Tag Archives: Transracial Adoption

Does it really take a village to raise a child?

Does it really take a village to raise a child?

Based on a previous post here, you might possibly think that I don’t believe it takes a village to raise a child. You would be right. 🙂 I have seen the village and I would prefer to pass on my values rather than the values of the world. Raising children requires committed parents who are not willing to pawn- off their responsibilities on others. However, this doesn’t mean that I think we can raise our children alone in a vacuum. I could never successfully fulfill my role as a parent without mentors in my children’s lives.

If you have entered the world of transracial adoption, you know it is one which is not always easily navigated. I can celebrate Chinese New Year and Autumn Moon Festival and Black History month with the best of them. Problem is, I can’t be Chinese, Haitian, Liberian, or Native American which are the ethnicities of some of my children.

When Ben had been home only two months, some very dear Deaf friends took him with them to see a neighborhood that goes all out decorating with Christmas lights. To be honest, I was worn out parenting a child who came home with no language. Tantrums due to misunderstandings were the norm in our household and were exhausting. Ben loved being in an environment with an entire family who signed and shrieked in delight tapping the Deaf father on the shoulder while pointing out beautiful light displays that caught his eye. Having Ben interact with others who are in the Deaf world/culture as well as gaining other language models besides mine has been such a blessing in our lives.

When Caleb came home, he didn’t speak a word of English and my Chinese was limited to such worthless phrases as “Can you speak English?”, “Where is the bathroom?”, “I am an American” and my all time favorites from Rosetta Stone of “That is an airplane” and “That is an elephant.” I admit the elephant phrase helped me on one occasion in a zoo in China but don’t think I have ever used that phrase since. Actually, I’m not even sure that the phrase was helpful in the zoo as Caleb looked at me like “Yeah, duh!”

As gesturing and a Chinese/English dictionary only went so far, I had a dear Chinese friend who stepped up to the plate. When Caleb would become upset and scream for up to 45 minutes at the top of his lungs while hiding under the bottom bunk bed in his room, I resorted to calling Katrina on the phone and pushing the phone under the bed. When he threw it back at me, I would switch it to speaker phone and she would try to talk him down from his tantrum. When he told me he didn’t love me, she laughingly told me how to say “I hate you” in Mandarin and said, “Have you heard that one yet? You haven’t? That’s a good sign.” Having the Chinese Cultural Center built in Tucson has also blessed our lives as we have been able to spend time in an environment where Ben and Caleb can comfortably blend in.

With Micheline’s adoption, I had new fears. With Ben and then later with Caleb, we already had a few contacts and friends in the Chinese community. When I googled the Haitian community where I live I found an article in the newspaper that showed there were about 35 families here. Not many, and I had no way of knowing how to contact them in a city of 1 million people. I contacted a few Haitian families in a large city nearby because they had a website, but their events consisted of $200/plate black tie dinners. Not exactly an event where I could bring a four-year-old child. One man offered to work with me in keeping up my Creole language skills and wanted a mere $50 an hour. Memories of “Hey you, give me money!” on the streets of Port-au-Prince came flooding back. I politely declined.

The more I spoke with adult adoptees, the more I realized the fact that Micheline was Haitian would probably become irrelevant in others’ eyes. They would merely see her as African-American, and no amount of me saying “She is Haitian” would make a difference. The AA community would be the one she would identify with as she grew up but only if I could find someone as a great friend and role model to help her be comfortable in her own skin. We had met a few AA adults and children at homeschooling events and even a few at the library and grocery store, but none of them really wanted to commit to a long-term friendship. Having the same color of skin is obviously meaningless if your personalities don’t click. We met some great friends in a multicultural homeschool community, but they all lived 1 1/2 – 2 hours away.

I had heard of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program for many years but had never had any interaction with them until someone suggested that having a “Big” might be a great idea for Micheline. At first I resisted the idea. If she was having attachment difficulties, wouldn’t having another adult in her life just make her resist attaching to us even more? Nothing ended up being further from the truth.

Having a mentor in her life who is African-American has made her do a 180 degree turn. After being a little sister to Shayla, Micheline has become far more accepting of who she is. I know it isn’t easy to be in a family where only one sister looks like you and everyone else is of a different race. Since the time she came home I have taught her to look in the mirror while I was putting lotion on her after a bath and say “I am beautiful, I am smart.” Regardless of how many times she recited it, she struggled to believe it. On more than one occasion she has told me she wished she had skin like mine. (Funny, because I wish I had skin like hers!) She told me when she is in public with Shayla, “No one stares at me because we look alike…we look like we belong together.”

