Just Because I'm Hopeful, Doesn't Mean My Kids Won't Struggle!

I have often believed that being a parent of kids who are different races, different nationalities and from different cultures would help my kids to find the world as a place of equality. Or, at least to believe it is possible since they grew up in a home where that ideal was modeled.

We have worked hard, though are kids are still young, to show our kids what it means to love people, honor people and respect people no matter what they look like, sound like or believe. We believe that everything begins in love and respect.

But, quite honestly, we have often had to ask ourselves a question that I know we will not be able to answer. Will our kids face a true identity crisis in a mixed race, adoptive and colorful family?

The news has recently been filled with the story of Rachel Dolezal. She is an influential woman who was born White, but has chosen to live a life under the identity of being Black. She has come under much ridicule because of her choice to identify herself in another race. Which, honestly I find mind numbing since we celebrate individuals who choose to identify under a different sex. But, that is sensational nature of our American culture.

The interesting thing to me is that she has white parents, but adopted siblings who are black. She comes from a family who likely modeled some version or vision of a world built on equality and love. Her story particularly hit me this week when I heard that she has a brother adopted from Haiti. The make up of her family is much like mine in many ways.

I have often asked the question in regards to my girls, who are both adopted and black. Will they identify with being Black? Will they be able to integrate into a black community when they leave my home one day? Will they see themselves as Black or White by heritage? Will they look to marry someone who is White, Black or another race. Am I able to raise them with a healthy perspective on race and the cultural issues that plague our nation?

Maybe because I am White, I have not asked many of the same questions in regards to my White children. I can only assume it is because I am White, and I certainly understand being White. I ignorantly assume I will be able to answer all of the questions I just shared in regards to my White children in context to being White.

However, the story of Rachel Dolezal has caused me to consider more deeply that I should be asking, with the same weight, those very questions of all five of my children. After all, Rachel was raised White, by a White family. But she had Black, adopted siblings. What in her upbringing caused her to re-identify herself in another race and color? What gave her such internal passion and drive that she shocked her family with her decisions? I have listened to the interviews; even her Black, adopted siblings are unsure what has happened.

It has made me ask many questions these past few days. I have assumed too long, and am honest enough to admit, that in classifying race issues in my own home, that some but not all of my kids will struggle with identity. But, I am realizing, all of my kids will face these same struggles.

I believe that mixed race families and families who adopt outside of their own race need to start a healthy dialog. I believe we need to reconsider some deep issues. I am not saying we reconsider multi-racial, cross-racial or transracial adoption as an option. (I use all of those terms because terminology in the adoption world is shifting as we speak.) But, I am saying we need to consider best practices, resources and conversation for the betterment of our children. I am saying that we cannot live in ignorance. I am saying that we must be honest, open and learn from each other.

I am thankful for friends of all races, color and cultures. I am doing my best to learn from them. I am willing to be vulnerable in the process. Being a writer, influencer and speaker on the subject of adoption does not make me an expert.

I realize, even in our best efforts we cannot wipe this stigma of race and identity from the culture. Struggling with identity is part of the human process. This struggle becomes unhealthy when we struggle alone.

What are your thoughts on this issue? 

The Unheard Voice of Adoption

Today I want to feature the most amazing person, and most important person in the world to me. Today you are going to hear from my wife, Allison, as a guest blogger.

Allison and I want to give a voice to the countless mothers who make the greatest sacrifice any mother could ever make.

"I couldn't believe this time was actually here. I had thought about this day for a very long time, almost as much as the day I would meet Kaia. I had tried to picture it and imagine what it would be like and what I would say. We all walked into a fairly small room and all 10 birth mothers from our travel group were sitting there. We sat down and instantly tried to pick out Kaia's mom. I had three moms picked out that I thought could be a possibility. They started calling out the kids names and having the birth moms stand and adoptive families raise their hands. Birtukan (Kaia) was the third name they called and her mom was not one that I had picked out.

The silence in the room was awkward. Some of the birth moms were upset and crying. Kaia's mom, Shita, had tears streaming down her cheeks. I lost it and got out the Kleenex. I handed one of the moms who was very upset the pack to pass down to the other moms. 

After I knew who Shita was, I could definitely see Kaia in her. She looked very young and innocent. I noticed how tiny she was and how small her feet were. Here fingernails were dirty and I couldn't help but think how hard her life must be. She was beautiful. 

The families had to take turns to have their meetings and wait for translators to finish. We sat in the near silent room for what seemed like forever. We kept making eye contact with Shita and most times she would look away. At one point Michael made eye contact with her and she mouthed "thank you" and pointed her finger to the sky and looked up. She did the same with me as well. Our names were the second to last to be called. We went into a small office with Shita and a translator. We started off by telling her our names and about our boys. We gave her a photo album with some of our family pictures and all of the pictures we had received of Kaia. We showed her a picture of Evan and Noah and she smiled huge and began to kiss both of their faces. Michael told her he was a pastor and her face lit up with another smile. She told us that she believes in Jesus and sings with her church choir. 

The first question we asked her was for her to tell us about her family. She told us that her father had passed away and she lives with her mother and older siblings. And, that she attends secondary school. (She was 19) ........We asked her why she decided to relinquish Kaia for adoption. She said she had to give her up because she had nothing and no way to care for her. When we asked her what she wanted us to tell Kaia about her she said to let her know here mom and family are from Ethiopia and teach her about their culture. She asked that one day we bring her back for visit.

We asked how she wants us to raise her, and she said to LOVE JESUS and be in church.

We must have thanked her a million times and asked the translator to let her know how much we already loved Kaia and will give her a good home. Michael prayed over her and she was thankful. 

We stood up to say goodbye and she and I hugged. It is a hug that I will never forget. There were no words exchanged but yet so much. We couldn't speak each others language so the only way we could communicate was through our tight squeeze. We were both crying and held on for a long time. I tried to express all of my gratitude through that hug because it was all I had that I could give her. It is so hard to put into words, but it was almost like one mother relinquishing rights to the other......We hugged and kissed cheeks several more times. Saying goodbye and walking away was extremely hard. I knew that I would probably never see this woman again. Oh how I pray for God to watch over her. I pray He blesses her greatly for this huge sacrifice she has made."

Will you join us in praying for the moms that have made the ultimate sacrifice for their children. Will you pray God's blessings, safety, provision and love over them. Would you pray that God comforts them in the moments of sadness. Would you pray that we as God's church would step up and begin to love and serve these women who give so much to ensure the well being of the greatest gift God has ever given them. Let's give these moms a voice!