Monday, July 30, 2012

Love is not enough...

Today we took the kids to their first Country Fair.  All the way there, Daniel asked lots of questions, "What is a fair? Will there be games there? Will it be fun? But what is a fair?!"... After a while I said, "Daniel, you're going to have to trust me."

To which I got a well deserved eye roll.

There is an ongoing debate about whether it is okay for white families to raise black children.  In the 70's the black social worker association came out against it.  Our own adoption agency has a special department, formed decades ago, aimed at increasing adoption of African-American children into Black families.  Every time another celebrity is spotted with an African-American newly adopted child the media goes at it again: race, adoption, racism, heritage, white privilege, and on and on.

Most of us adoptive parents would probably agree: it is better for a child to have a family.  Would it be wonderful if all children were raised within their own cultural/racial group? Yes.  It would also be wonderful for all children to be raised by their first family. It would also be wonderful if poverty, disease, fear and religious intolerance didn't cause children to be relinquished and families torn apart.

When Andrew and I started pursuing our African adoption, we got some interesting comments from folks about choosing to raise Black children.  (I'll spare you- use your imagination. Polite racism, anyone?) We read some, we reflected a lot, and we tried to come up with a plan to help our children learn about their ethnic and racial identity.  We knew that this would be one of our biggest challenges (and it is), not because there aren't lots of challenges in adopting and parenting, but because we, as white folks, were the least prepared for this one.  We felt guilty (and still do, sometimes) about taking our children from a proud country (Ethiopia was never colonized, the only African nation to escape that fate.) in which they were the majority race, to America, where they would not only be in the minority, but have a low status- unknown in Africa.  The shooting of Trayvon Martin shook me to the core, as I realized that not only would we have to educate our son about his position in our society for his own safety, we would have to do it soon. Way too soon.

So here we are at the fair! Tra-la-la-la-la.  We had a lovely time.  They rode ponies, we saw a steer pull, we ate fried dough.  We got lots of stares, not only because my children were 2 of the 3 black people there, but also because this is Maine and everyone knows each other, so as strangers we got a lot of looks.  What were these people doing watching a steer pull?! (If you've never been to a country fair, you need to.  I'm just sorry we missed the pig scramble.)

Daniel now knows what a fair is. And, maybe he learned to trust me, just a little bit more.

The truth is,  Love is not enough. Love does not overcome racial stereotypes, the loss of a family, the loss of a culture and a language.  Love is not enough to make a family. Not even love and lots of injera will work.

Trust is the thing we need. Trust is the thing we work on every single day. Trust is the thing we will need in order to help Daniel and Lily navigate this crazy world.

Every morning I go over what our day will be like with Daniel. I tell him, sometimes 2-3 times, our schedule, and who we will see, and what we will eat, and what will be challenging, and what I hope will be fun, and what I expect him to do.  At night we talk about our favorite part of the day, and then we go over what will happen tomorrow. If I'm not sure that we will do something, I say so, or I just leave it to be a surprise.  It is too important that Daniel learn to trust that what we say will happen, does happen.  This child has had too many nasty surprises in his life, it is understandable that he hates them.  It's understandable that he doesn't trust us, not yet.

Every day we live up to his expectations, every day we don't let him down is another day to build that trust.

So next year, he'll know what a fair is.

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