by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Cloudscome
We were standing waist deep in the water of the community pool on a hot July afternoon. I was holding Buddy Boy, my 23 month old adopted black son in my arms. I wasn’t the only white mother with brown kids in the pool, but I was one of the few. About half the kids were black. Everyone was having a great time splashing and kicking back and forth. Buddy was happily smiling at everyone.
A black girl of about ten years old came up along side us with her friend.
She said to me “Is he adopted?”
I said “Yes” and smiled at her.
She turned to her friend and said “I would never give my baby away. Why did she do that?”
Her friend said “I don’t know. I wouldn’t do it either. I want all my babies.”
I was stunned and embarrassed and didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t actually talking to me so I felt it would be rude to respond to her conversation with her friend. We just moved off in the pool, me feeling slapped and shaken. Buddy was to young to know what was going on, but he felt the chill. He might have sensed that we were talking about his first mother. He might have felt the baffling canyon of separation between me and those young black girls that had something in common with him and his first mother.
She was child enough to ask me the question out of the blue. She was woman enough to claim her own babies. She was bright enough to understand the complexities of a white woman adopting a black baby. She was aware of the alternating pressures on young mothers to parent their own babies at all cost or to release them to adoption in order to pursue a different future for themselves. She had been taught that you hold onto your own.
She didn’t know what it was like to be pregnant and all alone. Should I have told her Buddy’s mother’s story? I could have told her “She did the best she could. She loves her baby. She made the decision that was right for her.”
She knew there was a chance she might become a single pregnant girl herself. I could have told her “Don’t get yourself in that position. Get an education. Stay away from men until you are ready. Use birth control. Make your own future. Claim your life.”
She knew family as the center of the universe. She knew black folks have it harder and need to stick together. She knew white folks shouldn’t have control over black folks’ lives. I could have told her “We are a family. I love my son. I am a good mother. Adoption is a good thing. The color of our skin doesn’t matter.”
What should I have said to her? What would you want to say?
Cloudscome is a single mother with three sons. She is a library-media specialist and blogs about books and technology at http://awrungsponge.blogspot.com. Parenting, adoption and the rest of her life she blogs about at http://sandycovetrail.blogspot.com.