The Awkward, Embarrassing Part of Transracial Adoption

Dawn Davenport

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The Scary, Awkward, Embarrassing Part of Interracial Adoption

For transracial adoptive families, having friends who are the same ethnicity as your child is important, but how do you go about making friends when color *does* matter?

We’ve been doing the Creating a Family show for almost four years (more on our anniversary in a few weeks) and during that time we have had many shows on adopting a child of a different race. On every single show the expert or adult adoptee has suggested that white parents find same race role models for their child and stressed the importance of having friends of the child’s race in your life.*  Finding role models is fairly easy if you make a point of choosing an African American pediatrician, requesting the Hispanic coach for her soccer team, or asking for the Asian kindergarten teacher.  Finding same race friends for your child is not all that hard if you live and play in a diverse community.  But incorporating friends of color into your friend circle is a whole different matter indeed, and made all the harder by our inherent desire to avoid appearing foolish, clueless, weird, or like some over-eager white person who wants a token friend of color.

Finding role models is easy, finding friends is harder.

Most of us are not intentional when making friends.  Friendships develop through mutual acquaintances or shared activities.  Once you start tryiing to guide the friendship ship (so to speak) it requires you to go out on a limb and take action.  Taking this step can be scary, awkward and potentially embarrassing.

How *do* you make make friends of a specific ethnicity?

I follow a great blog, Mama C and the Boys, by a single mom of two sons of color.  She recently had a terrific post- I’m White, you’re not. Where do I start? I especially liked her specificity on how exactly to strike up that first conversation.

  • Being a dork is OK. Being a dork might even be somewhat charming in this case.  Worst case scenario–the person you are approaching says; “Uh. No thanks, I really have enough dorky friends, thanks.”
  • Start SMALL. Your name on a piece of paper–with your phone number or email or both. (Like I said before I have a little business card printed up with a picture of me and the boys on one side. My blog address -if you have one- so people can learn a little about me before saying yes.)  I don’t ask for their info–that feels presumptuous to me–unless they offer. After a sweet little playground connect between you and the kids you might say something like; “Hi I’m Catherine. I’m really pleased we met. I’d be happy to meet here again sometime as our kids seem to be hitting it off so nicely.” Then I hand them a card. “If that works out for you, please give us a call!” Chances are the conversation will go in a nice direction from there. Be yourself, and be inviting. This is often a win win combination!
  • If it is someone you already do see a lot (the neighbor, someone at church, the farmer’s market, the library, the barbershop, the bus stop, work, the gym, etc) and you have some albeit mild ease try something super open and easy like; “Hi. This may sound odd, but I’d very much like to invite you and your wife/husband/daughter/son/kids  to join us at the outdoor concert next week. We’d bring snacks to share. Is that something you might consider?” Again-keep it light, simple and easy. Meeting at a park, beach, public space or venue allows kids to run around, and adults something to do while connecting.
  • Another approach-be super direct! “I’m really in need of some help. I am 43, and I have a really limited circle of friends who don’t look like me/or me and my partner. As you know my son is ___________, and I’m eager to create a larger community for all of us to learn more about his/her heritage/culture. Making new friends seems like a great and necessary place to start.”  Hand them that little card, and wait for the call!

When seeking out new friends, don’t limit yourself to just friends of your child’s race.  Diversity in general is beneficial for your children, and can make your life a lot richer to boot.  Have you been successful at diversifying your friends?  What has worked for you i

*I realize not all transracial families are the same, but for the purposes of this blog, I’m assuming a white parent and an adopted child of color.

Image credit:  wjserson

09/09/2011 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 12 Comments



12 Responses to The Awkward, Embarrassing Part of Transracial Adoption

  1. Lisa Deen Warren says:

    Thanks Dawn! This was very helpful to me!

  2. HB says:

    You are right that I dreaded this part because I knew how awkward it would be. It has turned out to be a fun way to make new friends. Not bad at all. People understand.

  3. Terri Stevens says:

    I had cute little mommy cards printed up (500 of them, I think) when I got a free offer (just pay shipping of 4.95) from Vistaprint. They just have my name, then under that, “Mom to N and J”, then my cell phone number and email address. I have handed them to people in lieu of writing down our contact info; I have sent with my daughter to give to a friend on the bus to arrange a play date later; I’ve tucked them inside invitations and just asked for an RSVP; that sort of thing.

    We adopted our girls from Ethiopia 2 years ago and I’ve had more luck/opportunity to develop relationships with specifically Ethiopian Americans than non-Ethiopian connected African Americans. Our ET friends have gone out of their way to pull us into their communities – Church, kids’ parties, cultural events, etc. I communicated my desire to keep the girls connected to their ET culture, and one gentleman told me, “Don’t worry so much, you have us now.” That’s been wonderful.

  4. Christina says:

    Another suggestion, I just met with my local chapter of MochaMoms. I think this could be a very good way of finding friends.

    http://www.mochamoms.org/

  5. Interesting isn’t it. Not sure how comfortable I’d feel with printing cards in advance. Makes me feel more like a stalker. But maybe that’s just me.

  6. Sarah says:

    This is an interesting approach. My current gameplan is to seek out folks on meetup.org – there is a Korean langauge/culture group in our area. Seems like there should be other cultural touchstone points to connect – ethnic cooking groups, workplace affinity groups maybe? I have to admit the direct approach scares me a little bit, it does feel weird to explicitly single someone out for their race. I don’t know that the receiving end of that would feel so good.

    We’ve actually had the reverse happen to us. My husband got sort of “picked up” by a Korean woman who saw him with our Korean daughter – she gave him her number and said to call her if he ever wanted to talk about “Korean stuff!”

    • Dawn says:

      Sarah, there are often Korean (as well as Chinese) “schools” held on Saturday for 1st generation children of immigrants. These are terrific places for getting involved with other interested in that culture. I always liked the idea of volunteering to help with something, since I make friends easier when I have a task to do.

  7. Noel says:

    I had “Mommy” cards made up at Kodak. They are the size of a business card with my son’s picture on it – has my husband’s and my name, cell phone and e-mail address on them. I keep them in my purse. I haven’t used them too often but they are great to have and people think they are really cute.

  8. Kelly says:

    Great suggestions. We are a transracial family (my husband is mixed Asian and our son is Kazakh) and I’ve noted that my son is attracted to the Asian kids. We live in a mostly white with about 10-25% minority community. At daycare he seems to become ‘best’ friends with one of the other few Asian boys in the class (one Indian, one mixed Philipino and one Kazakh – also adopted – from three different daycare classes). I found this to be curious considering that we try not to over- or under-emphasize his ethnicity (he actually looks a lot like his adoptive Dad so others assume he is our bio-child). In any case, our solution seems to be to enroll him in pre-school / activities where there is a degree of diversity and let him pick his own friends.

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