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Posts Tagged ‘adoption transracial’

With apologies to Nia Vardalos

As a mixed-race couple, welcoming a child of a different race or culture into our lives felt quite natural. We were excited about the idea of adopting a child who was different from both of us so a) none of us would ever feel left out and b) we’d expand our world even more.

My immediate family is WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) as far as the eye can see. I grew up on Monty Python, Masterpiece Theatre and Swallows and Amazons. My grandmother on my Dad’s side was a librarian who married a poet. No doubt my parents saw wiry, fair-haired, bookish grandkids in their future. But my brother married a Chinese-Canadian woman, and while their three children share some of my family’s personality traits, they don’t look anything like us; they really are much better looking. When I go back to Ontario, I always wind up at my sister-in-law’s parents for a massive Chinese feed, where I eat the four “meat groups” and, typically some seafood as well. I rarely bring a gift and always leave with my arms full of fruit, chocolate or a bag full of brand new baby clothes.

On my husband’s side, we have Lolo (grandpa) who emigrated from the Philippines in the 1960s and worked his first job as a nurse in northern Ontario. This slender, young man dressed in layers of cotton clothing trudged through deep snow banks to the hospital only to be greeted by a burly redheaded Francophone man. He met his wife there, and they hightailed it to Vancouver. On my first visit with him, he served me fried herring followed later weeks later with oxtail soup. I’ve since made hundreds of lumpia rolls and am known for eating anything.

My husband’s sister married a Ukrainian-Canadian, and they have two gorgeous, tall children who look nothing like each other. My husband’s brother married a Chinese-Canadian woman, and they have yet to add to the polyglot family. All of them adore Baby Theo and shower him with affection at family gatherings. His lolo has given us an open invitation to bring him by anytime and often has to fight off his daughter for baby-time.

Theo’s fusion Jamaican roots are well-established on both sides of his birth family. His family boasts Chinese, South Asian, Latino, Jewish, African, Caucasian, and seven other ethnicities. He is truly a 21st century child. His birthfamily also has stories of immigrating to the cold of northern Canada. But when we visit, you can feel the heat of the Caribbean in the overflowing dishes of jerk chicken, Akee rice and beans, and the potent fruity rum drinks prepared by Theo’s birthnana. Their warmth goes beyond food into the generous, open-hearted way they’ve welcomed us into their family.

Our South Vancouver neighborhood also “represents.” We have Filipino and South Asian on one side; and had First Nations on the other for three years. A Chinese family lives across the street and European Canadians next door. Further down, we have mixed race African-Canadian and Spanish family. And I now have a friend about to adopt from Lesotho. Down around the corner. Up the street, we routinely pick up Vietnamese Pho, South Indian dosas, Chow Mein, Caldareta and when we have a hankering for vegetarian, lamb, of course.

How mixed (up) is your family?

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Anyone who’s adopted cross-racially has encountered a variety of similar questions for friends, family and strangers. How you respond has a lot to do with the motivation of the questioner. I don’t consider it my duty to educate strangers but I will spend time with anyone who is truly interested in adoption or in our story. One rule I have is never to offer that Theo was adopted until it’s relevant. He’s a person, and I’m a mother. Let’s start there. Context is everything.

Comments from total strangers

Daddy must be a black, black man.

Response: Yes he is.

Commenter: Turned out her sister had married a Nigerian man and thought Theo looked just like him.

Thoughts: I actually never considered someone might think I had given birth to him so I was kind of amused.

How long did you wait?

Response: Excuse me?

Commenter: From someone I’ve never met as an opening statement in a crowded square.

Thoughts: Don’t make your opening gambit so personal. Don’t assume a child was adopted.

Is he yours?

Response: Yes he is

Commenter: Person in question tried to back-pedal by saying what she meant was I looked “too good” to have just given birth.

Thoughts: To paraphrase Khalil Gibran: We do no own our children.

Questions from acquaintances, friends and family

Why didn’t she keep him?

Response: She is very young and didn’t feel she could care for him

Commenter: I’ve had this question from a lot of people

Thoughts: I should not put words into Theo’s birthmother’s mouth. She has her reasons, and it’s not really for me to explain them to anyone.

What is he? I mean what is his ethnicity?

Response: He’s the face of the new millennium.

For some reason this question really irks me, and almost everyone asks it. Who cares? Can’t you think of a million other things to ask or say about him? Here are some tips: How’s parenting going for you? Are you enjoying it? Is he eating yet? How is he sleeping? I can’t believe he’s crawling. Have you met any other moms with kids his age?

He’s getting darker

Commenter: So far three of my white friends have said this

Response: Perhaps.

Thoughts:  Some white people are  mesmerized or confused by dark skin.

Have you had people say odd things to you about your children?

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