Growing Up Black in White, on this blog. Visit Kevin's website for more resources and to follow his blog, My Mind on Paper. We are grateful for his permission to post some of his thoughts from an adoptee's point of view.
“Did you ever want a brother or sister growing up who looked like you?”
As a transracial adoptee(TRA), author and speaker, whenever I go speak and share my experiences growing up as a TRA I often get this question. My answer is very simple yet very layered so I hope that everyone can follow me.
“No.” This is usually the response I give and I often get puzzled looks and then I see the parents gently lean forward urging me to continue. So I gladly do and here is my complete response:
As an adoptee one of the issues I have always struggled with is my constant battle with rejection. No matter how or why, in the end my mother gave me away. It doesn’t matter whether it was the right decision for her or me, in the end the woman who gave birth to me chose not to keep me. With that decision came a feeling of not being good enough or not being wanted. Growing up I would feed the need to be accepted and liked by shoving spoonful after spoonful of attention in to my soul. I inhaled attention because it calmed and quieted the whispers that said, “No one likes you! You’re not worthy.”
Transracial adoption afforded me a great opportunity to get additional attention. I only have one other friend that was adopted so that made me unique. I was the different one in the family and the attention that came with that whether good or bad still fed the whispers. To have another child of color in my family would have been like inviting a thief into my den of treasures. Another child would mean I would have to split the attention…IN HALF! Nope, not something I was interested in doing.
For me this was not something I wanted so I answer the question as it is asked. “Do you…” But typically, I know parents want to know if I think this is a good idea FOR THEM. There were several times I would answer that question as it applied to me and never understood I missed an opportunity to address an important issue. So now I answer personally and more globally.
The parents really want to know if adopting another child that looks like their transracially adopted child will help the children so they don’t always have to be the only one all the time. The thought is that having another child of color to walk with them will give them someone to share this like experience with. The children have someone to talk to about what they are going through and feeling.
Yes, it could!
Here’s the important issue that I now address.
Children take their lead from their parents. If the parents don’t openly talk about adoption and issues of race it sends a message to the kids these are issues we don’t talk about. I know a transracial adoptee that was adopted with their twin and since the parents never talked about adoption, race, or the conflicting messages and issues that come with those, the twins never talked about it either.
These issues must be discussed openly as a family sending the message to the whole family that they are issues that can be discussed. I think creating an open and honest environment in the home provides the right soil for confident children to grow and it helps quiet the whispers I still hear.