Sometimes the whole family isn’t completely on-board with the decision to adopt, especially if the adoption is a transracial adoption—a child that differs ethnically or racially from the adopting parent(s). One such experience my husband and I had was with his dad.
My father-in-law was “concerned” when we shared that we were adopting a child from China and mentioned it to my mother-in-law, who in turn shared his reservations with both my husband and I. He kept his feelings to himself, trying to support us. This that alone spoke volumes about how he felt. My father-in-law was a man I respected and loved deeply, but was known to tell the occasional off-color joke and share his perspective about people who weren’t “like him.”
The Indiana chapter of Families with Children from China created and sold a beautiful annual calendar with pictures of Chinese children, sometimes with their siblings or friends; adopted by families all over the world (they still produce the calendar). My mother-in-law was given one by a co-worker, a gift for the adoptive grandmother-to-be. Unknown to us, my father-in-law spent a lot of time pouring over the images and absorbing that his newest grandchild would resemble the children within the calendar.
In short time he said, “I can’t wait to meet my granddaughter!” She was the topic of discussion until we traveled to China ten months later.
When we arrived home with our daughter, my father-in-law was at the airport to greet her. He was the second to hold her, after our son. And she went right to him, allowing him to kiss her. My father-in-law held her close. His face was infused with love and joy. He came over the next morning, but our daughter pushed him away after feeling his beard. She didn’t like the feel of his whiskers. He returned later within the half hour, clean shaven, and she snuggled up with him, falling asleep in his lap.
My father-in-law was able to recognize his biases and deal with them, so much so that he had no reservations when we adopted again from China and then Guatemala. There has continued to be no favoritism between any biological and adopted grandchildren.
The above story has a positive outcome. Something we all hope for. But I could also share stories that aren’t so positive, of family and friends we no longer see because we have no tolerance for intolerance.
Adoptive parents, especially those who adopt transracially, may find that there is reluctance—on the part of one spouse or partner, family members, extended family or friends. What can you do to help someone embrace your child and family?
- Acknowledge that they may have concerns and fears
- Encourage discussion
- Encourage them to speak up now
- Ask others to examine their assumptions
- Educate others
- Share why some of why you made the decision to adopt
- Talk about adoption and adoption language
- Be firm and let them know what you expect
- Fair treatment of your child
- Ask for support
- Give them time; after all, you want them to come around to make peace with adoption/transracial adoption.
Parents: Have you experienced reluctant relatives? What have your experiences been? How did you handle it?