Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Black Baby White Hands

We didn't go looking for an African-American baby. But then, we didn't go looking for something else either. We were open to any ethnicity. The pigment of our baby's skin hardly mattered to us. It was rather exciting to wonder if we'd be chosen by a birth mother carrying an Asian daughter or a Caucasian son or some other wonderful combination of heritage.

When we were chosen by an African-American woman I knew that I wanted to prepare myself for what that might mean. What would he feel like being the one cookie in a family of Oreo frosting centers? Would he resent it when we all compared our tans and deemed him the winner every single time? What would it be like for him to blatantly and obviously flow with a different set of genes than his older, whiter brother?

I wanted to learn what to do and what not to do before we ever brought that boy home. But, I barely had enough time to prepare for the fact that we were going to get him. The month between being chosen and sitting in the operating room waiting for him to be cut from his mother was consumed with all the nesting and preparation that most women fill half a year with.

I'll start when we get home. After all, he has the same basic needs as my firstborn had. Eat. Sleep. Poop. Repeat.

I wanted to start collecting literature on raising a transracial child so that I would be prepared for his different needs as he developed. But what with all the lawyers and court dates and general stress of all that's happened on top of all the poopy diapers and baths and daily grinds, it just didn't happen.

Until now. I want to be well educated on how to best care for this child. I have all the love in the world and that works great for now. It will probably work great for several years--and I'm hoping I have that long with him. But it won't be all that matters when he's eight or eleven or fifteen. Likely, he will see our racial divide and he'll have needs. I want to be able to nurture those questions or concerns. I want him to feel that his blackness is something to be embraced and not something to hide under the blanket of a white family.

I'm reading essays and articles online. I've got a list of books I can check out from the library. And I'm reading two books. One of them is Black Baby White Hands: A View From the Crib. The book is Jaiya John's autobiography. It is his story. It will not be Matthew's because, as John says, "Six billion variations of perspective are what make humankind so volatile." We all have a different perspective. We all have a different experience. There are parts of John's story that I will not take with me into parenting my child. His lack of a religious upbringing certainly shaped him. Hopefully, Matthew's introduction and instruction in our faith will mold him a different way. But there are pieces of Jaiya John's story that I am so thankful for--pieces that give me another perspective on race.

I want to do right by both of my sons. I want them to be brothers. I want one to know his heritage. I want to see how far the apple falls from the tree. I want the other to know his heritage, as well. I accept that he may grow off of an apricot branch that is entwined with those of an apple tree and land, nevertheless, at the base of the apricot tree. What matters to me is not that one piece of fruit is an apple and the other an apricot. What matters is that both are fruit. They are completely different, but they need the same things to grow.

I hope that, by educating myself, Matthew learns that it's a marvelous thing being an apricot. I hope he doesn't feel like he has to be an apple. But, secretly, I hope that when he falls, he lands at the base of the apple tree--accepted and comfortable with being an apricot but thankful for growing so close to the apples.


  1. You are indeed a good mom. :)

  2. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love and appreciate the apricot/apple metaphor.

  3. I have a friend who recently adopted an African American baby. I think it's wonderful and praiseworthy and you have two adorable boys! I'm going to pass your blog onto her. I'm the proud mama of three sons/oliveshoots!