Wanting to Give the World to My Children (Or, How It Felt to Send My Black Son and Daughter Abroad This Summer)
When I was nervous about sending my oldest son, Rory, to preschool, I came across a quotation, attributed to writer, Elizabeth Stone, that captured a feeling I’d had since becoming a mother but hadn’t been able to articulate: “Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Her words acutely described the vulnerability I felt in loving another person so fiercely that I made bargains with the universe about his safety and well-being: “Throw anything at me. I can handle anything that comes my way — except losing this child or having something terrible happen to him.” This was the sort-of-prayer, or exercise in magical thinking, that I indulged in as a young mother determined to protect Rory and guide him safely and whole through his life and into adulthood.
(Almost) the Only Brown People at the Reunion: Raising Kids of Color in a Predominantly White Extended Family
A few years ago, some of my children started noting that when we attend my father’s family reunions they are “the only brown people there,” and that’s almost true.
My dad is the eldest of thirteen siblings in a family of French Canadian heritage hailing from northern Vermont. Two of my thirty-seven surviving first-cousins have partial Puerto Rican heritage. Another cousin has a Latina partner, and they have a baby girl. And, two other kids in my children’s generation self-identify as multiracial with a quarter-Black heritage, though they are nearly always perceived as White due to their physical appearance.
My husband and I are both lapsed Catholics, and we celebrate Christmas in our multiracial, adoptive, blended family with an emphasis on togetherness, giving gifts, and taking joy in traditions. Although I’ve left the Church I grew up in, I still feel a deep connection to many of its stories, and the Nativity story, in particular.
I’m compelled by the vision of the birth of a child as an occasion for wonder, hope, celebration, and reverence. I’m grateful for the equation of the humble with the holy. I’m moved by the depiction of Joseph, embracing his role in Mary’s life and in the life of her child, despite initial doubts and misgivings when he learns about her pregnancy. I think of my grandmother’s devotion to the Madonna because, as she said, “she was a mother, too,” and I regard Mary as a symbol of motherhood that has sustained generations of women in my family and beyond.
Look and see how charming is Jesus
How He is white, His cheeks are rosy!
Hush! hush! see how the Child is sleeping;
Hush! hush! see how He smiles in his dreams.
Last month, as Hurricane Matthew was barreling down upon the southeast, my husband and I flew with our son to North Carolina for a wedding. Our eight-month-old did well on the first leg, but for the home stretch we were that family. By the time we stepped out of the terminal, I was soaked — whether from slobber or storm spray, I wasn’t sure — but soon we were in a blue Camry hybrid, being whisked to the rehearsal dinner by our friendly (white) Uber driver.
I’d had misgivings about this wedding. Not only because traveling with an infant is comparable to having your back waxed in public (there’s just no way you’re going to come off well), but because it was in North Carolina. When the state passed its notorious “bathroom bill” in March, I wondered whether my husband and I should ever visit again. When Keith Lamont Scott was killed by Charlotte police in September, I knew that my queer, mixed-race family were personae non gratae.
EmbraceRace wanted to know the difference that racial difference makes within families. We reached out to people with one or more siblings whose racial identity(ies) was different than their own or from each other’s. We also reached out to people with kids whose racial identities differed from each other.
We asked them not to write only about racialized differences in treatment, but also to share insights about how those differences in treatment have shaped how they think about race, family, privilege, personal identity, and more.
A white father, a multiracial son, and a new football tradition.
Being an upstander can be hard, especially if the people you are standing up to happen to be your dearest relatives and when standing up means standing alone.
For fifty-two seasons, Adam loved NFL football. For fifty-two seasons it was more than a game, it was a way of life. Through the Washington Redskins football franchise, he and his family shared and shed tears of joy, pain and agony.
Racial profiling - and white privilege?! - in my all-american multiracial family.
We meet my parents every Sunday, either for brunch at their retirement community or dinner at our house. We usually focus on Krishna and his latest antics. From the positives, like beginning to learn soccer and swimming, to the not-so-positive, like making himself burp — loudly, and often. We are political animals, and we often discuss current events, especially in an election season.
We talk freely about race and racism, which they experience acutely in their overwhelmingly white community in some of the same ways as when they first immigrated to this country from India over 50 years ago. Maybe it’s true about any generationally specific space, it seems kind of trapped in time.
Witnessing my children become brothers and sisters, not through shared genes but through shared experience, has been one of the most powerful parts of raising them.
Conversations about adoption frequently omit consideration of the adoptee’s biological family and focus on parental and filial love that transcends any need for biological ties. The erasure of these members of the adoption triad is what enables adoption to be simplistically depicted as a happily-ever-after scenario for adoptive parents and children, which ignores fundamental, underlying losses and complexities. In families like mine that are formed through transracial adoption of children of color by white parents, such erasure is often compounded by a reiteration of an insidious white-savior narrative that denies the humanity of a child’s biological family, and by extension, the humanity of the child born of them.
Redressing such discourse is integral to the love I share with my children. I know in my bones that our bonds are deepened, not threatened, when we honor the love their birth families have for them and the pride they can take in their respective identities as children of Puerto Rican, African-American, and mixed Irish- and African-American heritage.
This was the ‘70s, well before Madonna and other celebrities started assembling their global families. So I’m not sure where I got the idea, but it was just always the way I envisioned my family coming together and my life playing out.
I met Edd, who is black, in college, and we committed to each other soon after graduation. I told him about my dream of adoption, though I was open to old-fashioned reproduction if that felt important to him. He thought about it for a while, and it became clear he was on board when I overheard him say in response to somebody’s query about parenting that he felt it was more important to pass on your values than your genes
My neighbor was having a stoop sale this morning, and although I have been living next to this woman, her son and husband for the past two years, today was the first day that I reached out and talked with her. She is Japanese, from Japan. Her husband is from Japan. Her son was likely born in the United States but goes back every summer to Japan.
I am half-Japanese and, like an imposter, feel both attracted to and intimidated by Japanese Japanese people when I encounter them. Maybe this is why I haven’t reached out to this neighbor before?
I get self-conscious about the degree to which I am what I say I am if she doesn’t see it. I imagine this Japanese woman looking at me and wondering to herself: Japanese? She doesn’t look or sound Japanese. But, she does know something about my dishes … hmmm.