Thursday, December 4, 2014

What I Wish I Didn't Have To Tell You

My Darling Boy,

It's your first birthday this week. We made it! That first year is so hard, kid. Sleepless nights, feedings round the clock, no personal space or time for your mama, older brother adjusting, dog in panic mode again with a little one around. It's been good and hard. The way that first year should be.

Like most parents, I've tried to treasure this year even as I've wondered what will come next. What will your personality be like? Which sports will you try and which instruments might you play? Will you like to read or prefer math or maybe both? Will you like to work with your hands or be a visual artist or dancer? Who will you be?

But son, in the wake of recent news, there are bigger questions I have right now.

How, in the name of God, will we as white parents teach you how to be a black man in this America? An America that claims to be post-racist but will target you as inferior from the get-go. An America with systems set up to make you seem suspicious, to assume failure, to promote fear of you. To hire people who will assume the worst of you because you might listen to hip-hop or wear a hoodie or walk alone in a neighborhood that is predominantly white or get behind the wheel of a car and dare to drive somewhere or play with a toy gun in public.

Who will not look at you as an image-bearer of God but a thug or a hoodlum or a troublemaker.

How, in the name of God, will we ever understand what you will feel like when these things happen? How will we help you understand? I may have been teased or underestimated or harassed as a woman. But you, my son, if things don't change, you will be in danger.

I remember the moment I realized how truly different raising you would be. I sat across a table from a Black friend at a coffee shop. She told me that she had to tell her teenage son not to drive too slowly. Not to wear a hoodie in the car. To always, always be as compliant as possible if pulled over. To keep his hands visible. To make no trouble. To be lessened, somehow. About how she worried when he was out. How she knew he would not be treated fairly. This was all before you came home, son. This was early in our process when we were trying to figure out if we could do this. Should we do this. Unfortunately, transracial adoption is not as simple as love. You will need more from us.

So, son, in the wake of continual news that has rendered me speechless and grieving, I promise you this. We will not stay silent. We will not whitewash your history. We will not pretend things are fine and good. We will not celebrate colorblindness. We will continue to teach your white brother about racism and the horrific history of our country in the hopes that he will be a voice for justice. Not just for you, but for all. We will teach you things we wish we didn't have to say. Oh sweet, innocent boy, I wish these were things we wouldn't have to say.

They shouldn't have to be.

Son, you are only one. You are still young. And because I believe in a God who wants justice more than any of us, I will also hope. Hope for deep change. Hope that this new wave of protests, that words uttered now and in the coming months will stir hearts, will unite believers and unbelievers alike to speak up for the oppressed, will ignite change in this country, will cause repentance and anger and grief. I will choose hope, even as I choose honesty. Even as I prepare for what I will say to you. Even as I try to explain Michael and Eric and Trayvon and Tamir to your brother.

Maybe by the time we start to talk about it change will be in the works. Honestly, I doubt it. But I have to hope - as a mother, as a daughter of God, as someone who cannot imagine that anyone will ever look on you with any feelings other than deep love. I have to choose hope.

So, darling boy, I ask in advance for grace. I will get it wrong. Dad will get it wrong. We can never truly understand. But son, we will ask for help along the way. We will apologize often. We will listen well to you and never discount your experiences. We will choose to live in communities who will talk about this and try to live it out, who will never separate the gospel from God's good work of justice. We will do our best to prepare you for what's ahead and we will stand beside you and behind you as you face it, knowing that God goes before us all and loves you more deeply than I can ever imagine.



  1. Ashe sister. Keep on telling the truth.

  2. Brought tears ..... Nate is a very, very lucky boy to have you and Reed.... I, too, will stand with you and behind Nate .....

    1. Thanks so much, Aunt Dawn. Thank you for all the love and support you've shown us through this and for your commitment to us and clear adoration of Nate!

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  4. HI Carolyn,
    I'm a friend of Dabney's. Do you know about the facebook transracial adoption group? I would recommend it.

    As for my family, we are waiting to adopt. Nice to read your story!

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      Best wishes for your adoption! Thanks for the heads up on the group - I joined it and the discussions are really helpful.


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