Friday, June 25, 2010
Adjusting to inter-racial adoption
A few weeks ago I traveled to Ethiopia to pick up our adopted son Isaac. Isaac was abandoned as a newborn infant and spent the first year and a half of his life in an orphanage. Thankfully, the orphanage was staffed with loving Christian women that showered him with hugs and kisses. The flip side, however, is that there were--surprisingly--more workers than children, so Isaac had people at his beck and call 24/7, and since the goal of an orphanage in Ethiopia is to nourish the babies until their adoptive parents come for them, discipline was hardly emphasized. Whenever Isaac wanted something, all he had to do was to scream, hit, and throw his toys and he got exactly what he wanted--not easy habits to break.
So what's my new life like as an inter-racial parent? Well, for starters, my days of staying up until midnight and sleeping in are history. It's one thing to father an infant. It's quite another thing to father an infant and a toddler at the same time. The two boys are a year apart which makes it difficult for my wife who is still breastfeeding Christian, our six-month old son.
Since Isaac spent the first year and a half of his life with other people and is now suddenly thrust into a completely different setting, he has some separation anxiety. For the first two weeks, he wanted to be held every second of the day, and when I put him down, he would scream to the top of his lungs. I used to make fun of dads that seem to have no problem reducing themselves to the role of Pee-Wee Herman in order to entertain their toddlers. Now after spending 21 hours on an airplane with my own toddler, it's official. I get it.
Adjusting to an international/inter-racial adoption is difficult, but one of the things that I haven't had to deal with--at least not yet--is dirty looks and insensitive remarks. Everywhere my wife and I go, people are warm and friendly with us and our son. Black people, white people, Hispanics and Native Americans; the reactions are all the same. Some--especially white people-- will go out of their way to show their approval.
I'm under no illusion that things will stay this way. Nor do I think that our family is immune to the challenges that inter-racial families in the U.S. inevitably face. Following good advice, I've taken the time to study black history and black culture, familiarizing myself with the struggles that African American males face in the U.S. I know that individual and institutional racism remain an open wound to many black Americans. Still, I think it's comforting to know that most people--in our experience-- at least are trying to transcend their prejudices. That to me is progress.