By Andrea Schroder
It was Friday, which meant beach day for our family. It’s one of our favorite times of the week to unwind, soak up some sunshine, and breathe the salty air. It’s our time to reconnect as husband and wife and have one-on-one time with our twins. We build sandcastles, scout the beach for seashells and ride the waves. Our twins consider themselves “The Official Beach Welcoming Committee” and strive to greet every child within a one-mile radius! They take their job seriously offering to share of all their sand toys and many times, treats from our family snack bag to any newfound friends. This day was no different.
We set up camp close to a large grouping of several families. The twins were ecstatic because they could do their weekly “meet and greet” with the children. My husband and I were ecstatic because our 2 month old foster love was dead asleep in her stroller and we could actually enjoy a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation. We gave the twins our usual reminders: be kind and respectful, ask permission first, play in water no deeper than your knees and don’t stray off. As my husband and I sat to enjoy some time catching up with one another, we watched our twins flock to a group of toddler girls playing in a small forming tide pool. The toddler’s mom stood close-by, keeping watch of the curious girls. I decided to go over and introduce myself. As I approached, I overheard our son exclaim “…and we are adopted!” Almost immediately, I sensed Toddler Mommy was uncomfortable with the newfound knowledge. But I resisted the urge to take over the conversation. Instead, I gave a nervous laugh and nod in agreement.
Adoption was not my choice for an introduction, but I am never ashamed to share the joy of having adopted our beautiful caramel-skinned, curly haired twins. When Toddler Mom queried, “so the twins are adopted?” it did not feel like a question of caring interest… it felt like there was something else hidden in those words. But before I could discern further, Toddler Mom headed back to her group and began pointing back our way with a nod of her head as she spoke with her group. It was obvious she was discussing our family, but this wasn’t offensive to me at first. We get it all the time. It wasn’t until she purposefully turned her back so I could no longer see her mouth her words, smiles turned to frowns and the group all looking our way with heads shaking in disapproval, that I began to wonder more about her earlier tone.
My twins are my babies even though we look nothing alike. Our blonde-haired and green-eyed bio-family is never mistaken as blood kin to them. We have few resembling features. But I am so grateful that God, in His beautiful grace, chose us to be their forever family. We love the family He gave us and firmly believe a family’s skin color, eyes, hair, etc. do not have to match!
As the day went on I struggled to reconcile the earlier interaction and the condescending looks I felt. In the fostering/adoption world, we have become accustomed to whispers and judgment of some as we navigate creating safe and loving environments for our foster placements. Anyone that has made a simple trip to the store for WIC items knows exactly what I am talking about. So I hoped I was just being oversensitive due to previous experiences. I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to this unknown fellow mom and her people. I scolded myself for assuming that the families looks and whispers were negative towards us.
Foster Love finally awakened from her restful beach nap and I stood cuddling her in my arms while watching my twins attempt to play with the children from the family group adjacent. My heart sank as I watched the adults cordon off access of their children from our twins. I watched in shock as they called attention to another area of the beach in the opposite direction of our children with obvious intention to distance themselves. I tried to rationalize what I saw happening with scenarios played out in my mind that would explain why these people were choosing to isolate their children from mine. I considered it was because they wanted to spend time with their children alone, but none of the parents were engaging in play with the kids. Instead they stood talking amongst themselves. Several of the parents moved closer to where I was standing with Foster Love, and when their eyes spotted Foster Love’s beautiful chocolate skin, the reaction on their faces erased any doubt in my mind— these people had a problem with my family related to skin color.
My heart still breaks as I recall that day and how helpless I felt as a mom. I had felt certain I could protect my children from those that choose to discriminate but that day was a harsh reminder that I can’t. They will face this behavior— sometimes subtle and unspoken, sometimes overt and with words— time and again in their lifetime. Immediately my mind went to a scripture on loving your neighbor as yourself. In this moment, however, I didn’t want to love. I wanted to react in a Mama Bear attack. I wanted to step in and confront.
But then my beautiful brown-eyed Twin Girl looked over at me with the sweetest expression and I knew she had no idea about the attitudes directed towards us. Her sweet little face radiated the sun-kissed beauty of our beach day and I was thankful. Thankful that at least for today, she and her brother’s innocence protected them from critical and negative attitudes. I motioned for her to come to me and as she skipped over, I fought back tears. I hugged her tightly and whispered in her ear, “I am SO glad you are mine!” and she whispered back “you are my favorite mom and I am so glad you are mine!”
We can’t stop prejudice or racism. It is not something new and has been around since the dawn of time. I fought my desire to be reactive, but also knew that most likely there was nothing I could say or do to convince anyone that day to change their hearts or minds. And honestly, it wasn’t my job to try. My job is to love, protect and cherish these children to the best of my ability while I have the opportunity to do so.
We choose to love.
Guest blogger Andrea and her husband have been married 31 years and are currently the parents of 7 children (4 bio, 2 adopted and 1 foster babe). Their fostering journey began in 2011 and have been forever changed by the precious little people that have joined their family over the years. They love the beach, discovering wonderful restaurants in downtown Charleston and spending time as a family. They feel very blessed!
*The views expressed in all guest blogs are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect Care 2 Foster as a whole. Care 2 Foster is committed to helping families of all races, ages, family composition, and religiosity in their fostering journey.*