Thursday, October 01, 2009

The question

A friend of mine told me today that when Jameson rode with them in their car a few weeks ago after soccer practice, she asked them if they were embarrassed to be seen with her because she was black.


My friend was very distressed about it. She thought she had said something or done something to make Jameson say this.

I have to admit when I first heard it, I too was quite distressed, upset, and honestly embarrassed. Have I failed as an adoptive parent of an African-American child that she would think it, much less say it?

Embarrassed? Why? That's an odd response. I know. I'm pouring my heart out here people. I don't have the answers. I'm really trying to work this one out in my mind.

I guess a part of me is devastated that she would even think that. We try SO hard to make sure that we don't and others around us don't ever insinuate that anyone is better than anyone else. There is no difference. And we make sure to tell that to ALL of the children. Girls can do anything boys can do. We learned sign language to communicate with our deaf friends. We talk about people who look different than us and the fact that God made us all. We are equal in His eyes, therefore we should be equal in each others eyes.

I don't know. I don't even know where to start with this. It's not that she doesn't have friends who look like her. I can't imagine she wonders if people are embarrassed of her dark skinned friends. We have more friends who have dark kids than we do friends with light kids. It's not that she doesn't see many, many other families that look just like ours.

A part of me wonders if what she was really saying was not about race or ethnicity, but more about Jameson herself.

"Are you embarrassed to be with me?"

She has such an innate sense of inferiority. I see it all the time. I see it in her nervousness to answer questions in school. I see it in her constant need for approval from everyone. Her performance anxiety follows her everywhere. I hear it in her apology for every thing she does.

Today I heard her asking the Magic 8 Ball, "Am I special?"

She comes from a country where, let's be honest, women and especially little girls, are not seen as having a lot to offer. She has lived in superstar brother Josh's shadow her whole life. Before they came home, when people who had met them would talk about them, it was always about him. Never about her. It's like she was invisible.

And to be perfectly honest, a part of me wonders if she doesn't say and do things like that with the right people just to get the attention she so desires. I notice when she's with other maternal figures, she often does things to "cling" on to them.

If I'm talking with friends, Jameson won't leave the room to play with the other kids. She often asks friends mothers to do things for her that she can very well do on her own. The mom she said this to is one of the moms she really clings on.

I know.

It screams attachment disorder. And perhaps it is. I researched some on anxiety and attachment disorder and she seems to meet a lot of the criteria. I just kept thinking *hoping* it would get better. She doesn't seek others attention to avoid contact with me. Believe me, she's just as attention seeking with me. She knows who her caregivers are, yet it seems as though she never can get enough attention.

And I know it's about her. It's 100% about her, but it also becomes exhausting to attempt to make up for all of her inner issues.

It's not pretty. I admit it. It's becoming my own issue. My own parenting inferiority.

So what do I do?

Call Oprah and ask for advice on how to raise a secure African-American girl? Maybe I could get on her show...

What would you do?

And which scenario is worse?

The fact that she believes herself to be inferior because of her race?


The fact that she would say something like that just to get more attention from a mother who isn't hers?

For the first time ever, I questioned whether I had done the right thing... bringing children of a different color into our family. Not so much our family, but rather into this very Caucasian area of the country.

I will be honest, I never thought much about it. I exaggerate. I thought about it. I just thought it would be something that enough love and enough reassuring would make up for it.

Did I just admit that?

I guess I had so much love to give, that I assumed we'd all be singing kumbaya around a campfire somewhere not noticing that we were all different colors. Color was never an issue to me, therefore I wrongly assumed color wouldn't be an issue to them. I'm so afraid I made a crucial miscalculation in the importance of what is means to be black. What it means to "fit" in and be a part of the black community.

How do I go about that when I have no idea?

I would love to hear from my African-American readers about your thoughts on this. Adoptive parents - any ideas? I'm desperate to do the right thing. I don't want her to spend another minute thinking any of these thoughts.

Makes me wanna sing kumbaya by some campfire and not think about it... kinda like sticking my head in the sand.

Ah... sweet campfire sand. I miss you.



*Gi* said...

Wiping the slate completly clean and starting back with the Race Card. It shows she's very in touch with her surroundings.

She grew up in a place that is predominately black. Despite her teachings, she was removed from that environment and placed in a predominately white environment. Every female in your home is white. She is home-schooled. I know she has black friends, but it doesn't dominate the race anymore.

She sees she's different, and that has nothing to do with you or anyone telling her the wrong things. She looks around and it's like you seeing that 5 patients have grey hair, but one has red hair. That's all. She is trying to define her place in her new world. Once she feels comfortable that no one is ashamed of her because she's black, she will move on from that.

I hope that came out the way I intended. I know what I mean, but always articulate that.

Bottom line, you're doing very well for those children and this, too, shall pass.

*Gi* said...

Sorry, but *don't* always articulate that is what I tried to type. ;)

Shaun said...

I think this is very noraml and typical of minority children in white households. Like G says, she sees that she is different from the majority and that makes her feel "abnormal". Continue to assure her that she is special and beautiful, surround her with people that looks like her, not just friends but black professionals. She will have issues, I think that's impossible to avoid but build up her self-esteem and she will be just fine. You are an awesome mom and YOU could teach Oprah a few things about parenting. She has her issues too! We all do.

Laurie said...

I can't exactly give any advice as I'm relatively new at this and my little one is too young to express such things. I know the day will come for her to have these questions and insecurities, and I value your experiences and insight. Much of your posting resonated strongly with me, especially the part about you not thinking race would be a big deal because it's not to you. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I know you're a great mom!

Julie said...

You're doing a great job. Don't be discouraged. It is strange to navigate these waters isn't it. Is there something she's really good at, or enjoys that you could really play up. Everyone makes a big deal of Wen's athletic ability so I try to make just a big a deal out of Beza's artistic side (although she's pretty athletic too).

MommyBrec said...

I am SO GLAD you posted about this!!!!! Just this week, my little boy has started "noticing" he is different. Okay, so he noticed earlier, but we never really TALKED about it...I have talked to him about being from Africa, and he knows that makes his hair curly and his eyes dark...But he has started saying things about him being "black" and I totally freeze when he says it! I am like, "What do I do with this information, or this statement?!", and I bury my head in the sand, too.

I am anxious to see how things go with your family as time goes on. In many ways, I read your blog for ADVICE! You are such an amazing mother with such a loving and good family. As a young, single Mom of a "black" child, I have really learned a lot from your blog. Thank you for being honest and allowing us, your followers, to learn from you!

Thank you, too, to everyone who has posted comments on this topic! I have gained a lot of insight about how to handle this with my own son.

Larsons said...

I guess I would say This is the way God made you. This is the way God made me. That what keeps thing from being boring. Just like there are different flowers, red, yellow, blue, purple, all have a very special purpose. momm