The same but different

I sometimes forget that my husband doesn’t look like my son.   I never really think about it until someone else points it out.  In fact it took me a long time before I could say I was his mother without some sort of explanation.   I felt like a fraud, like I was passing as his mother, I always felt like I had to add the prefix adoptive.  After all, I was an infertile.  I had plenty of experience being that, none of being a mother.   When my child was placed in my arms, I didn’t feel like I had “won”.  It was more like a woman was giving me her child for safekeeping.  One day I didn’t have a child and the next I did. I walked out the hospital feeling vaguely suspect.  I held my breath the entire time we were away and only did I walk through the doors of my home, did I start to truly comprehend my new reality.  There had been nothing but obstacles along the path to parenthood.   I had to keep recreating my vision of myself.  Everyone kept saying “just adopt, but there was nothing “just” about the whole situation.  Still, I was madly in love and spent the wee hours drinking in his scent and marvelling at this tiny life in my arms.

I knew others would automatically think he was “mine’.  I was uncomfortable with the whole race issue in a way I never had before.  What would my husband know about raising a black male in this world?   He was white.  My husband had never been in the minority, had no idea of what it was truly like.   I was black and female and was taught how to talk my way into and out of things, to charm and to make people at ease, to not get angry even when I was offended and hurt and made to feel less than.  I had been followed around in malls and been called sullen and angry and difficult because I wasn’t smiling, just thinking about what to have for lunch. I had been refused jobs, housing, been socially isolated, etc.  I don’t view my life through the same racial lens as a lot of African Americans do.  Probably being raised in Canada in a metropolitan city has a lot to do with it.  Yet when I started travelling outside of my own social circle and into the larger world, I learned some hard lessons.

When hubby and I first started travelling together, he would incredulously remark how people would turn and watch us as we entered certain establishments in certain places.  I would tell him that people were just struck by our collective good looks.  He wasn’t amused. I was amused when we visited my sister who used lived in Atlanta at the time and we went to an all black church and when we took a bus in Toronto  (the passengers of which were 99% black) to the subway.  I giggled as he realized he was in the minority for the first time in his life.  You should have seen his face.  He looked – how do you put it – ENLIGHTENED – and …. outnumbered.  How was he going to react if his son was slighted for racist reasons?    When I met him, I was impressed with his ability to make me feel safe and protected.  He was a prison guard and had developed a certain demeanour that few tested.  I managed to dissuade him once when  a mentally disturbed homeless person uttered a racist slur at me.

The whole time waiting we were expecting a mixed child, and since a lot of our friends were interracial, we certainly would not have stood out in any conspicuous way.  Of course, we were already conspicuous, so those modules in adoption education were laughable to us.   Still when it came right down to it, when we received the profile and booked our trip to meet the biological mother, I simply didn’t care about what I had pictured anymore.  It just suddenly didn’t matter.   I just wanted to be a parent.  Someone once told me that my child would find me. For a woman like me, that was hard to believe. Until the day it happened.

So in our circle of beloved friends and family, we still enjoy a protective bubble, but as our child grows and enters the world with us by his side, we are reminded every now and then by curious glances, outspoken remarks and queries, that indeed we are a “conspicuous” family.  The Precious knows that Mummy is chocolate like him and Daddy is well, white chocolate.

The same, but different.

4 thoughts on “The same but different

  1. Your comment about feeling like a fraud hit it right on the head. I used to stumble and stutter when people asked me “who does he look like” about my son. Now on to part two….. My baby is grown, falls in love and marries. He is white. His wife is black. I adore her. She loves my son and I love her for that and for being a wonderful young woman. So now in my future are grandkids that are a mix of white and black. God help the person that dares utter a negative comment in my presence. I am a fierce momma bear, momma-in-law bear and am certain that trait will carry over to grandkids. (and I love all kinds of chocolate 😉

  2. Your post made me think about the time 15-20 years ago, when my mom was here visiting, and she & I took a couple of buses & went to the CTV studios in Scarborough for a taping of the Dini Petty show. Standing at the bus stop outside Scarborough Town Centre, my mom looked around with big eyes and whispered to me, “We’re the only white people here!” There were black people, south Asian people, Chinese, native Indians… and us. I had to laugh — i never neven oticed. Living in Toronto, you just get so used to being in a multicultural milieu. In the small rural Prairie towns where I grew up, you might have one non-white family — often the family that runs the Chinese restaurant. In the town where they live now, an extended south Asian family recently bought the local convenience store — GASP!! My parents’ neighbour was ranting about “What if they want to build a mosque??” (Highly unlikely, since they appear to be Hindu.)

    On the other hand, when dh brought me home to meet his family, I remember feeling like a fish completely out of water. Everyone around me was looking at me & chattering in Italian. I later asked dh what his aunts had been saying — he said they were marvelling that I had pierced ears — just like an Italian girl. I went home & called my mother & said I had never thought about it before but had an entirely new appreciation for what it must have been like for her, meeting my father’s Ukrainian family for the first time. : )

    The more we see & learn about each other, the less we notice the difference and the more we see how alike we all are.

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