Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thriving in Plain Sight: the Visible Adoptive Families

If you scratch the surface of current adoption literature, blogs, and publications, you'll discover lots of opinions and suggestions for visible families. You can debate, offer support, lend a mentoring hand, or just show your adoptive love for transracial adoptive families in a variety of ways. 

This is great news - every little bit of positive progression helps us offer our children a bit of extra self-love and reprieve from the stares and inappropriate questions they never asked for and don't deserve.

Many of our children are reminded every day that everyone knows (and many wonder aloud about how it was) that they became a part of their family through adoption.

Visible adoptive families are becoming more common, just as transracial/multiracial families are in general. The stares are still here, but the tools to manage them and celebrate diversity are growing stronger. 

Things weren't always that way - at least in my world of white privilege. When several of my siblings were growing up as visibly different in our mostly Caucasian family, I didn't know how to answer the questions or respond to the double-takes.

Pre-adoption, I was blonde-haired Cindy Brady in our family of six kids, two parents, one overfed German Shepherd, and a five ton Buick station wagon. (Yes, it counted as a family member. It weighed more than a herd of elephants and had attitude.)

Enter younger siblings. Welcome unwelcome questions from strangers. I was fourteen when my parents adopted for the fourth time. (They said it was the last time... but they said that a lot!)

I took my newest sister out on the town a lot. Mostly to the mall with my friends or to the park, or swimming.

A few months went by and I ran into an old friend at the park. "Wow, I heard you had a baby. Let me see her.... Oh! So her dad's Indian? Cool."

I looked at my friend like she had three heads. Torn between defensive pride for my sister and distraught by the rumour, I had no idea what to say other than the truth. "She's my sister. She's adopted."

My friend (herself Indian) replied, "Oh. Why'd your parents adopt an Indian baby? Weren't there any white ones?"

I had NO prepared answer for that, only a reaction. "They adopted her because they wanted a baby. And... you're an idiot."

Probably not the most eloquent response, but it was an honest 14 year old reaction. Adoption wasn't new to me. My parents are serial adopters who somehow ended up with 12 kids when they finally decided their quiver was full.

Managing stupid questions? That was new. Thankfully, it's all part of the training for today's transracial adoptive families. Kudos to all those who work to celebrate, support, educate, and nurture the visible adoptive family.

And to my friend from the park who asked me a question all those years ago.... sorry for calling you an idiot. If you're reading this, yes there were white babies. You can apply to adopt one if you'd like! And if you do, I can help you prepare to deal with all the unwelcome questions you'll inevitably encounter.