Our daughter turned four in October. She has been in our family since a tender one day old and we have been blessed to have been present for almost her entire life outside of the womb. She amazes us often with her wisdom and also with the funny comments she shares with our family. I had been thinking recently that I wanted to speak about trans-racial adoption in my next blog post. I had been asking God about what I should share about this journey. So, I don’t know why I was surprised when God then brought this interaction with my daughter. She said to me, “Mom, I love you and I want to be like you when I grow up.” It was heart-warming and also amazing how quickly my mind reminds me of all things about myself I don’t want her to take on! But then the dreaded words came, “I want to have white skin just like you.” … my heart dropped. I knew this moment would probably happen. All of the trans-racial adoption books and articles I have read warned me to be ready for this moment. I have read what the “correct” response is and have counseled countless adoptive families on what the “best” response is in this moment. But I was not prepared with how hard that moment would be when it arrived. I wanted to say “but God made you so beautiful and I love your beautiful brown skin.” … instead I said trying to validate her grief in the fact that we are “different” from each other … “I wish we had the same skin too.” And then I couldn’t help it and had to tell her how beautiful her skin is, and how much I love her skin. How can I not tell her that?? … But I knew I needed to validate her sadness that we do not have the same skin color. Shortly later, fighting back the tears (as to not alarm her!!); I told her that many days I wish my skin looked like her beautiful brown skin. I have no idea if that was “right” or a good thing to say, but I just could not let my daughter think for one second that I didn’t love her skin and also want her to know that I would love to have her skin too. At this point we were driving in the car and I got to see her beautiful smile in the rear view mirror when I told her I wished my skin looked like hers.
Some days I wonder if I am equipped to do this job. Am I equipped to fill my daughter with the things she will need to develop a positive self-identity? Do I know the “right” words to say and will I respond correctly and recognize each time she is expressing something that is identity related? I also can be fearful that she is struggling internally with things that we don’t always know is going on inside of her. Has she been stewing about how she is “different” from the rest of the family? Is this just a passing comment and she really isn’t struggling, but just needed to verbalize it in that moment? Likely, this is not as big as I am making it here, however, I feel so strongly that we need to remain aware of the struggles that our kiddos can have in a trans-racial adoptive family. I want my daughter to ultimately find her identity in Christ, in addition, I want her to love who He made her to be … and I also want her to know that we love who she is and want to provide her with everything possible to have amazing self-identity! But then I remember we live in a fallen world with strong racial issues and again I know that I have to rely on Christ to give me the tools needed each day with my precious child.
I wish ethnic differences didn’t define us … and I know they don’t have to … but honestly, they do. Each time we leave our home others see our family as having “different” members, they are curious, make comments and always comment on how beautiful our daughter is. I know, there will be a day when our sweet girl will not be seen as ”beautiful” by many she encounters, and I also know that her beauty they will judge will solely come from the color of her skin. We live in a state where (according to school test scores) we rank one of the highest in the nation, but alarmingly, in our state we have one of the largest achievement gaps … if you are white, you have a great chance here, if you are black, well then not-so-much. Are we equipped to fight this for her? Will we always know what to do to help her when she faces issues of inequality solely based on the color of her skin? When we have not experienced being black and have “white privilege” will we be able to advocate correctly? I am trusting that God will give us the skills needed, prompt us to fight when we need to fight, help us fill our sweet girl with the words she needs to hear and be silent when we need to be silent.
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29