I remember looking out our front windows wondering when that view was going to change. We were ready for a child. We were ready for bikes in the yard, sidewalk chalk scribbles on the porch. Why was this wait taking so long? We prayed hard, we cried and we rallied our tribe to prayerfully and logistically intercede for the children who would pass through our home. My husband, Roman, and I had no way to prepare and no idea how this journey was going to utterly, specifically and internally change us and that this wait was just the tip of the iceberg. Then, “Two African-American females, biological sisters”... Boom. There it was. The phone call that we had been longing for. With a voice-quivering yes, we began a journey that would bust down our walls and change the course of our family forever and for that, we are eternally grateful.
Those first few months were h-a-r-d. We do not have biological children so this was our first stab at parenting. Night one, our then 4 year old asked to take a bubble bath (big mistake) and then asked to get her hair bubbly (even bigger mistake). The next morning, the hair beast and eczema monster made their debut. What have I done and what do I do now? We knew then that things had to be different. We had to realize that these children physically have different needs, different requirements. This realization laid grassroots to a much deeper responsibility. They needed spiritual, mental and emotional assurance that being black and having white parents was beautiful and okay and that we would not allow them to lose their heritage just because ours was different. Ever. There is much to be said for navigating modern-day as a trans-racial family, but the biggest is the responsibility you have when you say yes to a child who is of a different race. That responsibility is to integrate your life with people of color, ideas/print/media who do not look like, sound like or live like you do. What a gift? Could God whack us over the head with a more front-row-seat-view of what Heaven will look like than joining brown, tan, black, peachy-white, yellow, white hands around the dinner table and doing life together? This incredible gift will not be lost on us, but that doesn't mean its easy.
Infiltrating our life with black history and culture has been on the forefront of our priority list since we welcomed our girls home. Roman and I are proud that we are a blended family and by becoming so, we want to honor all this entails. To start, February is Black History Month. Our routine for this month has included short, stimulating history lessons/discussions on why it is so important to have a month devoted to Black History in particular. This past year we read through the book Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison. The art is beautiful and the easy to read/understand biographies are even more beautiful. This became a quick favorite that we read as often as we can. Also, search for Crystal Swain-Bates on Amazon.com. Her coloring books (particularly the Zoe and Star, Cody and Jay activity books) are a staple around our house! These include black princesses and super heroes! Color My Fro is another fan-favorite.
Talk about your kid's hair and skin why it's so beautifully different and why it is important to take extra special care of it. Talk about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr and their unrelenting strength in the face of fear. Watch “Hidden Figures” and discuss how it is perfectly okay to be different and smart and totally in love with science. We feel it is absolutely our job to make sure our children feel excited and proud of their skin and we whole-heartedly feel this must include seeing and discussing the history and struggle along with the beauty from ashes and triumph of the African-American community.
This is still a daunting task for us because it is so very important and fragile! If you are considering foster-care, adoption or even if you're not, start looking for friends who are of a different race. Invite them into your home, make them a meal and allow them to do the same. Talk about race, ask questions, ask about their favorite hair/skin products/care routines. Our African-American friends have been a life-line in our journey as a trans-racial family, maybe its time to grow your friend group? Let your children see your social life being consistently intersected by people of all different colors. Buy books, toys, movies with various-race leads. Learn to love and adore their heritage and teach your children all about yours.
Phone calls from DHS are random, its very likely you will be asked to welcome a child from a different race into your home, are you ready for this? Are your loved ones ready? Our front window view is way, way different now. Two African-American girls claim that space. Our home is their home forever and even though it can be hard, even though its much more difficult to choose grace and to educate when the questions and stares come, it is so worth it. If your family is changing, becoming something different, do the work. Educate yourself and infiltrate your life with all the colors, all the backgrounds. You'll be so much richer for it, I promise.