I glanced in the mirror one night when I was putting my children to bed and suddenly remembered that I didn’t grow them in my belly when I saw our reflection staring back at us. It might sound weird that I forget that my children are adopted, but I do.
Because to me, they’re just my children.
My family doesn’t look like most. I am a white mama to three beautiful, brown children. And although most of the time we don’t notice, others around us do. We walk into stores or restaurants and people stare or give us a double glance. I choose to believe it’s because they think our family is beautiful and are curious about our story.
We were on our way back from the beach last summer, eating our hamburgers in a restaurant and I noticed an older man staring at us. I started to become annoyed and wished for at least once, we could eat a meal like a ‘normal’ family. I suddenly noticed the man walking towards our direction and my heart began to race. He shook my husband’s hand, and nodded his head in my direction. His eyes filled with tears as he looked at my children and said, ‘I just wanted to tell you that you have such a beautiful family.’ I watched him walk out the door as tears rolled down my cheeks.
The thing is, although my daughter laughs just like me and my youngest son crinkles his nose when he smiles, just like I do, my daughter’s family portraits are drawn with peach and brown crayons.
On the outside, our family doesn’t match.
I hate the saying ‘love is colorblind.’ Because that is simply not true. Love is celebrating diversity, honoring our differences, and respecting our uniqueness. Oh how others miss out on such greatness when they pretend we all match skin. Celebrating diversity in our family is simply a part of our family culture, it always has been, and it always will be.
Practically speaking, we do this several ways in our home. One way we do this is by creating a safe place for our children to ask questions and keep an ongoing, open dialog about ways we are different, and things that make us the same. My daughter will say, ‘Mommy, your green eyes are beautiful,’ and I’ll say, ‘And your brown ones are too.’ We have Band-Aids for every skin color in our house, and my daughter plays with brown baby dolls, because representation matters. We have a large collection of children’s books that celebrate adoption and honor cultural diversity. It’s important to me that we give our children language to describe our family. I want them to know how to talk well about our differences and what makes us unique, so that when a situation arises, and it will, they’ll respond to inform and educate with confidence.
Last summer we went to the park, our foster son had only been with us for a few weeks. He was climbing on a jungle gym with another little boy he had met at the park. I heard the little boy ask him, ‘Why is your mom white and you’re brown?’ And without skipping a beat, he said, ‘Families don’t have to match to be a family. What makes a family is their love.’ My eyes filled up with tears and my heart almost exploded, so proud of our boy.
When I look at my sweet children, even though we celebrate them, I don’t always notice our differences. I just see my children, the ones I waited on for so long, the ones I prayed for, and dreamed about. Every once in a while, I’ll remember our story in a quick glance in the mirror, and be reminded of how much I really love it.
To the world, our family doesn’t look like we match. But we know, we match hearts.