I never really thought I'd be a member of a transracial family.
We had a month between the time we were chosen by Matthew's mother and his birthday. That month was filled with washing onesies and buying diapers. In the early weeks of his life we were consumed with formula and poop and more formula and more poop and sleepless nights and how on earth we could get our infant to stop being angry with the world. I didn't have time to read up on transracial adoption.
But in the months that followed, as we waited to find out the fate of our family, I devoured essays, books, and blogs that addressed the new fact of our family.
Obviously, we are three parts vanilla and one part chocolate, brown and white, Caucasian and African-American. What kind of adversity will this bring?
Honestly, we've been blessed with accepting family and friends. Even public response has been incredibly favorable. On occasion I've received a sideways glance or a narrowing of the eyes but who can really be sure if this is the result of our different hues or the fact that one of the boys is throwing a public tantrum. I try very hard not to jump to any conclusions.
I try very hard not to be sensitive.
By far, the question I get asked the most is, "Where is he from?" In the days of increased Ethiopian, Haitian and Rwandan adoptions, people are always very curious as to what exotic place my son came from. I smile as I say, "He's from California." Both my boys were born in California, I think to myself but don't say aloud.
When we were in Anaheim we were walking quickly through Downtown Disney. I was pushing our double stroller with both boys in it. A woman passed by and looked into the stroller. Though I cannot be 100% sure, I am confident that she said, "That is not your baby!" I kept walking my way. She kept walking hers. I didn't say anything to anyone for about an hour. I just silently fumed. Not biologically, no, but spare me the commentary on my family.
The other day a woman approached me. She was quite elderly. Wearing a giant smile she asked me where my black boy came from. I tried to ignore the fact that she'd just clarified my son by his pigment. As I said before, I'm trying to be gracious with this question but it is starting to grate on my nerves. Earth. Africa by ancestry. The United States. California. It didn't bother me before but as he gets older it becomes more problematic.
"Mommy, why do people always ask me where I came from?" he'll question. It suggests that something about him is foreign, different. And, being in our family, something about him is different. Our family is different. But I want him to realize this for himself. In his time. Not because other people focus on our differences.
I told the woman that he is from California. She then told me how handsome he is, that she used to teach on the east coast and that the majority of her class was always black. She said that, living in Utah, she missed seeing more black people. I was trying to be friendly but also trying to get my kids away because we are very careful about letting our oldest child make his own conclusions about the differences between him and his brother based on our family and not on societal stigmas. So I just smiled and more specifically told her the city that he'd been born in. She seemed so genuinely happy to be having the conversation with me. Clearly she was elderly enough that she is probably very progressive in her thinking but I was still astounded when she finished with, "And then you adopted him. Obviously he isn't yours."
Good thing we were halfway out the door already. Good thing we were already about to go separate directions. Good thing Matthew is two and not twelve.
My son does not biologically belong to me. In fact, he doesn't belong to me at all because my children are not my possessions. But he has full rights in this family. His skin does not match mine but I am no less his mother than I am Garrett's. I am no less responsible for him than I am for his brother. I am no less in love with him than I am with my firstborn. Matthew is ours.