It reminded me of when she was in kindergarten and I showed up to her field day only to have her act embarrassed and ask me to leave. I was hurt at the time that she would not want me there but tried to not let it show. It took her weeks to express to me that it was because I didn’t look like her and she didn’t want others to know she was adopted. As long as I didn’t show up, other children could continue to assume her mother was brown and the questions of “Why don’t you look like your mother?” would never happen.

After telling me more than once that she didn’t like her brown skin, I mentioned that she might talk to Shayla about it. She came home from an outing with a smile on her face and told me that night, “I feel so much better about being brown. Shayla told me that she likes being brown.”

Yesterday, Shayla invited Micheline over to her house for a birthday celebration as Micheline had just turned 12. Micheline was there for SEVEN hours. Xbox dancing, eating out, skateboarding, making Oreo milkshakes and watching movies were just a few of the things on the agenda. Toenails painted turquoise yesterday matched her dress for church today and she was thrilled.

This brings me back to the photo above. When God prompted me to adopt internationally and transracially I told Him I would need help. And He of course came through. I am thankful there are those out in the community who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and take a child under their wing. Maybe even a child who isn’t always easy to love due to quirky behaviors. While others are saying “not my child, not my community, not my problem”, it is nice to know as Fred Rogers said, “There are those who see the need and respond.” And like Fred Rogers, I consider those people my heroes.

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November 25, 2012 · 8:52 pm

Bring Thalia Home

Some friends of mine are adopting a beautiful girl with Down’s Syndrome who currently lives in a Chinese orphanage. They have worked their tails off in raising all the funds for her adoption, but are still quite a bit short.

Anyone who has ever adopted internationally knows how expensive it can be. I’ve done it three times and each time wondered how we managed to pull it off, but then was reminded that if it is the Lord’s will, the money will come through.

The Whickers are moving forward in faith with their adoption, knowing that the money will happen, but need your help in making it happen. They are having an incredible giveaway at this website where you can win some amazing prizes.

Please find it in your heart to give, even if it is only 10 or 20 dollars. My family spends far more than that if we order take out from a restaurant, so think of it as giving up just one take out meal this month. Cook that meal at home instead and you will never even miss the money from your budget. But you will have a great feeling inside knowing that you have helped a child find her forever family.

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Dear Chinese Birthmother

Dear Birthmother of my son,
With technology today, contact with others on the other side of the world is just a mouse click away. I wish it were so with you, but I have no way of contacting you because I do not know who you are. Today is our son’s birthday, and because you left him with a note stating such, I am sure that somewhere today in China, your thoughts most likely turned to him…a son you could not keep.

I am confident it was a decision that caused much grief and pain as no Mother-heart could care for a child for the first couple of years of his life and then be asked to relinquish him without so much as a backward glance. Did you make the decision on your own, or was it one that was forced upon you? I have read of Chinese women who 10 and 15 years later speak of the day that they were forced to relinquish their child. They cannot finish speaking as they talk about it because their pain causes them to dissolve into sobs.

Thank you for loving him enough to leave his birthdate pinned to him. He lost so much with the loss of his parents and family, but that small bit of information is a part of his identity that no one can ever take away. I pray that his birthdate and the location where he was found might someday lead us to you, but that may be a wish that won’t be granted in this life.

I wish you could see him today. I am blessed to have photos of him at the age of 2 that another parent adopting from his orphanage took over 10 years ago. Because of this gift, we will never have to wonder what he looked like when he was young. I wish I could return the favor and share with you what he looks like today. Here are some photos, and perhaps someday through some miracle, you will be able to see them. He has a dimple on his right cheek and a face that truly lights up when he smiles. I often wonder if he got that from you.

He is doing remarkably well in school, and learning English at a rapid pace. I bet you could never imagine on the day that you relinquished him that he would end up in America. Perhaps you wonder if he is still out there close by in China. Last night, as he gleefully opened birthday presents, I thought of how he told me he only got cake in the orphanage for his birthday. There was no money for gifts, and when I sent gifts ahead before we arrived in China to adopt him, he said they were taken away. He was only allowed to pose with them for a photo and then told that because he would have a family, he needed to give them up to other children who would remain behind. He is a kind and forgiving boy, however, and took the loss in stride.

Our son is an obedient boy and a very hard worker. Last year, he won the President’s Award at his school for a child who has excelled in school despite challenges. His certificate is signed by the president of the United States. Having to conquer the English language is not an easy task for someone who spoke Chinese the first 11 years of his life, but his teacher told me that he was the hardest worker in her class. You would be proud.

