Saturday, September 09, 2006

Just like me

Shortly after we accepted the referral from our agency over the phone, we received, by mail, the "official" referral packet. It contained a few million more papers to sign and return, but it also contained the photos of our kids which we had only seen via email at that point. I need to point out that EVERYONE here at the ark from big to small had ALL seen the pictures--even down to N (known by many as Frances). When we first saw the photos on line we all oohed and aahed appropriately and despite our printer quality; printed out these first photos to share. Now, I have known for some time that our printer was not of the highest quality, but it got the job done; or so I thought until the day the real photos arrived in the mail. As I opened the packet and went to share the photos with the kids the conversation between our 3 year old, CB, and I went something like this:

Me: Oh look, here are the pictures of Baby Thomas and Helen (showing first the baby's photo)

CB: (smiling) That's Baby Thomas.

Me: Yes, and here is your big sister, Helen.

CB: (sudden look of shock on her face) Mamma, Helen is BLACK!

Me: (probably with the same look of shock on my face) Well, yes she is. That's how God made her. Her skin is a different color than yours or mine.

CB: (shock now fading to a three year old's disappointment) Mamma, but I want her (now pointing at her arm) to be just like me.

I smiled at her and reminded her of the many people she knows and loves who don't look exactly like her and after a minute she smiled and said she was going outside to play with the kids. But as I watched her run off, it struck me that what she said may be at the heart of people's hesitance towards adoptions, particularly those of the transracial kind. How will we connect to this child who is not born of us? who maybe looks different than us?

When each of our four birth children was born before they were even a week old people commented on how much they looked like my husband or I. I don't think anyone means anything by it; I think it's almost a reflex to seeing a new baby. "He's so cute. He looks just like his dad!" or "She's adorable. I'll bet she looks just like you as a baby!" And honestly, as a parent, there is something innately satisfying and, perhaps even a little vain, in seeing the children who are only here because, as Brad Paisley puts it "all because two people fell in love."

But somewhere along the line, we decided that family meant more than the same gene pool. As a matter of fact, we've seen four times what our particular combinations of DNA produce and it may be a good idea to bring a few better, I mean, different chromosomes to the table (just kidding P, B, CB, and N-we love you just as you are).

And now we're hoping that when Helen and Baby Thomas arrive that they don't look at us and think, "Boy. I wish they looked just like us."


Katie said...

Great story- I knew right where it was going when you mentioned the printer quality. Probably good that you got things cleared up with Claire before her knew siblings arrive. We wouldn't want her to take matters into her hands (or mouth!).

The Cooper Family said...

I've never had any biological children, and so I will never forget the one and only time a stranger commented to me that one of my (adopted) children looked like me. While it was a very odd comment (baby 100% black, me 100% white), it was a GREAT feeling! The problem we sometimes deal with now is that I have one black boy and one biracial boy who want to be white like us.

patjrsmom said...

Thanks for sharing that, Julie. I hadn't thought about the opposite of the kids actually wanting to be like US.