Transracial Adoption_Rachel GarlinghouseBy RACHEL GARLINGHOUSE

As a busy mom, I’m not a fan of the rain. It tends to put a damper on my daily to-do list, which usually includes running several errands, entertaining my children, taking my oldest to and from school, and driving to the university to teach. Rain slows down my progress; it makes life move more slowly than I have the patience for.

One morning we awoke to gray, thick, looming clouds, which soon released a steady downpour of rain. I was completely unmotivated to get myself and the kids out of our pajamas and head to the grocery store. We were all a bit restless, the rain having ruined any chance of playing on our swing set or going for a morning walk. The children were creating ways to entertain themselves, including taking toys away from each other and begging me, for the fiftieth time, to let them watch a movie.

My oldest came to me and piped up, “I have a good idea! Let’s go outside!”

I sighed, wishing desperately for the rain to cease and the sun to come out. I replied, “It’s raining, honey.”

The toddler, having heard the words “go outside,” was now at my side as well, her brown eyes imploring.

My oldest countered, “But we have rain boots, Mom!”

My gut reaction was to refuse the request. It was a bit chilly outside, I needed to load the dishwasher, and there were loads of clean laundry to fold. I needed to prepare my evening’s lesson plans for work. But the desire to change our circumstances and uplift our moods triumphed.

We opened the hall closet and watched coats, scarves, mittens, and tote bags tumble onto the floor. I began digging through the pile to find what each person needed. We quickly dressed and headed toward the garage, umbrellas in hand.

As soon as the garage door lifted, the children were off to do what children do best: play. They twirled and jumped and skipped. They yelled. They threw their umbrellas in the air and clomped about in their too-big rain boots. My toddler smacked shallow water puddles, first carefully and then with great energy and purpose. They climbed a low tree, sang songs, and chased one another in circles. The oldest ordered us to line up behind her and then follow; we were to be the students and she would be the teacher, leading us about the schoolyard.

Somewhere in the midst of the adventures, the umbrellas were dropped to the ground and forgotten. They were too much of a hindrance.

Of course, it made sense to use an umbrella. That’s what people do when it rains, right? We need to protect our clothes and hair and glasses and bags. We don’t like getting and remaining wet. It’s uncomfortable. But without the umbrella, we get to experience something new, something invigorating, something refreshing. When change is embraced, there is possibility.

Adopting my children has changed my life dramatically and for the better. Instead of dismissing someone who many claim “plays the race card,” I consider what the person has to say, what experience led that individual to feeling less-than, preyed-upon, dehumanized. Instead of talking about “those people” as if they are aliens from another planet, I realize that the struggles of “those people” are my struggles, too. Instead of labeling people in terms of their race, I carefully consider, as Dr. King once said, the “content of their character.” Instead of dismissing birth parents as irresponsible, heartless, promiscuous people, I have been drawn to those who have “lost” their children to adoption. Instead of calling children who were adopted “adopted kids,” I look at them as children, first and foremost. Instead of defining family by biology, I define family by people who love, care about, and support one another.

In traveling “somewhere over the rainbow,” in the continual walk into the bizarre, bittersweet, and complex journey of transracial adoption and parenting, in the midst of visiting my kids’ birth families and speaking with prospective adoptive parents, and in learning who I am and what I can become, I’ve evolved into someone so much more than the person the world says I should be.

I hope that one day, adoptive families will be treated as equals to biological families. I hope that my children, and all other adoptees, will not be seen as either extraordinary or disabled because they were adopted, but will instead be viewed as people who can offer the world incredible gifts, talents, and insights which stem from the result of both the nature and nurture they have inherited and experienced. I hope that the stigmas and stereotypes surrounding adoption disintegrate, making room for diversity, acceptance, and friendship. I hope that someday it will not matter if parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and spouses “match” or not, but that will instead matter is the value and benefits and beauty of those relationships.

While we wait and yearn for a better tomorrow, let’s not sit back and simply stew in anger or shrug our shoulders in indifference and ignorance. Create the world you want your children to behold. Empower yourself, empower others, embrace change, unlock mysteries, listen, share, teach, seek, ask, reflect, inspire. Live each day as an example to those around you. Stand tall. Stand firm. Be proud. Walk with confidence.
Above all, ditch the umbrella and dance in the rain with the children you have been chosen to love, nurture, and protect.

Rachel Garlinghouse, mom of three transracially and domestically adopted children, is the author of Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children. A prolific writer, she has appeared in ESSENCE magazine, on The Daily Drum National Radio Show, and on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. She blogs about adoption at White Sugar Brown Sugar. This post was adapted from Come Rain or Come Shine with the author’s permission.

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  1. Your gift to those babies is your love for them. Thank you!

  2. Loved this piece! We are a transracial adoptive family. Thank you for posting this!

  3. Lovely! We will probably adopt someday through the foster care system. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Awesome post! As a transracial adoptive family we LOVE that our skin is different but our hearts are the same! We’ve got so much love and cannot wait to adopt transracially again!

  5. I was apparently meant to read this post! It was sent to me by three different people today. I am a mama of a 17-month-old through transracial domestic adoption and we recently began the process to adopt our second child, this time from South Africa.

    “Stand tall. Stand firm. Be proud. Walk with confidence.” I am slowly learning to do these things as I still find my footing, but it is such an encouragement to me to know there are other mamas out there who can relate.

    Regarding not “matching-” I overheard a little boy say to his mom at the park today as he looked wide-eyed and confused at my son and I, “Mommy, that little baby is black…” I only wish I could have heard his mom’s response!

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