Thursday, July 07, 2016

What adoption has taught me

It's no secret that adoption changes you and your family. Adding another child to one's family always changes things. That's not a surprise. I don't think I fully anticipated exactly how changed it would make me, though. How have I been changed?

1. I know 100% that I don't have all the answers. I used to be a good parent. I used to know exactly what to do in every situation. I used to have it all together. Now? Not so much. I know I get it wrong. I know that each child is different and that good parenting looks very different for different children. I know I do not have all the answers and I'm usually making it up as I go along. In fact, I know we are all just making it up, even if we realize it or not.

2. I am a much more humble person. This comes of not knowing what the heck I'm doing. And trust me, it's a much better place to be. Easier. Less image to maintain. Plus, it's more fun. If you are not always right, there is room to be wrong. There's room to make mistakes.

3. I am better at seeing someone's humanity. I'll admit it. Before I had children with visible challenges, it kind of frightened me. How does one talk to someone with challenges? Interact with them? It's not terribly flattering, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one to feel that way. I am not perfect at this (see point 1), but I am far more comfortable than I was. Living with someone who just happens to have challenges will do that to a person. It normalizes it. It makes you realize that this person really is just a person... good and bad, happy and sad... just like anyone else. How do you treat them? Like you would any other person you interact with. Like a human.

4. There really is such a thing as white privilege. For those of you about to pick up your rocks, hear me out for a moment. I am about as conservative as you can get. (Well, aside from that whole bizarre-Trump-thing. Hell in a hand basket is a phrase that comes to mind on that score.) Anyway, before raising children of a different race, I was right there with you. I wanted to be color blind. I wanted to the world to be color blind. That would be great. We're all people aren't we? And then a funny thing happened. I became a mother to a child of color and things changed. Not always, but often, people treat my children of color differently. And this is the mild, model minority (a problem in and of itself) version. No one ever comments on the race of my white children. More often than not, the race of my Asian children is noted, sometimes in less than ideal ways. Thank you to the person, who upon meeting my three year old son, looks at my son, puts his hands together and bows. (Insert sarcastic emoticon.) Oh, he must be so athletic. Oh, they're (meaning Asian) so smart. I didn't want to see the difference, but at some point, being with them, you realize you are not making it up. It is a thing. You cannot avoid it. It is particularly noticeable when I'm out with just my white children and in general am treated differently... or just ignored... because we get a huge giant pass. This is all very mild compared to what others experience, those friends who happen to be parenting children of African descent. Those stories are not so benign.

5. We humans are just not that good at imagining compassion. All of these experiences with my perceived self-concept bumping up against a broader reality tell me something. I thought I was good. I thought I was right. I thought I was compassionate. And I was wrong. (see point 1). We have to meet and learn to care about others... a wide variety of others... in order to become truly compassionate. We can't stay where we are, imagining what others are like, and understand. We must interact with real people. People who are different from us. We have to learn to care about them. We have to learn to be wrong.

1 comment:

Carla said...

I know I've commented quite a bit lately, but this post struck me. We have not adopted (yet?), but #3, 4 and 5 all could apply to me. I feel convicted that my views of myself may really not be very accurate.

Thank you.

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