His medical issues have been resolved, and you’ll be pleased to know that he is healthy and happy. He is very slight in stature, and often when I see a Chinese man who is also slight in build, I wonder if his Chinese father is built the same way. He doesn’t like being so small, and is quick to share with others that he can pull his share of the load. He chooses the heaviest bags of groceries to carry in from the store, and then flexes his muscles for me saying, “Mama, I strong boy!”

The Olympics is happening in Beijing right now, and he is happy to cheer for athletes from both the United States and China. Just as he is a boy with two mothers, he will grow up as a boy with two countries. He has asked me if China is bad when he has heard stories on the news that don’t always paint China in a positive light. We have focused on all that is good in China and how he can be proud that he is from a country with such a rich and varied history.

However, it is most likely the lack of your civil rights–the one child policy– that led to his relinquishment and adoption. He and I have not yet discussed that in depth, but questions have surfaced on occasion. I worry what that governmental policy has done to his self esteem. He saw a baby once who had been left at the orphanage gates who died a few days later. He told me how sad that made him, and told me “That baby’s parents no want her, just like my parents no want me.” I told him nothing could be further from the truth. Some tell me I cannot know that. I can, because I too have a mother-heart that loves.

Adoptive parents often only focus on the joy they have in gaining a son or daughter. There is no denying, however, the pain and loss that are also a part of adoption. In order to gain his present family, he had to lose his first one. To have me as his mother, he had to lose you. At night sometimes when I kneel down to pray for all of my children, know that I pray for you as well. I pray that your heart may have peace, that God might speak to your heart somehow to let you know that he is doing well. I pray that I am raising him in a manner of which you would approve.

If not in this life, then in the next, I know I will meet you someday. I will give you an accounting of my stewardship as his second mother, and pray that we can compare notes someday. You can tell me what he was like when he was born and when he first learned to crawl, or got his first tooth. I, in turn, will share with you his life from age 11 on. Please know wherever you are, that he is loved. I thank you that in those first few years of his life, you taught him how to love. People have told me it is a miracle that he can, given that he spent so many years in an orphanage. I have no doubt, however, that it was his early years with you that gave him the love and confidence he needed to be able to bond with another family.

Thank you for the gift of our precious son.

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Our faces are not the same

Out of my three youngest, I think Caleb has struggled the most with the fact that he was not born here. Micheline and Ben speak freely of their birth parents even though they do not know them. I have often said things such as “I bet your beautiful brown eyes are just like your Haitian mother’s”, or “Your gorgeous black hair came from your Chinese mother”, and they love hearing how some of their best features probably came from their birth parents.

Caleb, however, has asked, “I look like you, right Mama?” For some reason, he cannot even seem to identify what other Chinese people look like. He was on the university campus with Jeff and Jeff was pointing out other people who appeared to be Chinese. Caleb couldn’t pick them out himself.

This week, during an exercise, Caleb was supposed to name ways in which he was similar to his parents and ways in which he was different. He thought and thought, and then said, “Mama’s face and my face are not the same.” I thought he was finally “getting it” that in spite of his desires, his features do not closely resemble mine. As I opened my mouth to reply, however, he continued, “Because Mama wears glasses and I don’t.”

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Martin Luther King, Civil Rights and Racism

holding_hands.jpg

“I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

The quote above was on my signature line for every e-mail I sent for a couple of years. I believe it whole-heartedly, and I believe in what Martin Luther King, Jr., stood for; change through peaceful means–namely civil disobedience– rather than violent means.

I know there are people who try to negate everything good that MLK stood for by saying “He was an adulterer, he was a Communist, and he was wrong when it came to his statements on the Vietnam war.” Perhaps he was. In my heart, however, that does not negate all the good that he accomplished.

Because of Martin Luther King and others —Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks as well as thousands who go unnamed–the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed that outlawed segregation in the schools and other public places. The National Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed a year later.

Martin Luther King fought tirelessly for civil rights and as a result of his and others’ actions, my daughter will never have to worry about segregated theaters, restaurants, or even water fountains. I cannot comprehend living in such a time when the South was so strongly segregated, and thankfully the concept will always be foreign to her as well.

At seven years of age, slavery– and all the other horrific acts that were done to people of African descent in America–is still something about which she is totally naive. I wish I could keep her that way, but sadly I cannot. Slavery and the lack of civil rights for African American people are part of our history. A very ugly part of our history, but very real nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 did not eliminate racism. Racism is very sadly alive and well, and yes I know it goes both ways. I have been discriminated against and looked down upon for having “white” skin by people of color. I have seen frowns or glares change to smiles when my daughter is with me compared to when she is not. I have “white privelege” merely because of the color of my biological ancestors’ skin. I wish it were not so.

