Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Choosing our words carefully

Lately we've been doing a lot of reading and researching about cross-cultural and transracial adoptions. Our thoughts on the topic have evolved and shifted a bit. We're not so much in the "love is color blind" camp anymore. People see color. People react to it. I love my kids. Deeply. But their white parents and issues of color will and do come up. The blindness does not exist. Not on this side of Heaven. Not in Haiti. Not in the USA.

Troy and I determined that some of the hardest stuff to write is the stuff where you are certain that you'll be misunderstood. Clearly, a blog is a personal journal ... and by definition these are *our* thoughts, take them or leave them.

We have been looking at some of the other side of adoption and have started to wish that more people and agencies would try to keep families together first --- THEN take a child in after exhausting that option. A poor family is not necessarily an unfit family. To go down this road is too emotionally charged, so we won't do that today. We will simply say that after watching the birthparent interview process, our thoughts about the entire thing have changed a bit. Christine wrote a good post with great links if you want to investigate these things more.

We're also more aware than ever that our words shape our children. Not that we were ever unaware, we're just sensing the importance of helping them feel proud of and connected to their heritage. (And obviously they have an easier time connecting to it because the two oldest moved back here after only 3 years in the USA.)

Living and working here we can sometimes get tired, frustrated and discouraged with the lack of organization and progress and just the way things roll ... and that all happens before noon. ;)

It hit us that we sometimes make general statements to each other about Haiti and Haitians that are a bit unfair. We might have had a horrible day trying to get through traffic or we might have been stuck in some government office for hours ... or teased- or harassed - or any number of frustrating things that frequently happen. We might say, "Oh Haiti, nothing works here ... it is so much trouble! I cannot take this place/these people."

And while that might be true for that day, we're realizing that we need to be aware that any generalization we make about anyone on the street ... is a generalization our kids will soak in. If what we say is aimed at the people group or PERCEIVED to be aimed at the people group ... we might as well be saying, "Isaac, Haitians are ______." (fill in the blank)

It got us wondering what our kids have heard us say and what was sinking in.
So we asked

Us- Isaac, what do you think of when you think of Haitian people?

Isaac- Uh. Well. Haitian people are poor. (long pause) But I am not poor because I live with you.

Isaac- And, I think that Haitian people are strong. Are they strong Mom?

Me- Yes Ike, VERY strong.


Us- Hope, what do you think of when you think of Haitian people?

Hope- Some are mean? .... and some are nice! (thinking) Do you think that is right?

Us- Well, that is true of all people, some act mean and some act nice.

Hope- Yes. I guess it is all people.

So we are not failing miserably based on those answers. phew We recently heard an adoptive Mom railing on Haitians and calling them all sorts of names. She was frustrated and angry. Meanwhile her Haitian children stood listening.

By the time most kids get to their new adoptive families, their new family has been through the ringer .... they have waited years and the adoption process has kicked their butts again and again. Most of us, being human, feel bitter toward the country by the time it is all finished. It is good to remember that the process is not the people and the people are not the process.

It is important and powerful to speak positive things about the people of the country your child comes from - wherever that is. They have a right to determine their own thoughts and feelings about their homeland, and they need to feel valued for where they came from and for who they are.