A few days ago for Adoption Awareness month, I posted about adopting my son. It was a truthful post from the deepest part of me. But there is another post that I didn’t share at the time, the unsugar-coated version of my adoption experience that I will tell you about now.
The other day, I had gone to go see Twelve Years a Slave with a friend. We came out of the theater barely able to speak to each other. We then went to go pick up my son from school nearby. We were waiting outside his classroom because the children nap for a bit and usually wake up groggy and have to get themselves together before they walk out to their parents.
When my son came out, he bustled out in his usual excited way, took one look at my friend and fell on the floor crying and then ran back into the classroom. I went after him and tried to console him but he wouldn’t speak and he kept sobbing.
Here’s what went through my head: I had just watched a movie where a Black woman’s young son was ripped from her arms and sold to the highest bidder by white people. My friend who was with me is Black. She and my son have a good relationship, and as her daughter is now a teenager she thinks of Tin as the boy she never had. When he looked at her and began to cry, inside of me, I thought he might have woken from a dream where his birthmother was holding him and he might have come running out and seen my friend first and she reminded him of the dream of his birthmother.
And I felt awfully like I was part of the same history that has perpetuated since the days of slavery: the Black birthmother is poor and illiterate and her child is taken from her to be given to white people who have more resources. This is the story of adoption that is wrenching and so hard to get your mind around that most adoptive parents leave the details of it behind.
That is what I was thinking as I tried to get to the root of what was making my son so upset. A lot of times with children it could be anything – the air molecules are not quite right, but when you have an adopted child, when you are the white mother of an African American son, when you are an older mother, when you are a bald mother, when your child has two mothers, when all of these things are stacked up, you look twice at what is happening, you try not to bring complications up but as you are trying to be casual about all of these things so as not to create hardship for your child, you cannot help but feel that there are themes that cannot be diminished, that never die away.
My son told me later he was upset because he had hoped his other mother was picking him up, even though she never picks him up from school – that is my role. I still didn’t feel quite sure that he was articulating what had really happened. Something happened. Something definitely happened.
But still when people ask me now how I felt after watching Twelve Years, I cannot tell them because I walked into a live drama right afterwards that is still unfolding and I never quite know what roles we are playing exactly and how we might grow out of them.
I just want to keep my eyes open even when it hurts.