If not, let me give you a few nuggets to catch you up. Jack and Rebecca Pearson have triplets, but the third baby does not make it. On the same day, a fireman delivers a newborn to the hospital who had been left at the station door. The beautiful couple adopt the little black baby and fill out their Big 3 as they call them and leave the hospital with three little ones.
Fast forward and little Randall visits the “other side” of the late-seventies-era public pool where he identifies with people wearing his same skin. He finds comfort there, but his mother does not. In a humorous encounter, she eventually realizes she needs help and begins asking Yvette questions about barbers and sunscreen.Rebecca has drawn a line in the sand that she struggles to cross: Randall is my child; he is my son.
BUT she needs help…
My husband and I adopted two black children years ago, and I–very naively–wanted to make them mine: ALL mine!
For the black child raised by white parents though, the struggles go both ways. I focused on how to care for them: their skin, their hair, their educational needs, but they had other needs as well–invisible needs when they were young, but more and more real as they aged.
Perhaps the biggest need they had was identity. Their hair and skin would eventually recover from my failures. As easy as it was for me to see them as my children–and it was, by the way–they had to deal with perceptions about them that I never thought of until they opened up about their stories.
My daughter would walk through the grocery store holding my hand until she saw other black families, and then she would quickly dart into the next aisle. She noticed people staring at her and didn’t want to draw attention to her weird new family arrangement.
When he was little, our son would sweat any time we went in public, and I mean really sweat. He had so much social anxiety he could barely speak. He felt all eyes on him wherever he went, and there walked his mother, so proud of him she grinned from ear to ear, dragging that sweet boy behind her scared to death to be seen.
Having such bad anxiety over the situation made him never want to do anything, or if he did join a team of some sort, he felt he had to be the very best at it so he wouldn’t be judged. He would literally work out until he passed out for fear he would be looked down on if he did not keep pushing.
Years later, when he landed a job wrangling carts at the local grocery store, a co-worker asked him about his mom after seeing me speaking obvious mother-speak to him. He answered whatever the question was, referring to me as his mom, but the kid said, “No, I mean your real mom.” Wendell’s quick wit blurted, “She’s real. Go talk to her. She’ll talk back.”
I got a good chuckle out of that.
Then I wondered if people would ever ask such odd questions if he shared my skin color, and I have to believe they most likely would not, even if they knew he was adopted. I even had a grown woman once ask me how I had a black son. Now folks, he’s all the way black… there’s no equivocation on his skin tone, so I really had to resist the urge to insert sarcasm laced with pejorative.
I resisted, but sometimes, I wish I hadn’t.
As much as I love my children, that very love, much like our dear Rebecca Pearson’s, can blind us to their need to identify as something. Not a self-identifying sort of lie they tell themselves, but a true sense of identity based on who they truly are.
This is us! We are who we are, and we’ve made the mistakes we’ve made, but I’m pretty sure we also did a few good things along the way.
I have to believe that giving them a strong sense of how much we love them soothes at least some of the tension they’ve felt, and I hope it gives them the confidence they need to manage that search for their significance.
and that’s the view from My Front Porch