Friday, April 22, 2016

the heart of a transracial mama...

Some days I have no idea how to be a white mama to a brown son.  

In many ways, it looks the same as how you'd raise any other child-- kissing boo boo's, preparing them for kindergarten, disciplining and redirecting all that ENERGY!, struggling to survive until bedtime, etc.  

But in other ways, it's vastly different (and I think it should be) trying to help your child develop their racial identity if they don't share it with either parent.

I wouldn't call transracial parenting the "ideal" scenario for a child.  I can understand and support people's hesitations with it.    

Adoption itself isn't the "ideal," either.  Babies are supposed to stay with their birth families.  Couples are supposed to have the ability to conceive.  

But life is broken.  It isn't how it's supposed to be.  Things don't go the way we hope they will go.

And it's out of that brokenness that adoption is born.   

Every adoption is different.  There's adoption following foster care, infant adoption, international adoption, transracial adoption, open adoption, mediated adoption, closed adoption, and even embryo adoption. 

But one thing is the same: every adoption is born out of loss.  

So it's probably no wonder that with adoptive parenting comes its own set of insecurities and challenges.

From an outside perspective, I think transracial adoption can be perplexing on many levels, including why someone would even "sign up" for it in the first place.  Some people see my family and think we have a "white messiah complex" for adopting a black child.  Others think it is unfair for Jameson to be raised in a white family, and honestly?  Some days, I have to say I agree.  

Because at the end of the day, maybe I can give Jameson all the love, all the food/shelter/clothing, all the education, and all the skills to be successful, but what does a white mama like me know about giving my son his racial and cultural identity?  

As hard as I try, I know I naturally have huge deficiencies in this area of parenting.  I can't do it alone.  I know I need help in a BIG way from my friends of color and from the african american community at large.  (And that will only increase as Jameson gets older.)  

Diversity isn't just some nice aspiration.  In my family, it's a necessity.

And I'm not the only one who sees it.  A few months ago, our family attended a multi-ethnic church downtown on a rare Sunday off from my position of worship director.  It was nice to be in a setting where I was the minority.  Immediately upon sitting down, my sweet Jameson pointed to the people on stage and excitedly said, "Brown!"  He's THREE YEARS OLD and now refers to our church as the "white church."   

Being a transracial parent in our house means always evaluating: Are we doing enough?  How can we learn and understand more about race?  What is age appropriate and how do we present it to him?  How can we reprogram our own past and current presuppositions about race?  How can we bring more diversity into our family?  What changes do we need to make in order for that to happen?  

The insecurities don't stop there.  

Does his hair look moisturized enough?  Does it look like a white mama did it?  Can he wear pajamas with a monkey on it?  Should he play with toy guns outside?  Will black people accept us?  Will white people accept us?  Will they still think he's that "cute" when he wants to date their white daughter?  Will Jameson be able to navigate black culture?   How do I prepare him for encounters with direct and subtle racism?

Really, sometimes it's enough to make me question what God was thinking in the first place.  I wonder if I can really do this.

I don't know what this journey looks like down the road, but my heart's desire is to be a great mama to Jameson.  I love my son to pieces.

I want him to grow up and laugh at his white mama, knowing how dang hard I at least tried.  
I want him to know I love him AND his culture.
I want more of his culture in ME, not simply just for him.
I want him to see my feeble attempts towards bridge building and reconciliation between races.  
I want him to be a man that sees the image of God stamped upon all races, despite an embarrassing history in our nation.  
I want him to learn to be gracious and forgiving for all the ignorant, unjust things he will encounter in his lifetime.  
I want him to be proud to be black, proud of his rich heritage.

Whenever I'm overwhelmed with the insecurities of being a transracial mama, it helps me to remember how I got this "job" to be Jameson's mom in the first place.  

It was Jameson's birthmother and birthfather who looked at our lily white complexions... AND STILL PICKED US. 

God could've brought me a son through conception.  He could've given us a child who shared our racial heritage.  But in His sovereign plan (though it may make little sense), He chose Jameson for us through Jameson's birthparents.

So who knows how God will use our little family in Jameson's life one day?

One thing is for sure.

How much He's already used little Jameson in this family's life.


  1. Thank you, Amy, for these words. As a white mama to a black daughter, I can relate SO much. Such truth spoken here. Thanks, again! Amy McCraw