Kids are hectic, if you’re a parent then you don’t need me to tell you that. They are demanding and busy, even if you try to slow life right down and simplify your days. It’s normal to get caught up in all of the day to day activities and high five yourself on keeping your kids alive for yet another 24 hours, but then there are those moments when you look over at your kids and time stands still for a second. You feel the gravity and privilege of sitting right there in the middle of the chaos, your glorious chaos.
I can’t speak for all parents, but I know that as parents by adoption when I have these moments of realisation, it feels pretty huge. A simple ‘Hello Mom’ or something similarly insignificant can cause my heart to stir and stretch until it feels like it just might pop. I honestly feel like the luckiest mom in the world to have been tasked with raising my three as my own. I don’t know what I did to deserve the honour of having them climb into my bed and give me cuddles each morning like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
The reasons that there are children in South Africa that aren’t able to grow up with their first families is very different to the reasons that children elsewhere in the world need forever homes. I fully acknowledge that our history of apartheid is a massive contributing factor in the breakdown of family units in non-white communities and is largely why so many babies are placed for adoption now. Apartheid messed up this country and it will be a long time before the effects of apartheid stop filtering down from generation to generation. That said, my kids aren’t my social justice project. Yes, we committed ourselves to a journey of lifelong listening and learning when we signed up for transracial adoption, but they’re not ‘a project’.
As a white mom of black kids I can’t say ‘I’ve adopted’ and so now I’m immune to prejudice and that I know better than black friends who have lived experience of being black in South Africa. I can’t claim to be colourblind or say that ‘my kids are growing up in a white home, so racism doesn’t affect us’. My job is to listen and engage, always.
My children are not my ‘black children’, they are ‘my children who are black’ which may sound the same to you the first time you read it, but the emphasis is completely different. I didn’t ‘rescue’ my kids but I do believe that all children belong in families and this is how we chose to start and grow our family. My husband and I will look at you funny if you ever feel the need to say, ‘It’s a wonderful thing that you’re doing for these kids’ because adoption isn’t all wonderful. My kids didn’t have any say in their adoption and although I pray that they will grow up secure in our family unit, there will come a time when they may not feel so lucky to have adoption as their reality. When this time comes (because it will) I’d like them to have the space to experience loss and grief without feeling the debt of gratitude to their parents who ‘rescued them’.
Adoption isn’t ‘a social justice project’, even if Barbie Savior jokes that it is.
*Photo Credit to Barbie Savior, a parody account creating conversations around the the age old White Savior Complex.