Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Transracial parenting

In an exercise with our social worker before we brought T home, we used colored beads to represent people of different races. We each filled a cup with beads to create a visual picture of the diversity of people we interact with on a regular basis. My cup absolutely stinks. I knew my world "wasn't very" diverse. Looking at my cup was a huge wake-up for me that my world is not diverse at all.

My embarrassingly pathetic cup:
  • White beads for my family
  • White beads for my co-workers
  • White beads for my friends (at least the ones who live close enough to hang out with)
  • White beads for my doctor and dentist
  • White beads for our neighbors
  • White beads for the kids at library story time
  • White beads for most of the teachers in our schools
  • White beads for the people at the churches we visit as we try to find the right fit for us
  • A few beads of different colors for people we see while out running errands, but really, mostly white ones
  • A few green beads for adopted kids of friends of ours
  • A green bead for T
This makes me so sad for T. Our school district is 1.8% Asian, so he would be the token Asian kid in his grade.

I've been reading a lot of adoptee blogs and In Their Own Voices, a book of interviews with transracial adoptees. It makes complete sense to me that the adoptees that seem to have the best self esteem and sense of identity are the ones who grew up in diverse communities so they could learn what it means to be African American/Asian/Latino from peers and mentors when they reach adolescence and start wondering about their identity and how they fit in.

What I'm doing about it: not enough. T will have the benefit or burden of growing up with the opportunities (or lack thereof) that we provide for him. I'm hoping that stating that publically will help me hold myself accountable for more action, because Thai art on our walls, kids books about diversity on T's shelf, and international music playing on our stero is not a substitute for T knowing people who look like him.
I have tried to find a non-white doctor and dentist for myself and T. I haven't had success in my area yet. (Nearby friends - help me out if you know anyone.)
We connected with a wonderful Thai woman who said she can introduce us to some Thai families with kiddos. We can't wait!
We're seriously discussing moving to a more diverse city when T is older.
It's a responsibility that feels daunting but it's absolutely our responsibility. And if we can overcome our shyness (Kyle and I would not exactly rate at the top of the Outgoing scale) and make some connections with Thai families, the rewards for all of us would be great.

Here's an excellent Transracial Parenting Resource Manual from the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association.



Hannah said...

I went to a fabulous lecture about this last fall. The guy is a PhD in sociology and focuses on race relations...I'll look for the info. He said when he was adopted and his parents moved to a more diverse neighborhood it was the best thing ever....I'll send you an email because there is so much to share!

Glen and Andrea said...

Great post - I've never heard of that bead exercise before. That is one we should try. We are in a very white community here so that is what pushed us to move. Our family doesn't understand it at all, their thinking is that extended family is more important but we know we will still see them regularly. Family will come to stay and make phone calls, we will visit family. If we continued to live here we wouldn't be able to have those interactions with thais. I think I'm not making much sense here but thanks for encouraging me to try to ask around and find a Thai or at least asain dentist once we move.

rosemary said...

Thanks for sharing so honestly! We left behind both our families to move to NYC 4 years ago for work and we have stayed very close to them despite the distance. Now we are moving again for another job. Eventually we feel that our goal is to end up in California so that our kids can have a truly diverse social experience. These decisions are complicated though!

Jen and Jeff said...

The cool thing, Robin, is that you guys are aware of it and seeking out Thai families and ethnic diversity. I think some people aren't aware of it's importance at all. I'm sure as you are seeking out people (or even moving) a lot of new diverse friends will come into your life. Best of luck to your beautiful little family!

Chris, Terri, Matt and Mark said...

Great Post! I have often wondered how I will tell the mom at the basketball game which child is mine on the court. She will be the only Non-White child on the court so do I say the one with the dark brown hair #5 or do I say the Asian one? I'm not giving everyone credit that they'll even know what a Thai child looks like which is why I posted a random Thai child pic on my blog. Sometimes I think stating the obvious just makes sense but I don't want it to sound cruel or racist as I'm clearly not. Good luck to us all with all that is all I can say. How many times can I say "all" in a sentence. :)