I wish everyone could see what I have seen.

This post has been floating around in my head for a long time.  I didn’t have a good example of an incident until today.  Prior to this, it was just a feeling, and I wondered if it’s real or just my overprotective mama bear nature.  For those of you who have adopted and have spent time in your child’s first home, don’t you wish everyone could see what you have seen?

ShyGuy attempted to play basketball with some neighborhood friends for the first time today.  We have purposely kept ShyGuy out of any kind of organized activities because he is NOT shy when it comes to sports.  In fact, he’s kind of a jerk.  He pushes and shoves, kicks, and occasionally hits to get to the ball.  Running a race with him is SUPER frustrating for the opponent because he pushes and tries to trip.  But, that’s every little Ghanaian that I saw out there on the football pitch.  Those games were r-o-u-g-h.

So, we decided he needed to watch the end of the soccer season, learn the “soccer mom” rules of soccer and then attempt to play.  He doesn’t want to.  He wants to play.  So, it was too tempting for him to go over and play pick up basketball with friends while FPD was watching Middle-Middle’s soccer game.  He plays basketball like he swims, with absolutely NO technique and a whole lot of thrashing around.  We try not to laugh.  But, he was really getting into it.  Then, it happened.  In a race for the ball he pushed ResponsiBoy, who fell off balance and collided with another 5-year-old.  Considering how roughly he was playing, this didn’t make the other parents very happy.  The boy was very upset.  We don’t play that way at 5-years-old in the U.S.  So, I understand why they were upset.  But, I wish everyone could see what I see.

I don’t see a young African-American boy who is overly competitive, or some kind of violence prone juvenile delinquent.  I still see a scrawny, rough haired, dirty little boy who is running barefoot over a dirt covered pitch in Ghana.  Even though that little boy has put on a lot of weight, gotten a hair cut, a bath and some shoes, my heart still makes me see the boy I first met.  He’s still inside this new “American” boy.  That boy is fighting so hard to fit in.  He does this by trying to be good at sports when he has no idea why the American kids have these “be gentle” rules.  There was no gentle in Ghana.  You wanted something, you fought for it.  This fighter attitude has served him well there, but here it makes people thinks he needs meds.  It’s true.  Because he’s black, a boy, and adopted, people make assumptions.  I’ve dealt with those assumptions with four boys now for over seven years.  They stink.  I wish everyone could see what I have seen.  I wish they could see where all my kids came from.  Because they all came from a place that was light years away from white, middle class “nicey nice” America.  If they could see this, then they would know that these actions aren’t out of anger or spite, they are an attempt to find a place in this new world.  A world that is SO different than anything they’ve ever known before.

–FullPlateMom,
who is tired of assumptions.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I hope our kids will always know that we are safe, that we HAVE seen, and that WE understand. I pray that I will know the right words to say or the right things to do so that my daughter can grow up proud of her African heritage, but comfortable in our community. But I also know that there are ignorant people everywhere, people who look at her and automatically assign a personality or attitude, and never give her the chance to make her own first impression. I still see her in those way-too-small Santa pants and the two mismatched flip flops, or the white dress with the yellow flowers and the holes all over. That is her “baby picture” for us. We don’t want to give it up, any more than we want any of our kids to grow up as fast as they do. We never knew her any younger. She is really still that girl, in cleaner clothes and new shoes. Part of her always will be. Like you, I wish everyone could have seen her “before” and that somehow they could understand her past and give her a break while she learns how to just be a little girl.

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  2. waitingarms says:

    I so feel your pain _ I also so desperately want people to look past my kids’ skin color and the pre-conceived ideas that comes with. I live in a very politically correct state where everyone prides themselves on embrassing diversity and on how open-minded they are. But open-minded my foot – I can’t tell you just how many times well meaning “open-minded” strangers will stop me and think we are somehow connecting when they ask if my son wants to be a football or basketball player when he grows up (they stop shy of giving the third option – a rap star). Or if my daughter wants to be a dancer! I have even had a well meaning hippie who was watching my daughter get so excited that she introduced my daughter to rap music. She could not get over her excitement that she had cracked open a door into my daughter’s culture! That one left me speechless. I want my children to simply be children and be judged by the content of their character, instead of having to fight through the stereotypes. I don’t know which one is better – living in an area where people won’t even bother acknowledging your child (at least that way, you both know the score), or living in an area where people would never describe themselves as racists, yet their words constantly reveal their deep-seated prejudices and stereotypes.

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