To know R is to love R. To love R is to learn all of him. To love him is to drink in the huge differences between us. Difference is not always comfortable or easy. Difference can be jarring.
My favorite thing my husband says is that R and I are two peas in a pod. When E says, “you’re just like your mama” I can’t help but well up with tears. It’s magic to an adoptive mom’s ears. And R and I are. We tow the line between extrovert and needing alone time. We’re highly sensitive, indulgent, and emotional. I see myself in him.
Yes, I had faith that adoption would lead me to my child. Yes, I lived and still live in a diverse community and I am a consummate student, which means questioning and critically engaging with the world around me. However, the more I learn, read, educate myself on, and engage with R’s culture, with his Blackness, with African American history and culture, in an attempt to be closer to my son- the more I can feel like their are oceans between us.
As I (embarrassingly) for the first time read Baldwin, Coates, Morrison (the list goes on) I go down a rabbit hole of learning and discovery. Reading leads me to names I have never heard of, to references that are brand new. Those names lead me somewhere else and on and on it goes. There is so much I do not know. As I highlight, read, take notes, underline, read some more and google I am struck by the unclosable gap between who I am as a white woman and who my son is as a Black boy who will grow into a black man. This has nothing to do with my love for him. I am devouring films, poetry, history written from a narrative that is new to me. I am beginning to educate myself as I read about my country and a history that I knew nothing about. I wish I knew these things sooner. I wish. But I didn’t, and so I am starting now. I am struck by the education system I grew up in and while I lacked for nothing in school, I see now that in fact my education (which would be considered top notch) was lacking. I was the perfect student. I was not a curious student. Now I am very much curious and even more imperfect. Learning feels more urgent now. What does it take for others to become curious about a world and narratives that differ than their own? What would it have taken for me had I not had a black child?
Once a month we bring R to Mark who works at the barbershop in our neighborhood for a haircut. This shop is a place to gather and hang out. Pineapple juice is offered in the morning and something with a little more of a kick is offered to the men hanging out if we stop by later in the day. It is in these moments, sitting in a barber chair, with R on my lap, amongst a group of Black men, women, and children, that I feel that my son is where he should be. I know that what it means to be Black is different for different Black people. And Rory’s Blackness tells its own unique story as being part of a transracial family. But surrounding him with the hugs and high fives from Mark and his regular costumers embraces R in a way that I can never do. This is part of being a parent through transracial adoption- I can not be all things to my child.
I notice R’s Blackness in all its beauty with sharpness when he is among those who love him most- his grandparents, his aunts and uncles, his cousins. It is among his family who have taught him to love the beach, books, taught him about lobster and boats and tools and the hilarity of Minions. These people have shaped who he is. It is when we are with these people he relies on and feels his best with that I see just how different we all are from 1 member of our family. From R.
As the difference between us grows- my love for him grows. It grows fiercely.
I am learning and educating myself how to love in difference.There is unconditional love and he is part of a loving family who would go to the ends of the earth for him. This was never a doubt or a question. Oh he is deeply loved. I love him in a way that I didn’t know was possible until he was placed in my arms. That is only part of the equation. Love is not just a feeling-love as an action-that’s what I’m most interested in for R. How to love? How to best love my son as I continue to dive into the difference. The differences are stunning, and complex. More so when he begins to notice the differences. What if he starts loving me differently? What if he feels isolated? What if he resents us for adopting him? These are less likely “what if’s” and most likely “to what extents”. I imagine all mothers think about this in some shape or form. It’s the moment their child realizes they are mortal. That they are flawed. I will read and educate myself, and educate others so I can love my son as best as I can.
Oh R, I stand before you flawed and ready to stand by or step in to help you navigate your Blackness in my white world. I will learn with you and educate others when I can. We are worlds apart. I am here. I see you. I love you fiercely.