Over the years, we’ve been asked how our children feel about being a part of a multi-racial family, and how they’ve adjusted. Our conversation always points back to the importance of your community.
When we became a multi-racial family, we considered the toll it might take on our children and on us. We weighed the scenarios as did our children’s birth parents. In the end, we partnered with our children’s birth parents in making the best decision we could. Our children needed a family, and we already deeply loved and cared for one another. We did not ignore the color of their skin, but we also didn’t make skin color the ultimate identifier of our family.
Over the years, the importance of gender, culture, genetics, personality and race have taken different levels of importance at different times and in different situations. We do not deny that we look different from our children. We embrace the unique beauty that comes with each and every hue. Sometimes a part of celebrating the uniqueness of each of our children is finding others who look like them.
“I hate being the only brown girl at school!” my first grader screamed at me. I was standing in the kitchen chopping vegetables for the beef stew that was already simmering on the stovetop. The house was filled with a smell that reminded me of my childhood. I was caught in a daydream, thinking of the home I grew up in and memories of crisp fall days. Her words jolted me from my work. I turned around and saw her angry face and her clenched fists. I quickly knelt beside her and looked into her eyes with concern.
“What is going on?” I asked. “I’m the only black girl in school!” she shouted again. “What about your sister?” I responded. “That doesn’t count,” she snapped back. “Ok,” I said trying again, “What about your brother or that sweet little girl that sits at your table?” She snorted in response, “My brother doesn’t count and Mary isn’t brown, she’s tan. Her mom is peach like you and her dad is brown.” We talked a little longer and she finally allowed me to hug her before she climbed up on the counter to help me finish dinner. The rest of the night was peaceful. She smiled when I tucked her into bed and as I closed the door she whispered, “I love you Mommy.”
Sometimes a part of celebrating the uniqueness of each of our children is finding others who look like them.
There is no doubt in my mind that I am my daughter’s mother. Her frustrations about skin color were not an attack on her family. They were a glimpse into her search for identity. Mike and I talked until late that night and we both agreed that it was time to get intentional about finding a place where our children wouldn’t always be the minority. We prayed together for an answer and within the next few months, we met a friend who was a pastor at a church in our city. The congregation was multi-cultural in terms of economic status, race and ethnicity.
We attended the church one Sunday and sat on the back row filling an entire pew with just our family. No one stared, no one was critical; they were just kind. We saw people who looked like me, we saw people who looked like my daughter and we saw people who looked completely different from all of us. For the first time, I was in the minority as a peach-skinned woman. It was different, but good. We kept going back to the church and over time, we met friends who helped our children understand the culture of those who look the same.
We have been a part of that community for 7 years now and it is an invaluable part of our identity as a family. My children who are both brown skinned and peach skinned have friends, Sunday School teachers and mentors who resemble all parts of our family.
Our children’s identity will be comprised of gender, personality, faith, skin-color, family and so much more. It is their identity to discover, it is our job to stand beside them as they dip their toes into the waters of new experiences and uncover all that they were created to be. It can often be scary to let go of some of the control as our children discover who they truly want to be. When we do let go, we often find that they are still right there reaching for our hand, inviting us to now be the ones to cross cultures and create a family outside of those who look the same.
Mike and Kristin Berry are the authors of the Confessions of an Adoptive Parent blog and the book The Adoptive Parent Toolbox. They are the parents of 8 children, all of whom are adopted. Mike and Kristin’s passion is to reach overwhelmed, weary, and stressed out parents, all over the globe, with this message: “There is hope…..you’re not alone on this journey!”