Black, White, Just Right was the first book that I purchased when pregnant with our first baby. I wanted her to know from before she breathed her first breath that who we are as a family and who she is as a biracial child, was more than just right. I’m a Brooklyn girl born of Caribbean immigrant parents and my husband is meat and potatoes Midwestern boy born of farmers. It’s amazing how our love for children, especially those who have a more difficult beginning, brought us together.
1.) Have expectations.
Often, in international adoption, the timing is the biggest misconception adoptive parents are led to believe. I think most countries have good intention for matching a child with prospective parents, and maybe they even have good intentions on making an adoption happen in a relatively timely fashion. However, if you are looking into international adoption and you are wanting to grow your family within months or even a year, stop now, turn around and look the other way. International adoption may not be right for you at this time. I’m not saying you should turn your back on the possibility completely, just make sure you rethink your expectations before pursuing it.
Erin Darling is an illustrator who specializes in developing original animal characters and contemporary storybook scenes. In her own words, and I quote, “The world is changing vibrantly around us, and my art taps into that pulse to capture moments of connection, community, and affection.”
Erin’s images tell stories about who we are as a people and the kind of bright future we can find if we work together and listen to each other. Erin is also the illustrator for my new children’s book, Coco & Olive: The Color of Love, which follows a canine mother and daughter pair who explore the beauty of family diversity and adoption.
When I was a little international adoptee, my parents would take the family traveling and camping through Europe. My dad refurbished an old VW van that he purchased in the United Kingdom. He and my mother would pack it up and off we’d go exploring!
Everywhere we went, it seemed I’d be claimed by the locals there. In Italy, folks would say, “Surely, she’s Italian.” The Greeks would add, “She’s one of us!” I was a European girl growing up in an American family. There’s both bitter and sweet in that statement.
I feel like in the proverbial blink-of-an-eye, my “baby” went from a cuddly, cooing infant to a tweenager.
Though the earlier stages could be demanding—with the potty training and tantrums—I had experience. Throughout my teen years and young adult life, I’d been a babysitter, day care employee, children’s ministry leader, camp counselor, and nanny. Kids were my life.
I’d potty trained other people’s children. I had put bandages on boo boos and read bedtime stories. I’d watched a little girl learn to walk and a little boy lose his first tooth. I’d watched one child, and I’d watched multiple children, including a children with special needs.
Growing up my dream was always to become an actress. I loved the humorous aspects of the theatre and had the quirky acting personality of Amanda Bynes. The left-sided brain that I am, however, drew me towards a more practical career choice, and I ultimately decided to attend University to become a psychologist and make a great career for myself.
One day in my senior year of high school, however, I found myself reading the book Charla’s Children by Charla Pereau. It was an outdated and simple book that my aunt had gifted me about the life of a missionary who worked in an orphanage in Mexico and had adopted many of the children. Despite the insignificant appearance of this book, it changed my world. I knew, after reading that book, that I wanted to adopt children and somehow be involved with kids without families. Initially, I envisioned working in an orphanage just like Charla, though I wasn’t sure yet how I would get there.
I watched, this morning, the comments of Tom Brokaw on yesterday’s NBC broadcast, Meet the Press. Quite frankly, I am sickened. Let me preface my thoughts by saying that I try hard not to delve deeply into politics. The state of our government, currently, is not one I care to argue with people about. I have my beliefs, I know my values. I will always do and vote in alignment with what is core and foundational within me. I can’t change anyone else.
Mr. Brokaw’s comments, however, felt like a direct punch to the gut. As I get up off of the floor and catch my breath, I know that I cannot go silently through the day. There’s too much at stake here. And, I wonder why Mr. Brokaw and so many other Americans fear families like mine. In their closed off social corners, I wonder why families like mine offend them so.
I was a small girl when my mother told me I was adopted. Though I was too young to remember her exact words, I will never forget my feelings. I felt sorry for my friends who weren’t adopted. My mother had just told me what, by the age of seven, I had already felt; that my parents loved me unconditionally and that they had ached with longing for a child.
When I grew old enough to understand my birthmother’s role, I realized that I had been doubly blessed. A girl who couldn’t raise me had loved me enough to give me to someone who could. This selfless person knew that motherhood is more than playing house and that her ultimate responsibility was ensuring the best for the baby she had brought into the world.
Will I love more kinds of people than ever before in 2019? This question was posed in my church on Sunday. I sat in my seat, closed my eyes, and focused in. Will I love more kinds of people…? It was a question of diversity. Surely my life is filled with a diverse kind of love, I thought to myself. After all, family diversity and far-reaching inclusivity are my topics of passion.
I’m an international adoptee, mom-by-international adoption, and believer in the power of embracing difference. I think we should, as my church community says, love everyone always.