The Realities of Trans-Racial Adoption

IMG_0180

Every so often, parents via adoption are confronted with their own complete and utter inadequacy. Oh sure, biological parents are too, I know, but I’m talking that extra layer of baggage that our children carry around that we must also deal with regularly – the hurt and pain of their pre-adoption experiences that never leave them, no matter how much we love and care for them.

Two nights ago, Baby Girl awoke and without getting into the minutia of the situation, ended up having a typhoon-sized temper tantrum at midnight that lasted a full hour and woke up our entire household, if not our entire street. Yeah – THAT kind of tantrum.

It’s interesting in retrospect to analyze how her behavior reflects so much of what I’ve read in adoption psychology books, yet somehow in the moment – I am completely unable to see that, nor am I able to draw on my research about how to deal with her adoption/attachment-related behavioral challenges.

So, of course when the tantrum started, instead of recognizing that she was feeling fear and insecurity related to recent circumstances that were putting her in touch with her pre-adoption experiences, all I saw was a bratty little kid looking for attention at midnight and waking me and the rest of the family up to get it. So I snapped. I shouted at her and grounded her from TV – which is a consequence that punishes ME far more than her, trust me. I threw up my hands and enlisted Huzbo, even – who did the same thing as me.

Well, we quickly found out the next night that our strategy stank, when Baby Girl woke up at 1am and proceeded to behave in the exact same way as the night before, despite how much shit she had gotten into.

I began to throw out threats of more severe consequences, which only served to both upset and incense her further. Huzbo was far more furious than the previous night and it was in the middle of this complete shit-storm that I realized something: her behavior was not something she was trying to do against us. She was attempting to reach out for help to deal with feelings that she did not have the skills to verbalize for us. The threats we were throwing at her were not intimidating to her – we were giving her choices, and when given the choice between watching TV or receiving love and assurance if she could get it via screaming and crying – she would always throw TV to the wolves.

I suddenly remembered a line I had read somewhere:

It’s usually when they are behaving in a way that it’s hardest to love them that they need our love demonstrated the most.

So I crawled into bed with the screeching, snot-nosed cyclone of hurt that was my daughter and held her. Oh, she resisted at first – she’s a fierce little example of the “flight or fight” response that many children who were adopted demonstrate in stressful situations – but she soon calmed and I was able to speak gently with her and give words to the overwhelming feelings she was having. When she began to weep and her little body sagged down onto the bed beside me, I knew I had done the right thing and had made the correct assumptions about the sources of her seemingly unacceptable behavior.

Flash ahead to yesterday morning, where I was putting her hair in pigtails for the dance class she was going to. Out of nowhere came this question:

“Do you wish you had gotten a white baby in your tummy instead of me?”

(WHY do they always ask these kinds of questions when you’re either in a public bathroom or in a hurry to get somewhere?)

I assured her that even though I had tried to make a baby in my womb before we had started our adoption journey, it was not because that was my preference, but because it was just what parents usually did when they wanted to have a child. I attempted to make her understand that it wasn’t about what I wanted more – that it was simply what most people do, yet I’m not sure I succeeded in convincing her she wasn’t a consolation prize in my efforts to become a mother.

Never a child to leave it at just one zinger, she followed up with:

“Would you have liked it better if I had white skin?”

I got down on my knees and looked her in the eye and told I would NEVER want her to have white skin, because if she did, she wouldn’t be my Baby Girl. That her beautiful black skin was a part of who she is, and that we did not care what colour skin our child had when we were deciding to adopt. I assured her that we didn’t love her DESPITE of her black skin, but BECAUSE of it. That we embrace the differences between her and us, but we also feel a very deep connection to her that we might not feel if she had white skin, because she would be an entirely different person. I assured her that if we had wanted a white baby so badly, we most certainly would have adopted one.

This seemed to appease her, as she went off to dance class with no further questions, but the conversation has been sitting in my mind, rattling the cage ever since then.

Do white parents experience their children asking them if they’d prefer their kids to have black skin?

Of course not.

Do bio parents experience their children raging in the middle of the night because they are feeling a hard-wired pain that occurred when they were separated from the mother who gave birth to them?

Never.

Do trans-racial adoptive parents ever feel guilty that they brought a black child into a white family?

Often.

It’s a tough, heart-kicking job we signed up for, as trans-racial adoptive parents. I’m not sure we knew back then how agonizing it would be at times.

But I wouldn’t change it for anything, because at the end of the tantrum and questions – I’ve got the most remarkable, tough, strong, joyful, happy, intelligent, gorgeous, stubborn little person who calls me “mommy”.

Sadly, my Baby Girl is the one who has so much more to contend with.

 

Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to share it, and if you’d like to hear more from me, slide over to the right side of your screen and “Like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and subscribe to get my latest post in your email inbox – yes, that’s right – stalk me!

