“So I am From Africa”

IMG_4648A few weeks ago we were having dinner at our fancy local supermarket. We like to go there because davy will actually eat the food and they have a tiny little play area, which she loves. On this particular instance there were two little girls there. They were both Ethiopian, i could tell, because I can spot a habasha a mile away. I am not sure if Davy can yet or was just attracted to the color of their skin. Our girl casually sidles up to these two and says “ Hi, I am Davy and i am from Africa”. They proceeded to play, fight, play, fight and laugh the only way little spunky Ethiopian girls know how. It was instantaneous recognition and kinship. The same thing happened at our friends Abe’s birthday party. She met a little girl, also Ethiopian and they just sidled up in the corner and created their own magic world. Not to say that this doesn’t happen with white kids, it does, but I don’t think it happens with the same intensity and recognition.

I think that as parents in a transracial family we do a solid medium job exposing her to kids like herself. We have a ton of friends who are adopted, our neighborhood and her kindergarten will pretty diverse, but right now our lives are admittedly very white. As adults we have very very few black friends. Whiter than they have ever been in our lives. Portland is a pretty segregated town. We haven’t put ourselves out there as much as we need to be. My friend Lori, who does probably does the best job I know, of creating relationships for herself and her kids with people of color often talks about how you have to make yourself uncomfortable for your kids. She is 1000% right.

I am admitting i made a pretty big mistake this summer. I put Davy in a very very white summer camp. I didn’t think about it. Her friends signed up, I thought “well Davy likes to dance and she loves Corrine and Adam, so lets do it”. What should have i done? Signed her up for the class at our local community center. It’s more diverse. I didn’t think about my kid having different needs than I do. It’s not the biggest mistake I will make as a parent, but I do feel kind of dumb about it.

To make matters worse, she isn’t even really likeing this camp. The first day I picked her up they said (I think I am going to get this a lot). “Oh Your Davy Beach’s Mother”. I answered, I laughed. She just wasn’t listening and running away. It sounds like her. It’s very difficult to get Davy to do something she doesn’t want to do. My daughter, God bless her, is neither a follower or a pleaser. Her teachers love her, because she is so smart and funny and challenging. Would I expect a 18 year old camp counselor to do the same? She only gets to know our girl for a week. I did call the camp and give suggestions to help her, that have worked in school. Like giving her special tasks, or just letting her do her own thing. Things like timeouts don’t work because they will NEVER win a battle of the wills. No they will not.

Yesterday, when I picked her up. The same counselor said “She was better but- she just has her own personality” She did not mean it as a compliment, but I totally took it as one.

So yeah, next year a camp with more diversity and one that has probably seen their fair share of strong sassy black girls. I am glad that Davy is young enough that we still have some time to learn from my mistakes.

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3 thoughts on ““So I am From Africa”

  1. You have your work cut out for you, but you’ll get better! Part of it, IS her personality. I’m an only child, who also had/has a strong personality. Hey, there were no siblings around to temper anything. As far as sass? It’s not done in African-American households, although you are taught to speak your mind, you still have to respect authority. That said, I would have asked the counselor what she meant. Not all black girls are sassy. Was it a response? What could Davi tell you? Being a black child in all white environments was difficult for me, because I was always reminded that I stood out, even while doing the same things the other children were doing. The worse part, was that the Adults who I was taught to respect were the ones disrespecting me. What was I supposed to do? I was a kid.

    1. Sahara- it has been such a pleasure reading your comments on my blog. I have been terrible at keeping it up to date- so thank you for your comments. I love them!
      When I read this post- or many others, two things strike me. A) I have and had a lot to learn about my own privilege and voice. I would never ever refer to her or any other black girl as a “sassy black girl” today. Also- there was some post I wrote about how adoption was traumatizing for parents. If I could take it all back. I would. Its WAY more traumatizing for the kids. We are adults who chose it. They were babies who were forced into families other than their ones of origin.

      Also- when i read this post now, I would never drop davy off at a camp. Davy has a very difficult time separating from me. She has panic attacks every day at school. She was in her trauma and we didn’t know or see it. Also, she is full of sensory issues. Any class where she has to move in tandem and or fallow along totally freaks her out. Her coping skills is to act out. We know this now. We didn’t know it then. Trust me that I wish i did.

      1. Hi Lisa!

        Wow, thanks for responding, no worries, I’m lazy too, here procrastinating, lol!
        This is one of my concerns about trans national adoptions––how much info do you get? And how much does she remember? But then with birth parents, issues happen too. As far as who she is, she’s YOUR sassy black girl, so that’s okay to say describing her. 🙂

        The biggest issue I see will be diversity, if she can recognize other kids like her and go up to them; btw white kids will bond with the same intensity in all black environments; even as adults. Having dolls in all races helps with adjustment and acceptance. The SHAME is housing segregation, not children.

        I can certainly tell you honestly about my experiences in all white environments, and how I often “acted out” because I had no way to express my feelings. At least her school is good; I was surrounded by hostile adults and kids who took their cues from them. Ugh.

        Anyway, feel free to contact me at my email to laugh or rant about anything, from hairstyles to stupid questions asked from others. You’ll be amazed at what adults will ask her; get ready. And I happy you have her in therapy! Because it takes a village…

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