We adoptive parents are thrilled to have our children in our lives. For most of us, the adoption process required determination, commitment, and persistence. Adoption changed everyone in the family, not just the adoptee. We all--parent, child, siblings, and our extended family-- became part of that wonderful and often complicated “Grafted Tree” that is an adoptive family. While adoption permanently changed our child's life, it also changed and significantly enriched us. It is essential to think beyond, “We have adopted a child.” Instead, think, “We have become an adopted family.”
Adoption is a “We” story not a “You” story.
For example, when adopting a child that is a different race from your own, not only is she transracially adopted, your family becomes a transracial family. You will have some experiences that are a direct outflow of this reality. Certainly, each person will experience it to a different degree.
Sometimes adoptive parents talk about being “color blind” as a way of indicating that their love is complete and isn’t diminished because of racial differences. Their intention is positive. Ironically, to be colorblind is to deny a reality that is as real as a child’s gender. In this example, “color blindness” requires both parent & child to ignore a significant part of their child’s being. It sends a subtle message that requires both to play a role, pretending away an important and very real part of the child’s identity.
Choose instead, to be color aware, to embrace your child’s race as enthusiastically as any of her other traits. By acknowledging, valuing and validating your child’s differences—including race—you acknowledge her truth. This better enables you to prepare her to walk in the wider world where race, like gender is a factor.
Embrace your commonalities and your differences with equal enthusiasm. Be intentional in creating opportunities where each of you feels most at home as well as experiences as “different” whether that difference arise from race, physical ability, etc. Develop a family library that represents a range of cultures. This is important for all families and essential for racially diverse families. We are after all, one human family. Familiarity builds empathy, diminishes fear, and creates cooperation.
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