Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Papa Dog Woofs

—I’m anxious about raising a black child. I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the canon of information pertaining to transracial adoption. Trying really hard to educate myself about what Ava's needs might be and how we can best prepare and be race-conscious without being overconscious, and not "colorblind" either. I’m struck by the notion that even with the best of intentions and resources and gobs of love there will always be something I can’t truly understand. What is it like to grow up black in America?

Let me start by saying I believe my wife and I will make great parents. We are both deeply sensitive and caring people. And while I have to leave the room when the ASPCA commercials with the Sarah Mclachlan song come on and I may have teared up (fine broke out in a full sob) during a viewing of My Dog Skip, I also like to think I have quiet reserves of strength. I think that same piece of me that can’t bear to watch defenseless animals suffer or be lonely is the one that bolsters me in a crisis. It will enable me to give everything I have to this little girl, whom I don’t yet know, but who is nevertheless a being in need of nurturing and love. And who is going to be my daughter.

That being said, I bristle already at the notion that she’ll face discrimination in her life. That she may not always be afforded the same assumptions I was in school. That she may face marginalization by her peers or teachers or potential employers. I have started questioning whether I live in the right community. Is it diverse enough? Will she feel comfortable here? Who will be her role models of color?

Her foundation of loving herself and being proud of who she is will start with us. It won’t end there, but we’re determined to make sure she’s strong and humble and kind and generous and that she always feels LOVED. Then it’s up to us to put ourselves out there for her sake. To expand our own community and face whatever possible discomfort as we walk through the world as a family of color. Her life is going to teach us as much about who we are as we can hope to teach her. I feel incredibly fortunate.

Recently I was discussing parenting with a friend. He shared with me the notion, purportedly from a Japanese monk he admired, that it’s important to move away from the idea of ownership when it comes to children. Every person is a unique soul. Our role as parents is to nurture that soul, that being, until they leave our charge and then continue to be a source of strength for them when needed. I think this sounds wise. And I think allowing the room to think this way will prevent my ego from taking any hardship our daughter endures too personally while also allowing her triumphs to shine in their own grandeur. Her life won't have to be a reflection of me being the #1 Dad (ah, the musings of the never-been-a-parent). Even now as she sits in her crib in Ethiopia she’s started her own journey. We’ll try and be the best guides we can be from here on out.

I now return you to Mama Dog.—

8 comments:

Julia said...

The Zen-like philosophy is noble and admirable but I'd hate to be the first person to give your child (or mine) a hard time. About anything. If I know Mama Dog (and myself), it isn't gonna be pretty.

Oh, and one of Ex's finest qualities was that whenever that Sarah McSong came on the TV, he would yell, "LOOK AWAY" while he dove for the remote to change it.

Danni and Tommy said...

Definitely two bright, beautiful, beating hearts.

Julie said...

What Danni said...

los cazadores said...

Seems like you'll be amazing, thoughtful parents...

Gayla said...

i loved this post. i have shared some of the same thoughts- feelings of inadequacy when it comes to parenting a black child. you put it out there in a beautiful and thoughtful way. thanks.

phulmaya said...

I was just thinking today about this. Our daughter has been home for 7 months now (she's just over a year old) and b4 she came home I did all the reading, thinking, mulling, etc. Now that she's home and she's my daughter, not "my black daughter" or "my Ethiopian daughter" it is easy to think that everything will just work itself out - that because we love her and she has a stable, (hopefully!) good family that she will be ok. But she won't, and when she's not, will I have the answers? Will I know when to listen and when to offer advice and when to beat the crap out of those dumb kids who are giving her a hard time??

filoli said...

Yeah, I agree, what Danni said...

Make it 3, I am already counting the divine Miss. Ava as well.

Sarah said...

I completely relate to the sensitive dog lovers in you both, Mama and Papa Dog.

We have three dogs (and have had as many as six at one time). They were all treasured "finds" who needed us. They taught us how to love them and to treat each other better. We are better people because of our dogs.

Watching the love between our dogs and our children, who happen to be fabulous Ethiopian Americans, is one of the greatest joys of our lives. It's really a FULL CIRCLE feeling...of lives somehow meant to be connected and fitting together perfectly. I eagerly await the news of your child joining your wonderful family.

Sincerely,
Sarah C.
Raleigh, NC
mom of Mihret (age 13) and Tsion (age 10)