A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

Monday’s Child: Color Blind, Part 2

So the hot discussion has been this for trans-racial adoptive families: how do you honor your child(ren)’s heritage while establishing your family? Do you enroll them in language classes? Do you integrate native dishes into your family’s dinner menu? Do you intentionally set playgroups with other children of shared ethnic heritage?

I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer to these questions. So much depends on the child, on the family, and on the age of adoption.After my children came home, I decided not to make a big deal of ethnicity. We talk about it sometimes. We eat some of the native dishes and fruits that Anna and I ate while in Guatemala, but my youngest children never ate those things. Mia was just a baby and Gus was apparently on a powdered milk diet for his first 20 months of life. Still, I see how they naturally seem to love the fruits like papaya, mango, and bananas, all of which we enjoyed fresh on our trips back in ‘04.

The fact is, my son sometimes fails to realize that his ethnicity is different from mine. At the beginning of the school year, he told me that there were four Hispanic children (“hixpanic,” by his pronunciation) in his classroom. Then he named the four. “Gus,” I said, “you have five Hispanic children in your class.” He looked puzzled, named them again, and said, “No, just four.” You should have seen his face when I added to his list, “And Gus!” It was like a brand new realization dawning.

Mia has been much more sensitive to her adoption and her ethnicity. Her sensitivity has lessened in recent months, to the point that we had a humorous incident just last week. Gus, Mia, and I were eating at our favorite Mexican restaurant. The kids tend to get extra attention at Mexican restaurants, for obvious reasons. The waitresses especially are prone to ask about them. There’s a 50/50 chance that they will be disapproving of our multi-ethnic family. Adoption is not popular in Mexican culture. I have received a cold shoulder and less than ideal service on a few occasions. Sometimes though, they are delighted. Our waitress asked me if the children spoke Spanish. I told her not really, except for counting and a few words.Then she asked if they were Mexican. It told her they were born in Guatemala. She smiled big and went on her way. After she left, Mia wanted to know why she asked those questions. I replied that she knew they were both Latino and she was curious about whether they shared a country and a language with her. “But how did she know we’re Latino?!” Then she realized and said, “Oh yeah. Because of our skin.”

This incident reassures me that the assimilation of our family runs deep. It doesn’t matter that Anna is blonde and fair or that Gus and Mia are black-headed and olive-skinned. They are all my children – thoroughly, equally, and forever.I forget myself sometimes and find myself wondering how people know we’re an adoptive family. I hope I’m not doing them a disservice by not making sure they are fluent in Spanish already or plugging them in with others from the Guatemalan world. Sometimes it’s just all I can do to get us to school and work, fed, and wearing clean clothes, you know?

Still, this I know. My children are happy. They are healthy. They are loved. They are accepted for who they are, inside and out. Isn’t that all any of us really need?


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