I was in Costco last week and a saw a fair skinned mom pushing her twin boys through the toilet paper aisle. The two pudgy toddlers were dark skinned with black tufts of hair. They were giggling as they ran their toy trucks along the edge of the cart. I am
the kind of person will talk to anyone in public especially if I am in desperate need of adult conversation. I wanted to ask her more about her sons, but I did not want to make her uncomfortable. So I simply smiled and walked on. When you see a mom with children of different races, does your mind assume that these kids were adopted? Before you start talking to the mom about where the child was adopted from, remember that it is more common now than ever before for children to have parents of different races. That child may be biologically hers.
Jodi is a single mom to two biracial girls that are biologically her own (and from my previous post “I’m a mom…and I’m single). “One time when I was at a funeral a woman started talking to me about my youngest daughter who was just a few months old at the time. She said ‘Oh my gosh she is such a beautiful color! I have a daughter that is the same color! Where did you get yours?’…It was almost as if we were talking about a handbag from Macy’s or something!”
While most us would never make racial remarks, even lighthearted comments can make moms uncomfortable. Jodi explains how friends and family members (who were mostly white skinned) “would call her [daughter] their little brown girl, and make comments about the color of her skin very often. It took me a couple of years to try and get them to understand that that is not acceptable. I began to give examples that they would say, but put “white” in instead of “brown” and then their comments sounded a bit more strange to them.”
Beth (who also in the post, “I’m a mom and I’m single) is fair skinned and of Dutch descent. She adopted two children from Ethiopia—both were from different families. At places like the mall, grocery store, and park, she shares that her family naturally
attracts attention. Most comments are made out of interest, curiosity, or other people considering adoption. Beth comments, “The ones that almost immediately shut me down are, ‘Are they your own children?’ or ‘Are they real brother and sister?’ Although I know they are talking about biology, my kids are listening, and my son certainly understands what people say to us. “
As moms, how can we take an interest in other moms like Beth and Jodi? Is it wrong to ask them to share “their story” or find out more about their children? When I’m in a store, I get the comments about my children’s big blue eyes, and most people want to know their ages. I often get the “You have your hands full comment” which I ever know how to respond to, but that’s a whole other post. I don’t get those extra comments or questions because my children look like me and my husband.
I will close with what Beth recommends. We need to consider the child’s feeling first and foremost:
“If you are beginning a conversation with a transracial family, approach them as you would any family. Say a simple ‘hi’ to the children, ask them how old they are. Say something positive about the children. If the kids are three or older, remember that they are listening and understanding much or most of what you are asking. Use words that include ‘biological’ or ‘adopted’ instead of ‘real’ or ‘your own’. Take joy in the family. Even just a simply smile or a friendly wave is nice. As I talk with others
about my children, I always put their feelings first. If others approach transracial families with the children’s feelings in mind, the conversation that follows will probably be positive for everyone.”