
“But don’t you wish you had a Dad?” -other child
“Everybody has a Dad, I just don’t know who mine is, but I do know that both my moms love me, and all families don’t have to look the same.” -our son
We have always been open with our children about their stories, how they came to live with us, and eventually become adopted. We also are not afraid to answer the hard questions: “How come my birth mom doesn’t visit me?” “Where is my Dad?” “How come we are all different colors?”
The key is to be honest with your kids. They are listening even when you don’t think they are, and they understand more than we give them credit for.
5. People will remember your family.
People will remember your family. Everyone at the doctors office knows our kids. Everyone at the corner restaurant knows our family and always asks for updates. Even the people at the farmers market know us now.
Sometimes its because they believe what you are doing is so awesome, and sometimes its because they are amazed you actually go places with ALL THOSE KIDS! Either way embrace it. I’m not saying that people get a free pass to ask all the inappropriate questions, but you will find that some people genuinely care and want to see your family grow and blossom.
Now that we know there is a term for our family, we have done research and spoken with other transracial adoptive families. We want to be prepared for the even tougher questions and real world experiences our children will face as they age. Through this experience, we have learned that you can read all the books, go to all the classes, and ask all the questions, but real life can still throw you for a loop! There will always be more to learn and the terms can change, but if you focus on teaching your children tolerance (and maybe a bit of humility) you are doing it right!
Have you ever encountered “friendly” people with questions or opinions? We would love to hear your stories! Leave us a comment or drop us an email!