—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.—