I was reading through a public site on transracial adoption about a middle school aged adopted child and it made me realize yet again how many layers of complexity transracial adoption brings to our lives, and especially to the lives of adopted children.
There is a saying that when children are little, the problems are small, and when they get bigger, the problems grow larger. Magnify that by adding the layer of adoption, and then transracial family, and you have a web so tangled that even years of therapy make it hard for a child to find their own truth.
I’d say add African American to a transracially adopted child and you have the further dimension of a lost ancestry to add to their challenge in finding themselves.
Every child will step into this journey – the one that leads them to their self-actualization and singularity in this world, but for the transracially adopted African American child the path is, I fear, more complicated than not.
I think about my child, who is only five years old, and has already dealt with his skin color since he was three years old. The other day, when we were at the playground, I said to his other parent, “Look how handsome his face is,” and he said, “You mean my Black face,” and I said, “Yes, your beautiful Black face.”
Like any parent who worries about their child’s future, I try to imagine one wherein my son possesses an inner strength that will guide him through the road of self-discovery. One where he will by that time have many loved ones to help him on his journey who understand what it means to be a Black man in our city, our country and the world, and to have been adopted by white parents. In preparation, as his mother, I hope to raise him as a child of the world so that he feels at home anywhere.
His gift of an ear has helped him become bilingual in English and Croatian, and Spanish is rapidly being added to his repertoire and when we return home after this summer vacation, he will begin Hebrew lessons on Sundays.
I worry about adding the burden of Judaism to his already staggering six degrees of separation from the world. I agonized over this decision before joining a synagogue and signing him up for Sunday school. My only guiding light is my gut and I feel that my spiritual education began with Judaism, and it is the foundation I believe is best for Tin.
We encounter people all the time who look at our family and assume [fill in the blank], but unless they know what it is like to be a transracially adoptive mother, they don’t know the joy and the angst that is compounded onto the already complex role of a parent. I see this magnified in my desire to raise him Jewish, in his being an African American, and in the fifty years that separate us in human years.
I think of Nina Simone’s words: to be young, gifted and Black and I try to imagine Tin’s threading together to be young, gifted, Black, African American, adopted, white mothers, older parents, and Jewish and I hope that the underside of our being able to discuss, laugh and love this rich tapestry now will help shape the man he becomes.