I didn’t adopt children of color to make a political statement. Far from it. I adopted my children because a very loving Heavenly Father led me to them and let me know they were meant to be mine to raise during this earth life. at-guiyuan-temple.jpg I hope in some small way, however, that my multiracial family is a start. A start to show others that the color of our skin truly does not matter. That we are all God’s children and he loves us all equally.

I have had people tell me, “But your daughter isn’t really black.” Oh she isn’t? Well, no her skin is truly brown, not black, but I know what they mean. She doesn’t “act black” in their eyes because she is being raised by a “white” family. However, she will go out into the world on her own someday and those who have never met her will not say, “Oh there’s that girl who was raised in a multiracial family with parents who were white.” They will see her as a person of African descent and make their judgments accordingly depending on whether or not they hold racist attitudes in their hearts. Because of this, I must raise her to be comfortable in her own skin. To feel a sense of unity with those who look like her.

My first priority, however, is to teach her that she is a child of God. Hand in HandThat we all belong to a loving Heavenly Father who is there to answer our prayers in times of need and to understand as it says in 1 Samuel 16, that the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance but the Lord looketh on the heart.

Like Martin Luther King, I too have a dream. I dream that my children also “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”Where my Chinese sons will not be expected to be math whizzes just because of their facial features and skin color. Where they won’t be told that they have to do martial arts as one friend told me “because it is in their genes.” Where my daughter will not be held to a lower standard by school teachers, also because of her facial features and skin color. It is not their skin color that makes them who they are, but the content of their character. As a parent, it is their character which I can do something about. Their skin and facial features I had no part in…those were merely beautiful gifts given by God.

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What color are you?

Having a multiracial family, I find myself more cognizant of labels that people place on each other according to race. When Micheline first came home at age four, she knew her colors in Creole, and started learning them in English. She was confused when people would label her as black. After all, she knew the color black, and her skin was not black. She began to accept this label, however, until one day in the store when she said, “Mom that lady has black skin just like me!” The woman came over and gently corrected her and said, “No, honey, your skin is brown like mine.”

I’m not wild about the term African-American to describe my daughter because she is not from Africa. She’s from Haiti. So do we tell everyone she is Haitian-American? Just last week a woman called my daughter African-American and when I said, “Actually, she is Haitian”, she replied, “Oh, so she’s a refugee?” Not quite sure how she made that false connection; maybe she didn’t realize one can adopt from Haiti?

When Micheline was in a co-op preschool, one of the other mothers decided to “help” my daughter color a picture one day. I guess in an attempt to be racially sensitive, she colored the child on the page black. As in, really black. As in Crayola color black. Nothing could have looked more ridiculous. Micheline was even puzzled why this woman chose black because as she said, “Mom, I don’t look like that!” Needless to say, the next week when preschool was at my home, I sent each child home with a Multicultural 8 pack of Crayola colors. It consists of Apricot, Burnt Sienna, Mahogany, Peach, Sepia, and Tan, as well as black and white for blending. I found this great site to purchase multicultural art materials, because as they say on their site, “we have come a long way from the days when the box of crayons contained only one ‘flesh’ color.”
Here is a photo I found on my camera that my kids took just for fun. arms in varying shadesSome of the arms are of my children and one is of a neighbor. Whose is whose doesn’t really matter. Now just because the arm on the left is the darkest, is it black? Is the arm on the right really white? Heck no! Here is the current list of colors that Crayola offers in their boxes. It used to be acceptable many years ago to call people of African descent, “colored”. Aren’t we all colored?

Wouldn’t it be more fun to say, “Hey Mom, can I go play with Mackenzie? No, not the sepia one, the burnt sienna one!” ? Or, “Police say the suspect is a desert sand colored male, approximately 25 years of age.” Better yet, I love the color descriptions in the book The Color of Us. People are described as delicious foods such as the color of chocolate, pizza crust, cinnamon and even creamy peanut butter.

Unfortunately, I don’t see labeling people as peanut butter colored taking off, but you have to admit, it’s much more ingenious than the labels of black, white, yellow, red and brown! Seeing how I was teased once in high school by being called “mayonnaise legs”, it’s not hard for you to figure out just how fair I really am. Maybe after being in the sun and getting freckles, you could call me “french vanilla with a splash of nutmeg.”

It would be best if we were not labeled by color at all, but if you had to choose a color, how would you creatively describe yourself and/or your family? Leave me a comment and let me know. I’ll put the entries in a hat and send a package of Crayola multicultural crayons and markers to the winner.

p.s. We do have a black member of our family…he’s an 85 lb Rottweiler/Lab mix. I prefer to label him as licorice. 🙂

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