My first mother transported me from Martin Place West Hospital where I was born a few days before to my first and only foster home. For reasons unknown it was her job to make sure I was taken to the foster home. My foster mother met my first mother outside her home and there I was turned over and relinquished. A few weeks later, my first mother would return with some diapers and t-shirts for me. She was accompanied by her best friend who waited in the car while my first mother went inside my foster home with the gifts. After a few moments, my mother returned to the car and what transpired in the home between me and my first mother was never mentioned. As they pulled from the curb in front of my temporary home, I often wonder if my first mother knew it would be the last time we saw each other. The amount of time we spent together was minimal. There is no record as to how much time we spent together in the hospital and this last visit appears as if it could be measured with an egg timer not a calendar. Although our interaction was limited, the split from my first mother would affect me the rest of my life.
Last week, I sat in a room in Denver Colorado at the African/Caribbean Heritage Camp and just 3-5 feet from me sat several teenage adoptees. Surprisingly, this was the first time I have ever had the opportunity to sit down with teenage adoptees and talk. I was part of a panel that included African nationals, fellow adoptees, and an African American camp counselor. The panel was about identity and connecting with their transracial origins. About 30 minutes into our discussion reality descended upon me like an unexpected early morning fog. As other panel members spoke to the teenagers, my mind took flight. I was still part of the conversation but preoccupied with other thoughts.
About 10-12 beautiful adoptees sat in front of me ranging from ages 13-17, and mostly female. The thought that keep bouncing around in my head made me sad and very reflective. I wondered if the kids knew just how beautiful and special they all were. Churning over and over in my head was the thought of myself at their age. That split from my first mother played itself out over and over and over in friendships and relationships in ways that I was blinded to at their age but in ways that are so clear to me today. The fracture of the very first relationship I ever had tilted every other relationship since then.
The subtle whispering that crept through my thoughts convinced me of a picture of myself far different than was actually there. It was as if I stood in front of a fun house mirror everyday and the image that reflected back to me was distorted. It was this image that I took with me everyday that told me I wasn’t good enough; I wasn’t worthy. This image and subliminal understanding affected how I interacted with people. It created an invisible line that I rarely would cross. My relationships and friendships were superficial and kept at a safe distance. This protected me from the rejection that I feared and came accustomed to expect. If I only waded in to relationships, I couldn’t be drowned by the rejection that was sure to follow. So I stood back, and watched as others formed deeper relationships and wondered why I couldn’t do the same. I wondered why my emotional roots only went down so far and others had deep strong giant oak-like roots that drew people in and hugged them.
The saddle bags full of issues that accompany adoption are compounded in Transracial adoption. The whispers that bounce around in your head like the digital tennis ball in the video game Pong are verified when the subtle messages from society and not so subtle messages from peers tell you you’re different. Not only do they tell you you’re different but that tell you in a way that cosigns the whispers that say you are not as good. The thoughts are sinister on their own but when something on the exterior supports them it makes it difficult to overcome them.
This all came back to me as I sat in front of these kids and I couldn’t help but wonder how they were affected by this invisible poisonous fog that clings to thoughts and images.
In a predominately white environment, as a child of color at the age of dating I wondered what messages were being sent to these children. Were the messages that they weren’t as beautiful or attractive as the white kids getting through to them? As these teenagers begin the process of pairing up with other teens are some being left out because of the cultural differences in beauty?
It was the girls I worried about the most. The boys of color have, for lack of a better term, better cross over appeal. White girls being attracted to black boys is more common then white boys being attracted to black girls. My fear was that the pursuit of them in the white community is different than if they were in a black community. The girls who would get a great deal of attention in the black community may find the line of friendship stops at dating when you are a female of color in a predominately white community. The message that that sends to a young girl could be devastating. The fun house mirror that I constantly struggle with is making house calls to generations behind me and I wanted to stand up and tell one adoptee at a time that the reduced image of themselves was altered. The image that I see of them stands taller, is more capable, is funnier, kinder, more powerful, and their REAL potential is so bright it was burning my corneas.
I wanted to shout down the whispers that began at that initial separation from their first mother that says they are not good enough. I wanted to summon all the strength I’ve gained from my own powerful introspection and use it to strangle the exterior coy messages that support those whispers.
This was a new realization to me and the information was traveling through my brain at a pace that was hard to digest. It was a series of powerful messages that when organized would be inspiring but at this time the unorganized messages pounding against my skull would only come out as babble, inaudible and incoherent streams of thought. The ability to string the thoughts together without looking like a 42 year old creeper who was telling teenagers they were beautiful was not solidified in this instant.
I left the panel frustrated and saddened because what the kids needed to hear they didn’t get to hear from and the echoes of the thought, “They are better than the image they see,” followed me to lunch.
Still I am frustrated and saddened but inspired because from this encounter will come an amazing message that I will share with the next group, most likely through my tears, as I picture mirror after fun house mirror being shattered and the real images of these beautiful kids emerging. For those who attended the camp please pass this along to your children and let them know, they are better than the image they see.
THE ADOPTION PROJECT: I am working on a special project that will combine the shared experiences of adult adoptees, First mothers, and Adoptive parents, in a powerful way to send an empowering and inspirational message to today’s adoptees. If you are interested in sharing from your own experience please contact me for the particulars @ Kevin8967@sbcglobal.net. Feel free to share this with other who also may be interested.
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