Written by guest blogger Shakella Washington
We have a blended family. There are five children in our home and two adults. Two of my boys are adopted (they are one and five years old), my husband and I have one child together (nine years old), and we both came into the relationship with one child each (14 and 16 years old). All five children live in our home full-time: that is, seven days a week, 365 days a year--and it can get wild!
My husband and I are often told how much of a blessing we are and how thankful our boys should be, specifically referring to our younger two children. Well. This might surprise you, but here is my perspective:
We are not a blessing to them, and they should not be thankful for us. We are just regular people--nothing special about us.
Their journeys in foster care were very different: from their case plans to their adoptions, they were just different. From adoption comes loss--a huge loss for children being adopted--no matter the trauma prior.
That loss shows up everywhere. It shows up during that yearly celebration (or reminder) about the day ties were lost to their biological parents, or the day their given name was changed to please us adoptive parents. We don’t celebrate a “Gotcha Day” in our home. [“Gotcha Day" is a phrase that denotes the anniversary of the day on which a new member joins a family in the adoption process.]
I’ve learned so much on both of these adoption journeys that I didn’t know prior, things that I said I’d “never do!”
I’ve learned how to be in an open adoption with extended family even though we are a kinship adoption. This is so important to children that are adopted. To be able to see who you look like and who you get that quirk from is amazing. To see someone with skin like yours and lips that look like you… it’s something our kids need.
I’ve learned from first-parents why given names can be important and why trying to help a mom/dad parent could be so much more beneficial than writing them off.
My son Kai’s name was a part of his middle name; we made it his first name because everyone called him Kai, but if I knew some of the things I know now I might have tried to press and find out what meaning his given name had to his first parents.
These are things you aren’t taught in a foster care or adoption class. Somehow I’ve had some pretty awesome people come alongside me and help me understand these things better, people that have been in my boys’ shoes as children and are trying to help educate us adoptive parents now that they are adults.
There are many things about my children’s stories that I wish I had not shared before. I lacked in that department--I thought I was showing how strong they were, but in reality I wasn’t. I’ve learned since then that information is private and for them to share... if and when they get ready. I cannot imagine if someone I didn’t know knew my birth story and why my parents could no longer parent me, if I came with bruises and lice or my belongings in a trash bag. Those things are personal and should be kept private.
There are also topics that need to be discussed when considering transracial adoptions that are often simply skipped over.
The fact is that raising children is already hard; imagine adding on a layer of race to the mix. Raising children in your home is awesome, but we need to make sure we are aware of the things those children need, especially when, culturally, we haven’t been in their shoes. This is often hard for us adoptive parents to accept. Children need love, yes, but they also need to know and understand the real world and what challenges they could face because of their race or skin color.
Right now my 5-year-old only sees his brother as white. Even though I tell him he is brown like us, because Jonah is lighter, Kai has it stuck in his head that Jonah is white. I took this opportunity to show him our arms, to point out how we are all different shades of brown I’m so glad he can see that we are different and that different is ok. I would be doing him a disservice by raising him to be ‘colorblind.’
We aren’t superheroes or a blessing to our children; we’re just ordinary people trying to make a small impact in this world.