You may also like reading my blog posts at Conceived in my Heart on YummyMummyClub.ca – check it out!

 

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “The Realities of Trans-Racial Adoption

  1. Wow! What a powerful post!

    For someone so teeny she sure has BIG thoughts. I am really glad she has you and yours as her forever family. There is an honesty you exude that will benefit her greatly as she grows.

    Life lessons have a funny way of showing up, don’t they? They never wait ’til we are well rested and read up. 😉 Nope. They sometimes show up as runny nosed tantrums in the middle of the night. Poor goose!

  2. Hi! Thanks for the insight. I have a lot of thoughts coming into my brain and would like to reblog this post if that is ok with you. I am not going to do it today because I am getting a wiring cramp lol but maybe tomorrow.

  3. Hi, I just came across your blog since it’s national adoption awareness month. As a transracial adoptee, I believe that adult transracial adoptees are better equipped to discuss the true realities of transracial adoption. We are the ones who have lived just about our entire lives as transracial adoptees, every second, minute, hour of our lives. WE ARE transracial adoption. We have grown up as closely as is physically possible to transracial adoption. We’ve come of age in this transracial adoption environment. And yes, we have a LOT more to contend with, for the rest of our lives.

    By adopting a child of a race different from yours, you weren’t uprooted to a new environment, new culture, learn a new language, or submerge yourself amongst people of a different race from yours. By adopting a child of a different race, you didn’t lose your identity, history, have your history recreated by strangers/professionals, and lose the ability to retrace your own history, origins, or relations. By adopting a child of a different race, you also didn’t lose the ability to direct major choices in your life because of other people. In fact, by adopting a child, you acted upon your own choices while the child had no choice but to go along.

    So, yes, as transracial adoptees, we have a LOT more to contend with, for the rest of our lives, regardless of whether those who adopted us stick with us, choose to abandon us once we’ve outgrown the “bundle of joy” stage, or outlive those they adopted. One way to help us grow and be happier, healthier, self-assured and more content is by NOT taking away our voices as youngsters or adults. When we were younger, we didn’t have the language to express ourselves so those around us often didn’t want to listen or understand what we went through, couldn’t hear us, or misinterpreted us. As adults, we’re the best equipped to speak about our experiences and transracial adoption. And we care very much about how other transracial adoptees are being treated, especially by their adopters. We have more insight about what worked for us and what didn’t. It’s a loss for everyone in adoptionland to speak over or dismiss the experiences and expertise of adult adoptees.

    So, may I suggest that unless you’ve lived most of your life immersed in transracial adoption, that you take a step back and let those who have lived transracial adoption describe in OUR words what the realities of transracial adoption are. Some of us feel like despite our pleasant, fun, happy childhoods (for those of us who had them), our honest childhoods were taken away along with our identity, history, culture, etc. Those lost experiences can never be replaced thanks to choices other people made, but at least in adulthood, we can speak for ourselves. Despite being unable to use our voices when we were too young, we’ve since spent our entire lives figuring out how to best speak on our own behalf as a way to contend with the many layers we’ve had to go through.

    Wouldn’t you be proud of the child you adopted to have developed so much and so well? Would you hope that in her adult years, she’s silenced by others and her voice and choices are suppressed? I hope that you strive for the former and not the latter. When you support the voices of adult transracial adoptees, you support your daughter’s future voice.

    • I agree with your comments – adoption is a painful experience for adoptees, even those with the most enlightened and loving families. My daughter is not old enough to write about her feelings and experiences, but certainly when she is, I will support and encourage her to do so.
      Your comments seem to indicate that you feel there is only room for adoptees to write about their thoughts and perspectives. With all due respect – I think there is room for everyone on the internet.
      This is not a competition – me sharing MY thoughts and feelings does not minimize yours, or any other adoptee’s.
      Nor do I avoid reading adoptee blogs and articles, by the way. I also read birth family experiences extensively.
      I am not “silencing” anyone by writing about myself and my daughter. I welcome everyone who has had any kind of experience with adoption to share. The irony here is that you feel you have been silenced, yet you are attempting to silence me. I do not profess to have the “best” or “only” perceptions of adoption, and I feel I do my best to represent the fact that adoption is not all hearts and flowers and sunsets.
      I am truly sorry that you and other adult adoptees had negative adoption experiences, but believe it or not, there are adoptive parents out there who genuinely want to learn and want to understand and support adult adoptees. We want to do what we can to support our children, so naturally we look to you for guidance.
      I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading more from adult adoptees on how we can improve the adoption experiences until such time as society as a whole finds an alternate solution to replace adoption.

    • Thank you for sharing, this is another great blog I have added to my list of adoptee blogs I will read. I am not offended – naturally a transracial adoptee can describe the experiences of a transracial adoptee far better than I could because I am not a transracial adoptee. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s