I've never used this blog as a place to talk a ton about adoption ( I don't think) outside of our life with adopted kids - who we really don't refer to as adopted or fostered or biological because really, they're just our kids. However, for a while now we've (Chris and I) been talking quite a bit about our adopted children because as they are getting older we are learning more and more that adoption is messy. And I believe that when you throw other races/cultures into that adoption is adds another layer of messiness.
Let me say right here that adoption is also beautiful. Adoption is how we, as non-Jews, are folded into the family of God and I believe with everything in me that I understand how God cares about me differently because I have had the privilege of loving children as my own who weren't formed inside of me. Having done both, I can say with absolute certainty that Cadence and Caleb are as much "ours" as Creed has been or ever will be. While we love all of our children differently because they are different people, our love for our adopted children is in no way less than our love for our biological child.
I don't know how I feel about writing all of this out for other people to read but because we use this blog as a scrapbook of our family I want our children to know, as they get older, that we wrestled with the adoption/race issue because we want to be the best parents that we can be to all of the children that God has given to us.
All of this being said, I, naively, went into adoption thinking that if we adopted multi-racial children and everyone was a little different in their race, that as long as no one looked the same and everyone was loved the same, that would somehow eliminate identity issues. That's not true. Not even a little bit.
We know that we have chosen a complicated path for our family and we know that with God's help and Wisdom that we can be successful in passing to the next generation of Andersens' a Gospel that is life-changing and in turn world-changing. However as our little Andersens are getting bigger we are finding that their race is a bigger deal than we initially had thought it would be. Of course because Cadence is our oldest child and the one we've gotten to "learn" how to be parents on, this is coming up in her world first. I'm sure that as the others get older we will deal with race/identity on some level with all of them. Even Creed - who is the lone white kid with blond hair in the mix :)
So, as Cadence has become much more aware of her hair and skin and overall appearance, she has had lots of questions about why she looks different. Some of this could be explained thru a biology lesson but Chris and I felt like, at this point in her life, instead of that type of explanation we should simply begin to expose her to black people who she can identify with. So, we began to pray and dialogue about what would be the best way to do that. God gave us such a clear answer thru an old student of Chris' whose mom I have kept in touch with since he quit teaching. As a black woman with a mixed child I felt like she would have lots of wisdom for me. And she has!! I am so grateful for the education I am getting about African American culture thru my friend. and for the way that Cadence is latching on to her as a role model too!
You don't have to be a genius to realize that hair is a big part of the black women's culture and since I'm not super great with my own straight white people hair, I sure don't have any knowledge or styling techniques that could be helpful for Cadence's hair. Although we love her hair and have always thought it was beautiful, I'm not the best hair fixer around. So, our friend helped us out and told us about a great salon in Charlotte who only uses natural product and leaves hair in a "natural" state. So, we went down for a consultation - found out everything we had been doing was wrong :) - made an appt and headed back down to Charlotte to learn the right things to do with Cadence's hair.
Step one - wash out all product
It was really interesting to me that as other ladies came into the salon and even with Ms. Kelly, our hairdresser, how aware Cadence was of them. As we drove home she could tell me every detail about everyone who had been in the salon and particularly the color of their skin (how dark or light they are) and their hair.
Sitting under the dryer - because she really wanted to :)
and the finished product at home!! It was beautiful and lasted about a week. Cadence LOVED it and I really couldn't believe the difference it made in how she saw herself. Worth every penny.
I know that there are people who may think - and some have even said - that it isn't necessary or even ridiculous to expose her to black people and culture but we disagree. Cadence and all our other children are as much another race as they are white. Chris and I being white growing up in white families do a really good job of teaching our children, mostly unintentionally, about "white" culture. It's just a part of everyday life. We look at magazines with white people in them and watch tv shows that are predominantly white people, read books where white people are the main characters. We have lots of white friends, know about "white" holidays, etc. But with children who are equally something else besides "white" we are going to have to be intentional for them to learn about that part of their make up. and learning a new way to do hair for Cadence is a part of that process. I'm sure there will be many other parts along the way and some opportunities we will grab onto and excel with and others we will miss altogether, but for now, this is part of the journey that God has us on and we will walk it in faith knowing that He loves our children way more than we do and wants what is best for them way more than we could. and so we will ask HIM for wisdom where our children are concerned and do our best to follow His leading every step of the way - even when it's uncomfortable..... :)