Firstly, the conference renewed my passion for adoption and made me want to learn as much as possible from adoptees so I can be a better mom to Payton. Secondly, it confirmed my belief that racism is, unfortunately, very much alive in our society. Thirdly, tears streamed down my face as an adoptive mom and her adult daughter shared their story of a birth family reunion. The adoptive mom spoke of meeting the birth mom and said of her, "We had nothing in common, and we had everything in common." Every time I put Payton to bed, I say a prayer for C, Payton's birth mom, as I know our hearts are both wound tightly around Payton's life and well-being. We are so different and really have nothing in common, but we have EVERYTHING in common. I don't know what Payton will want as he grows older, and discussion of his birth family will be on his terms and when he is ready, but I selfishly hope he asks for a reunion at some point. I want to thank her for the precious gift she gave us. C is an angel.
At another session we had the privilege to hear bio and adoptive siblings share their stories during a q and a session. Wes and I were very curious about how these siblings felt as Payton may (or may not) have a white sibling some day. We were disappointed that none of the sibling groups were CC/AA, but still found their stories to be very interesting and helpful. What was most interesting to me was that their internal family dynamics, according to their perceptions, were not all that different that bio sibs. But the their tone changed when someone asked how their families were affected by racism. One teenage Latino adoptee seemed very angry and said he felt very helpless when it came to the battle he fights against racism every day. This young man had actually been detained by immigration coming back from a mission trip with his family! He also had several problems with comments his teachers and friends made AT SCHOOL. Finally, someone asked him what he thought he could say or do to stop people from being racist. He thought for a minute and said, "I don't know...be white?" Ouch. My heart ached for this boy and for my son.
The reality is that Payton will face racism. Of course we thought long and hard about what being a transracial family would mean, and of course we buried ourselves in readings and research during our wait, but hearing from adoptees last weekend re-ignited my passion to be an active participant in the fight against racism. I hope I can give Payton the resources to be prepared mentally, to speak out, to maintain his dignity and composure, and to not feel like the only option he has is to give in and "be white." I especially worry for Payton's sensitive high school years, when he will no longer be a little cute baby/toddler, but a typical black high school boy. Will clerks follow him a store because they think he is stealing? Will white women move to the other side of the street and clutch their purses a little tighter? Will white parents not allow him to date their white children? I've personally witnessed many of these things happen to people I know and it really bothers me. Sure, there are "bad" black people, just like there are "bad" people of any race, but that does not justify the racism of so many people here in America. When I heard another African American, adoptee, and conference speaker (currently a professor of education), share his story of how much racism hurt him as a young boy and especially as a teenager, I felt anger boiling in my own heart. To bring it home a little more, Wes overheard an older member at our local gym, just this week, ask the management to stop playing "N-word music" and "N-word tv" on their channels. And people are really naive enough to think that because we have a Black president, there is no longer racism in America? The N-word is still used to talk about people who look like MY SON! I cannot even write it out because it makes me so mad. How can we humans have such hatred towards people who look different, when the same God knitted each of us in our birth mother's womb, knowing that we would all be unique and loved in his sight. But I am reminded that the answer is ALWAYS education.
Another statement this speaker made was helpful to me as an educator and my me rewind a bit and look at my years as teacher through a new lense. He said that today's suburban white girl is taught that a "good white girl" should be "color blind" and treat everyone the same. And he said that one of the problems with the teacher population in the US is that 80% of the teachers are of the "good white girl attitude" and therefore they overlook much of the racism in the classroom or brush it off as a student being "oversensitive." I must say that I was raised with this "color blind" attitude and have, through college courses, personal experiences, and continued reading, realized that we are not the same. Acknowledging skin color and heritage is okay, in fact, it is more than okay, it is necessary for a healthy coexistence. I feel sorry for Payton's teachers as he goes through school, as I know I am going to be a little overbearing and very sensitive to any racism my son experiences. Moreover, I have already acquired some readings and handouts on why "family tree" assignments can be very traumatic for adopted children, esp. adopted children of color, that I plan to give each of his teachers at our very first meeting. And honestly, if they still insist on doing the assignment, I just might let Payton skip school that day. Each adoptee at the conference mentioned how awful "family tree days" were in school and how many questions the other kids asked and how uncomfortable it made them feel. I don't want Payton to deal with that if he does not want to. I know this post is mainly applicable to adoptive moms and dads, but this is my personal forum, and I do think ending racism is important. Call me oversensitive if you want, but I am a mommy who wants to protect her baby from the "big, bad world," just like everyone else.
Here is a picture of Payton with the key-note conference speaker, Allison Larkin, adoptee and author of The English American. After signing a book for Payton, she took a moment to pose with him! She is hilarious and her book has been a great read, so far. I am sure I will have more to say when I finish reading!
Payton was a trooper and sat through an 8am-4pm conference! We did not have a sitter so we took him with us. He charmed everyone, all day, and never once shed a tear! (But I did feel a little guilty taking him as I know waiting parents looked at us and ached a little more, wanting their future son or daughter.) Those memories are not-so-distant for me and I remember looking at adoptive moms and dads with their children, and thinking "WHEN, OH WHEN, will my little one be here!" He is here now, and I am loving it!
In other amazing news:
My friends, Nate and Sarah, got their referral this week!!!!!! Their children, Eden and Caleb, are going to be travel home from Ethiopia this summer! Praise God! Their adoption has been a LONG, LONG journey. Please say some prayers as Eden and Caleb wait, that their health would be restored and their wait to meet their mom and dad is a very short one.
We got our court date this week! WOOHOO! On April 17th we will attend Payton's finalization hearing via phone. The judge granted our motion to waive personal appearance. We are praising God for this as we just did not have the finances to plan another expensive trip out West in the very near future. On April 17th we will be a forever family (at least, in the eyes of the government). In our eyes, we've been a forever family since his placement. I am so excited for the 17th!