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To my child who is a different color than I
You'll want to read this moving letter from a mom to her child about what it means to be human, adopted and a minority. - photo by Cathy Lim
As it turns out, Kiddo, you and I are the outliers. Your dad is Asian and your three sisters are half-Asian. Im white; youre black. By the time your dad and I adopted you, after Id given birth three times to babies with full heads of dark hair, I (with my blonde locks) had already heard plenty of times from strangers, Are they adopted?

With you, some people have asked if Im your foster mother. Go figure.

On one hand, I could make the case that you and I have this in common: Everyone else in our family is Asian, so were the minorities. At the same time, in all seriousness, I know I will never truly know what its like to be a minority. And I know you do know that feeling.

We never avoid the topic of you being brown. We talk frankly about what your skin looks like, what mine looks like and what the rest of the familys looks like. Heaven knows we talk about the need for your skin to be lotioned on a regular basis: It sucks up any cream or oil like a sponge and then begs for more, and still manages to look ashy far too often.

And then your hair is probably the biggest topic of all: We, as your parents, have been aware of our utter unfamiliarity with how to style your very curly, distinctively textured hair since day one. We sought advice from black friends and received plenty of unsolicited advice, much of it conflicting. I settled on combing it and plying it with plenty of nice creams and oils from a reputable brand. I still havent learned how to do those tiny braids. With four children, I just dont have time for that. (Well, honestly, doing cool things to hair isnt my thing. Be nice to your 13-year-old sister, and maybe shell feel inclined to work her styling magic with your hair.)

But we havent really talked at all in these eight years youve been with us (since you were a day old) about what it means to be black. It just hasnt come up. And we may have done you a disservice because of that. Im sure there are plenty of people out there with plenty of opinions about it, but Im not going looking. Because we all know how many differing opinions are out there on every possible topic in the universe. I just dont want to muddy parenting waters that so far have been clear enough, at least as clear as Ive achieved in almost 20 years of being a mom.

Its not that I dont care or that Im nave about it being an issue. Ive never cared about color. Its always been so strange to me that some people do. But since some people do notice, in a negative way, we definitely will end up talking about race and racism. And well find some good ways to help you feel a connection to your black culture, your roots.

I guess to this point Ive been focusing my energies on just parenting you, all four of you. Making sure youre all fed, clothed, educated, spiritually nourished and happy. All of which takes up pretty much all of my time and energy.

Ive been focused, in short, on raising you to be a hardworking, grounded, good person.

Is that enough? For the past eight years, Ive felt it has been. For the next 10 or more? It wont be. So well talk more about the culture youre missing out on, living with a family that isnt black and living in an area where theres not a large number of blacks.

Just know this, Sweet Pea. I love you. Ive told you many times and firmly believe you were meant to be in our family but came a different route than your sisters. In that way, you must really have been meant to be with us because it took some extra work to get you here. So youre pretty special and very loved.

Your dad and I will be here for you in whatever ways you need us to be, including helping you find your way in the world as a person, as an adopted person and as a black person. Were different colors, but were on the same team. And well figure it out together, and maybe even come through with flying colors.
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