I took three kids to the dentist this week. I’m not sure what I was expecting a trip to the dentist with three children to look like, but I’m certain the image I had in mind was a lot less noisy. As we waited for the second child’s appointment, I looked around the waiting room. One of my children was crying (his tooth hurt), one of my children was screaming (we forgot blankie), and one of my children was hiding under a table on the filthy floor with a new friend (it’s fun apparently). “I can’t take this anymore,” I finally announced. “Let me know when they call your name Mariyah.” I picked up the screamer and headed for the hallway.
As I walked away I heard the voice of my daughter’s new friend from under the table.
“Is that your mom?”
“Well then why are your skins different colors?”
“Because I got adopted.”
I wanted to stop right where I was and listen for what came next. Would they talk about it or move on? Would this little girl ask more questions? Would my daughter answer them? Would she be comfortable with the conversation? My toddler continued to scream and I realized how ridiculous I must look paused mid-step to eavesdrop. She can handle this, I reminded myself, and headed out the door into the silent hallway.
I don’t know what else was said. When I returned, they were talking about My Little Ponies, so I’m guessing it didn’t get too deep.
When I became an adoptive parent I knew I would be talking to my kids about adoption a lot. What I didn’t realize was that my kids would also be talking about adoption a lot, because so many people would be asking them. Unlike our friends who have adopted children that look like them, being a transracial adoptive family means letting the world know upon their first glimpse that adoption is a part of our lives. When a stranger sees our family together, they know instantly what it means. I must either be the babysitter, or the adoptive mom, and they better ask so they can find out which one. It’s not that I planned to keep adoption as some kind of family secret, I just never thought about the fact that my children would be questioned by every curious friend, neighbor and mailman.
When you adopt transracially there are a few things you have to get used to.
1. People will stare at your family.
At first it will feel really strange. You’ll wonder if there is something in your teeth. Eventually you will stop noticing the constant barrage of eyes on you. Until a friend joins you on an outing and comments about it.
2. People will ask your family questions.
Adoption might be something they are curious about for their own family, or they might just be nosy. Since it is obvious your family is experienced with the subject, those burning questions that strangers have always had about adoption will be directed at you and your children.
3. People will make assumptions about you.
You must have fertility problems, adoption was a second choice, you don’t love them as much, you must be a Christian, you are such a good person.
4. People will make assumptions about your children.
Their birth mother must have been poor, they must have something wrong with them, they’re Black so they must be good at basketball. You’ll find part of your role as transracial adoptive parent is shooting down the myths and stereotypes associated with adoption and race.
5. People will never forget you.
Whether it is the cashier at Target or the lady whose son was on your son’s soccer team seven years ago, your family will be remembered. In some ways it is a blessing because they will give your kids extra lollipops at the bank. In other ways it is a curse because who wants to have every little thing they do remembered and, also, lollipops cause cavities.
I love being a transracial adoptive family. It adds so many positive things to my life (the most important of which is my kids). But at the same time I wish it didn’t add difficulties to the lives of my children.