I Have A Transracial Family And You Wouldn't Believe The Things People Say To Us

I didn't mind living in rural Tennessee until I had two black children.
Publish date:
April 30, 2013
etiquette, race, transracial adoption, family drama

“So, how much did she cost?”

The person asking me this, about my daughter, was an older woman and a complete stranger to me.

As I pulled my daughter closer to me, the same daughter that my husband and I had just adopted along with her brother, I thought about how to answer. We were in a hospital waiting to get blood drawn -- it wasn’t the place for a lecture or fight. I thought that dealing with questions like that was not what I had been looking forward to or even anticipating when my husband and I decided to pursue a transracial adoption. And truthfully, I wondered what was taking my husband so long to park the car and come in with our son.

When my husband and I first decided to adopt, we signed on for a domestic adoption for a child of any race. Incidentally, at that adoption agency, "minority" was lumped in with "special needs" -– so wrong. We were waiting so long for a match that we had managed to save up enough money for international adoption.

We agonized about where to adopt from internationally. We knew it would be from Africa, but we weren’t sure what country. Once we settled on our country of choice, we had to tell our families. I remember telling my dad, “You know that since we’re adopting from Africa that means they won’t be white, right?”

My family and my husband’s family have taken becoming a transracial family pretty well, meaning they don’t care, they just wanted grandchildren. All of the grandparents are madly in love with their two grandchildren -– it’s the only thing the four of them can agree on!

We do sometimes, still, have to remind our parents to please not buy our children things with monkey print on it no matter how cute it is. They still do it, three years after I started telling them not to. I pick my battles and just return said items later.

I often find myself reminding some of the grandparents to also please not tell too much of B & L’s backstory to strangers. It’s my children’s to tell, not theirs. I also very often find myself educating them on the birth country of my children.

Sometimes my husband and I tell one of the grandparents, in an offhand matter-of-fact way, that we heard some racist comments about our kids. They sometimes think we are exaggerating, probably because they have not come across it when out with the kids yet. Sadly, I’m sure they’ll learn soon enough that we are not exaggerating.

My run-in with the old lady at the hospital might have been my first time dealing with someone because my children happen to be darker than my husband and I. When they first came home, we lived in rural Tennessee. Here’s the thing, I’m very much a New England gal, but I didn’t mind Tennessee. Until I had two black children.

After we had our children, my husband and I couldn’t wait to move back above the Mason-Dixon line.

When we lived in Tennessee, random people –- strangers! -– thought nothing of asking inappropriate questions about my children, in front of them. I have lost track of the number of times that I was asked how much they cost, are they related, no really related (this one is usually asked after I’ve said that they are four months apart), and why didn’t my husband and I have our own kids.

I usually just did not answer these questions or I simply would say that they were asking something inappropriate. Then one day when we took our kids to a park, an older woman sat next to me (it’s always the old ladies!), and tried to pick up my son and hold him without asking me, his mother, if it was okay. He started howling and was understandably scared.

As I was reaching over to grab him, she asked me when my husband and I were planning on “sending them back.” My first instinct was to punch her in the face, but instead I just told her that I would send mine back after she sent hers back. She got up and left.

After that, I gave up being nice –- if people are going to be rude and make assumptions about my family, I don’t have to take it quietly. If I don’t say something to shut down stupid comments, how are my children going to know that people asking when my husband and I were planning on having our “own” children is wrong? They need to know that they don’t have to answer things about themselves that they don’t want to.

I worried about how we would be perceived by the African-American community, in general, when we were out with our kids. For the most part, I get told how cute my children are, because it’s true. But some women seem to view B & L as “their” children, and feel they can come up to their white mom and say whatever.

My biggest peeve is that sometimes someone will come over and touch my daughter’s hair without permission and try to tell me how to do her hair. Don’t do that. It’s not cool, and besides, B’s hair is always tight. Nobody likes to get unsolicited parenting advice from strangers and I'm no different.

I’m not a super jerk that doesn’t like talking to people about adoption and my kids and where they’re from -- quite the contrary actually.

I don’t mind fielding a bunch of questions about my children and adoption and about their birth country. I wonder a lot about how my children will feel about being adopted when they’re older. They do notice that we are not the same color -– B bit me the other day and said she wanted a bite of marshmallow. I think she was a bit disappointed that I was not actually made of marshmallow.

Don’t misunderstand, there are a lot of good parts of being a transracial family -– most importantly I happen to have the two cutest kids ever, don’t bother to argue that yours are cuter. They aren’t. I’ve met a couple of other families like mine whom I really love. I’ve gotten really fast at braiding hair. I know way more about their birth country than I ever thought I would.

But I’m really mostly enjoying watching my son’s mind get blown when we watch Yellow Submarine together, and my daughter’s joy when she’s about to wear her fairy princess dress for the millionth day in a row.