In the last two years I have parented two little Hispanic girls, two multi-racial children, and I am now in the process of adopting an African-American baby boy. The racial and ethnic identity of my children isn't super important to me. Most days, I don't think too much about it. I don't say this in a "Oh, I-am-color-blind" manner. I know that my children's skin color is different than mine, and I know that this is and will be one facet of their cultural identity, and I celebrate that.
But when I think about the children I have parented, I think about how I have parented two super-sassy toddler girls - one who was a little mama who loved swaddling baby dolls and folding clothes and another who was a little diva and loved cell phones and make up. I have parented one quirky but BRILLIANT boy whose fine motor skills were exceptional and who could give you the run down of trivia on a multitude of subjects including, but not limited to: pandas, dragons, dinosaurs, sharks, and his family. I have parented a baby girl who loved to be held and snuggled. I am parenting a baby boy who isn't much interested in that, but who loves to wrestle and laugh and jump. I have parented a girl who loves Jesus, who loves "church music" and the Bible. I have parented swimmers and kids that afraid of the water. Kids that love vegetables and kids that eat nothing but noodles and kids that hate noodles. Kids who need pacifiers and kids that are thumb suckers. Kids who are fearless and kids who fear EVERYTHING. Outgoing kids who will talk to and go to anyone, kids that are slow to warm up. This is how I think about my children most of the time.
But the outside world, sometimes even my friends and family see things differently, sometimes see my kids differently. They seem to think the most important part of us is the fact that they are not Caucasian and I am. I can handle the curious questions, I can even laugh them off sometimes. The questions like: "Where did they get their curly hair?" Or "Is his daddy African-American?" or "Is he adopted?" What gets to me are the sneers. The whispering, the pointing, and sometimes laughter. The staring puts me on the defense - I brace for the worst. I cannot go into a store and be invisible anymore. There is no flying under the radar. Everyone I come across has an opinion, a thought about who I am and who my kids are. They stare, they double-take, their eyes narrow. They are missing it. It makes my heart ache and long for a better place.
This year, Martin Luther King day was different for me. More personal. Because my son has come home, and I am so excited, and the color of his skin is different than mine. This year when I was listening to the "I Have a Dream" speech and I heard the line: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Something caught in my chest and the tears started because so many people miss it. They miss the whole thing. When people focus on the color of my children's skin they miss other things that make them who they are. They are African American, or Hispanic. But they are also strong, loud, quiet, funny, serious, fearless, timid, compassionate, outspoken, shy, creative, quirky, and so many other things. These things(including their race) make up the whole of who they are.