January 29, 2010

One (or Two) of These Things is Not Like the Other Ones

When we were initially looking into adoption, we discussed the pros and cons of international vs. domestic adoption, whether we were hoping for a boy or girl, and if race mattered to us. After determining that a domestic adoption was the right choice for us, we decided the rest (sex, race) should be left up to whomever or whatever was looking out for us.

As luck would have it, we were blessed with a healthy, beautiful, African American baby girl. Living in a relatively diverse neighborhood (for Portland anyway) and having friends of all colors, races, and sexual orientations, we were completely comfortable (and even thrilled) to have a child of a different color. We felt marginally equipped going into it to handle any challenges and are continually trying to make sure we are doing right by our daughter by celebrating our differences and our sameness.

When we decided to adopt baby number two, we knew we wanted to do a domestic adoption again, but this time, we also knew we want to adopt a baby of color.

Our concern was that we didn’t want Ava to feel singled out in our already “unique” family. We thought if we have two children of color, they could discuss racial issues with each other, should there come a time when they aren’t comfortable talking to their white parents about how they are feeling (I hope they’ll always feel they can talk with us about anything—and I will continue to work hard on this—but I’m not that na├»ve!).

So, we held out for a long time to bring home a baby of color. Our agency, as it turns out, doesn’t get a lot of African American women through their doors, so the wait was long. There were other opportunities to adopt along the way, but we politely declined. It just didn’t feel right. Those who have adopted I think will agree that there is a feeling you get about “your” child. You just know.

So, along comes our son, Kamari, the birth child of a multi-racial (black, white, Native American, and Greek) couple, and low and behold, he’s the whitest multi-racial baby we’ve seen. Ha!

Seriously though, he’s pretty darn white, and at first, I was a little upset about it. I realize how awful that sounds; believe me, I’m not proud. It’s just that I had my daughter’s possible future feelings in mind and was being a protective mother, worrying about how she might react one day. I was being unnecessarily over-protective.

What I’ve realized these past few months, as I watch Ava with her brother (that many may have realized way before me), is that it doesn’t matter and really, I have no control. While I do think we made the right choice in “holding out” for a child of color, the two kids will bond in other ways, have other things in common, and have other differences (beyond the color of their skin, and the obvious, their gender).

We have no control over how Ava will or will not feel. In fact, there’s more evidence to suggest she may have bigger issues with Kamari’s relationship with his birth family (where she, as of yet, has no relationship with hers) than with the color of our family’s skin.

And so, alas, another lesson is learned. With all things in life—especially when it comes to raising children—I just need to let go of my expectations and let life happen. Things have a funny way of turning out the way they’re supposed to all on their own—without help from me.

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