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Monday, September 17, 2012

The Visible Family

My family used to be invisible: Mom, Dad, two kids. One boy, one girl. ho hum. la dee dah.

We didn't stand out anywhere we went. I shop at the same grocery stores, same fabric store, same Target, but there wasn't much to make us different from all the rest of the folks. Often, I was recognized by my bright, multicolored, striped sling, but if I didn't happen to have a baby in a sling, I passed through my days pretty much unnoticed. It was nice. More than nice. I didn't realize how wonderful it was.

That all changes when you become a trans-racial family.

We've been at the same preschool for four years now. And I know a lot of the moms through our kids having classes together, playing on the playground after school, etc.  You know, the normal ways.  But now I find myself being known.  What I mean is, people know I exist because I'm the white lady with the black child. They may not know my name, but I find myself being introduced to people and they say, "yeah - I know you!"  This never happened before.

We've bought our milk at Earth Fare for the past 6 years. {SIDE NOTE: I love Earth Fare. I love that it appears to be a requirement that you have some hippie quality in order to work there, usually in the form of hair. I'm a closet hippie so I feel this little love for the Earth Fare employees.}  The same guy at Earth Fare has been ringing up my milk for six years. Now he talks to me. When I come in with Amani, he says "I know you!" This never happened before.

We go places and I get comments and questions. This used to happen a little before, but only when I had a child in a sling. I'd get sling questions. Now I get questions about whether I am babysitting, adoption questions, or plain ole stares. This never happened before.

I don't mean any of this in the negative sense, but it can be hard for me to stand out sometimes. I don't think of us as A Trans-Racial Family. I think of us as a family, and it sometimes takes me a second to figure out why I'm being looked at, noticed, or known. Or why the person I'm talking to hasn't quite figured out if Amani is my son or not.  I suppose I will get used to it. Eventually.

And let me tell you something: racism makes you paranoid.  Well, it makes ME paranoid. The fact is, racism exists. It's also a fact that it doesn't exist in every situation. But that doesn't matter.  After every encounter in which we are noticed, stared at, or commented upon, I wonder about it.  When we are first noticed, stared at, or commented upon, my guard goes up; mama bear readies herself, just in case. I don't believe I'll ever get used to that.

There are some positives to being The Visible Family. We get to have sweet conversations about adoption with both kids and adults. We have seen racist or negative attitudes around us change. We get to challenge the traditional notion of family and make a statement about racism without saying a word. That can be awesome.

But do me a favor... if you are an invisible family like we used to be; one who blends seamlessly into the fabric of your culture, talk to your kids. Let them know about the visible families. Teach them that we are families too. Teach them that there might be times when someone might not act like that's the case.  Or that someone might not be nice to someone else because of how they look or how their family is made up.  It will be hard on my kids to carry that message alone, but they don't have a choice: it's written on our family. Visible. And there will be times when my kids need some allies.  Because being a family can be a hard thing to be sometimes; it takes a lot of work, no matter what your family looks like. And I want my kids to have your kids' backs. And vice versa.

'Cause that, my friends, is a little glimpse of heaven.


6 comments:

  1. I just love you, man!! Seriously! We have the same heart :)

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  2. ...closet hippie.... I never knew! Go Kirstin!
    (I did absorb the rest of your beautiful blog and am still reflecting on it!!!)
    love & hugs,
    -auntie-

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  3. Hi Kirstin! Thank you so much for your prayers, they are always welcome in our little family :). And thank you for your comment. As an added bonus, I have discovered another great blog.

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  4. Have you come across the books by Todd Parr? I love them. I read "The Family Book" to 2 yr old son a lot, and I think it does a lovely job of showing all the different ways families are made, and what families all have in common. http://www.amazon.com/The-Family-Book-Todd-Parr/dp/0316738964

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  5. Stebbins of FarmingdaleSeptember 19, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    This piece deserves to be in a national magazine! You have an amazing writing talent.

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  6. Love this! It's so us too! We need celebrity status some places! Haha! Too bad I never see YOU out! ;)

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