Dear Sandra Bullock,
Congratulations and best wishes going forward, Sandra!
Congratulations on your new addition! Louis is just adorable and I am so happy for you! I remember the day the news broke and I practically did a cartwheel across my living room upon hearing the news you adopted a child domestically. I said out loud to an empty house “Wouldn’t that be great if he was black!” And then a few seconds later, the People magazine cover flashed across the screen to which I shouted, “YES!”
You don’t know me, but we could know each other given how much we have in common. We both live in Austin and we are both mothers to beautiful brown babies. I have been a foster parent in Austin for eight years and have transracially adopted three African American daughters. What I have learned over the years parenting a child of a different race could fill the state of Texas and I would like to share some hard-learned lessons with you.
- Not all advice is good advice. I am sure you already receive unsolicited advice from every direction. I once had a grandmotherly type woman in Wal-Mart tell me I should put Crisco in my daughter’s hair to care for the scalp. I may be white, but I’m not stupid. Seek out trusted allies to show you the cultural ropes and decipher the pearls of wisdom from the rabbit droppings.
- Accept early on that love is not enough to raise a child of a different race. It takes a lot of work. Read books, seek out community resources, utilize the internet, open your mind and your home to new ideas, new people, and new customs. Get comfortable outside of your comfort zone in order to bridge the divide between your home and your son’s cultural origins.
- Don’t feel guilty for not being a strong, black woman to show your son how to be black in America. Your guilt will not serve him well. Accept that you don’t have the necessary life skills to teach him the cultural lessons he must learn in order to have a positive racial identity and then commit yourself to doing whatever is necessary to connect Louis with the right role models.
- Your skin and hair is not the same as Louis. Don’t bathe him every day, and find a barber soon. And for Lord’s sake, do NOT cut his hair before his first birthday. While it may be an old wive’s tale about cutting a boy’s hair before he turns one, I do not advocate stirring the pot without prompting. Interview barbers to find someone who is willing to work with children and who makes Louis feel comfortable. The barber shop is a cultural rite of passage for boys. Embrace the experience.
- Celebrate the likenesses and acknowledge the differences. Fortunately, Louis won’t recognize color for a few more years, so take this time to prepare yourself for the challenges ahead. There are some great Yahoo groups and Facebook pages dedicated to transracial families like ours.
More than anything, love Louis. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for choosing the path less traveled and giving a public face to families like mine. And, of course, if you’re ever in town and want to swap more stories, call me. I am always available for you, Sandy!