Monday, September 19, 2011

Families are Complicated

One of the most frequent questions that we have been asked - by friends, family, and the agency - is "What kind of kid are you looking for?" There is no simple answer - there are a lot of factors to be considered, and that I'm sure will change based on the info we receive on training classes. We'll talk about that in another post. However, I'm almost certain that the people who are asking this question are really asking about race/ethnicity/creed. So that's what we're going to chat about today. I apologize in advance if any of my verbiage/word choice that I use is offensive. I'm intending to be respectful.

Bottom line - J and I don't care. At. All.

That might seem a little less than truthful - at least that's the impression I'm getting because everyone seems so surprised by it. But the reality is that we have a lot of diversity within our family and friends, and so it's not really a big deal for us. Kids are kids - brown, purple, green, yellow. It is not a deciding factor for us. Consider that we nearly went the route of international adoption, and that we considered the entire globe and settled on Ethiopia. Ethiopian kids are *generally* not white, with freckles and blue eyes. We were prepared for the multi-racial family, and the stares and the cultural sensitivity that is required. My biggest fear was - honest to god - that I don't know how to do black hair. I spent a lot of time looking for classes, looking at blogs, and finally decided that I would just ask someone who's hair I liked.
Different is ok. I'm sure I'm not the only person who's wished I could just put my hair into a certain position (fun braids with beads) and it would just stay that way. I'm also sure that a person with black hair has looked at my homeless tangled wavy mermaid hair with envy that it has body and moves. For me, it's more about education, and finding a respectful way to ask questions.

I mentioned that our families are pretty diverse. Our current 2 1/2 person family looks like this:
Ei: Biracial (Hispanic and white) - corpse white skin that does not tan, freckles, blue eyes, wavy brown hair
J: White - paler skin that tans well, freckles, brown eyes, straight brown hair
Syd: Jewish (she apparently counts this as race/ethnicity/and religious background, so I'm going with her definition) - medium skin that tans well, freckles, brown eyes, curly brown hair

We look basically the same - but we have very diverse backgrounds.

Now take it out a level:
Eileen's Dad: White
Eileen's Mom: Hispanic
Eileen's Full Brother: Biracial (Hispanic and White)
Eileen's Half Brother: Biracial (Black and Hispanic)

J's Mom, Dad, Brother: White
J's Sister in Law: Ethnic Chinese, from Laos

So just in our immediate family - we've hit: White, Black, Hispanic, Asian. We're missing Native Americans and Pacific Islanders (which combined only total 1.1% of of the US population), but that's it.
Yay Diversity!

Now to the religious stuff. One of the big "stumper" questions for future adoptive parents is "What are you going to do if the child has a religious background that differs from yours?" Ah ha! You think you've stumped us, but we've already been on that carousel ride!

I am an atheist. I'd like to say that I'm an einsteintonian (believing in quantum physics) but it's just not really catching on the way I want it to. The closest new-age term would be Noetics. We're connected by energy, it's been proven, it works in ways we don't understand. J also lives a secular lifestyle, though he's not quite willing to damn himself to hell for all eternity by using the A word (it can be pretty scary).

Syd is, as noted above, an active practicing member of the Jewish faith. She is considered an observant Jew - one step down from Orthodox, she observes the sabbath and all religious dates, eats kosher, but dresses in a modern way, and doesn't walk to synagogue. As a small child, if you asked her what day it was, she would tell you that it was Shabbat, rather than Friday, and she would tell you that her birthday was Svet 13, rather than January 16th. As she's gotten older, she's questioned us about our (lack of) faith, which came to a head over the summer as we had a rollicking debate about how I HAVE to believe in SOMETHING (which I don't, actually) and her trying to understand how I can only believe in the Santa Claus, family, Christmas lights, and gifts part of Christmas, but not the "Christian" parts. We have always supported her religious beliefs, and tried to learn about them. We've never tried to convert her, or point out flaws. We answer carefully when she asks questions.

When she comes out in the summer, she goes to a Jewish Day Camp, at a synagogue, every day. I even have a badge to get in - and I haven't spontaneously combusted yet. It gives her an opportunity to be with kids in her demographic, to speak Hebrew daily, and learn more about her culture - baking, plays, field trips, etc. The people running the camp know the situation, and remain friendly and welcoming. Her camp counselors have been extremely helpful when I have questions about acceptable kosher lunches, specific religious day requirements - and they have never ever had a "conversion" talk with us. I respect that so much that I've considered sending future children there with Syd each summer, even though they will likely not be Jewish.

So if we had a child who came pre-programmed with a religious background different from ours, and a desire to continue practicing that faith, we would support it in the same way - learn as much as possible, give them opportunities to participate in age-appropriate activities, and carefully answer questions about our beliefs. That's really all that you can do.

It's exciting to think about how many different ways a future family could manifest itself - one child, two? A boy and a girl? Two boys? Ages? Races? Religious background? It's like a kaleidescope of colors that changes every time you look at it. I have no idea what the stork is going to be bringing us, but I know that our family and friends will support us, and we will love our opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. JD and I have talked about adoption a lot, actually. When I was diagnosed with PCOS, we thought natural conception was out of the question, and we didn't want to consider IVF, so we talked adoption.

    I am totally with you on the racial stuff: kids are kids. I don't believe that there's anything separating me from a black person other than pigment. Would it cause questions from outsiders? Sure. But, honestly, I grew up Mormon and now I'm a homeschooler with a kid on the autism spectrum. I am a PRO at handling people's out-of-line-none-of-your-business-questions.

    Because our religion is such a humongous piece of our life (it defines nearly every decision we make, either directly or indirectly), we would raise the child in that religion, though ultimately, religion is up to each individual person. Just because I raise my child one way doesn't mean they will stay in that faith. And that's OK. I raise my kids in the way that I think is best- that includes my faith- and then I send them into the big bad world to make their own decisions, including what to do on Sunday :)