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We're Not Enough

It’s impossible to not write about transracial adoption during National Adoption Awareness Month.

Here’s one moment. One of many. One tiny moment and all that comes with it.

Last month we took the boys out for ice cream on one of the unseasonably warm nights. As we sat at the counter enjoying our cones, a Black family walked in. I immediately looked to my boys. My son has very particular reactions to Black families. He became silly and loud and kept looking at this family. He wanted their attention. When we left, the family was sitting outside the ice cream shop. We decided to take the long way to our car, it was a beautiful night. 3 of us started walking, one son hung back, and again, tried awkwardly to get the family’s attention. He was STARING at them with a big goofy grin. It was getting uncomfortable, no one wants to get stared as they enjoy their cone of Half Baked. After a few attempts yelling to him to catch up to us, I walked back, put my arm around him and he finally walked away.

I explained that it really wasn't nice to stare at people.

And then I gingerly said, “I think I know why you were staring.”

And he looked at me with, which only could be described as, hope in his eyes. His big hopeful eyes were looking at me.

I said, “Were you staring because they were a Black family?”

A little nod from him.

Then I said “Do you wish papa and I were Black?”

A bigger, affirming nod from him.

I squeezed him hard and said “I know. I know. I love you no matter what (a phrase I repeat incessantly to my children which typically elicits eye rolls and lots of "we know mom")." I’m sure there’s was far more eloquent response, but I get stuck, and I sweat, and I think, “affirm his feelings! Tell him you love him! Don’t fuck it up!”

Every time it hurts. That’s the simple truth. It hurts to hear we’re not enough. And not because it takes something away from our parenthood, but because we can’t give our children all they need and desire. Most of us see ourselves in our parents, but what if you don't?

To not see themselves reflected in us, what must that be like? I have no idea what it would feel like, so I trust my boys and let them guide me.

It can be incredibly hard and sad and, frankly, shitty to know our child may not always feel a part of our family unit. Please don’t argue. Please don’t say, BUT THEY LOVE YOU!!! THEY CLEARLY LOVE YOU!! Yes. Yes. We know that, we don’t need convincing. They’re our children. They love us. We are a happy family and they look to us, and love on us and snuggle on us as children do with their parents, but that DOESN’T negate any of their feelings wishing their family was different. Wishing they better belonged or better fit in. Wishing we all looked the same.

It’s a big part of transracial adoption and holy moly, transracial adoption is not for the faint of heart. To be a parent and not be able to take care of all your child’s needs, despite giving 1000 percent is hard.

Boy oh boy, perspective transracial adoptive parents need to be trained and counseled prior to adopting, and trained and counseled forever and always. That’s the commitment.That's what E and I should be doing. Let me know if you find a Black family therapist who is adoption competent and works with neurodiverse kids, who will do in person therapy. In Connecticut.

There is a lot of tender intentional work in protecting our children, affirming their feelings, and managing our own feelings of anger, helplessness, frustration….Managing our ignorance, our sadness, our confusion….All of it for some and maybe none of it for other adoptive parents. But I know I’ve felt all these things and I know that in order to be the best parent to my boys, E and I have A LOT of work to do. We always will.

E and I hear “No, the boys don’t need anything else, you both are enough!” or, “They’ll realize when they grow up that more than skin color matters when it comes to having good parents”, or, “you guys are incredible parents” a lot. I don’t think people necessarily mean all those things. I think they need to make sense of the parent/child relationship as they know it, and hearing something else does not compute. It messes with things. No one really wants to hear that adoption isn’t only sunshine and rainbows. No one wants to hear that even happy families don’t always work.

E and I don’t need to be “built up”. We’re fine (ya know, as fine as parents can be in the thick of it). We need friends, family, teachers, frankly, we need everyone to honor our boys and their feelings. Their experience as adoptees is an enormous part of their identity. We see it clear as day. It shows in their reactions to people, how and what they share about their family with others, how they chat about their sibbies and their tummy mommys with one another. You can love your family, have attentive caring parents, and it won't always be enough. That's the reality of families built by adoption. We only hope that through it all, they know we love them...No matter what.


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