Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"Wow, What Great Tan!"

These words were uttered this summer about Iggy, quite in jest, as his melanin is a bit more pronounced than ours. I was in no way offended as the person was simply admiring his beautiful coppery caramel skin tone, but it got me thinking.

If it is in the Lord's plan for us to adopt Iggy we will probably be faced with this topic again. We have already faced several curious questions about where he is "from" (I would love to reply and say, "a uterus", but I have not gotten up the nerve. Yet.), what his nationality is, and what race he is.

They are all valid questions and nothing by which to be annoyed. Frankly, none of us in this little clan have the same skin tone. Xena looks like she stepped off a Viking ship, C'sa has a lighter, but similar copper shade of my father's skin, K.Z. is one big freckle, Mr. Clean is the captain of Xena's viking ship, with ruddy, sea tanned skin, while I am a crazy cross of an Indian father and a blonde mother, leaving me with dark hair and pale skin. We are all different.

But we are all the same as well. If we do adopt him (and we see it this way now anyway), we will be a family. First and foremost. All creations of the Lord and all a part of the Mr. Clean clan. We do not focus on a daily basis that our skin is a different hue or that Mr. Clean's Danish, German and Canadian genes are vastly different from my own Cherokee, Scot and English ones. Nor that Iggy's Latino genes are different from my own. I will be (am) Iggy's mother and that is all that will matter.

Don't get me wrong. I am not so naive to think that his genetics and heritage will not be important to him later. We all go through a period of wondering where we are from, what our ancestors did and who they were. I myself am thoroughly intrigued my own genealogy and we will do our best to help foster any interests he may have in that. We will not however, allow it to be his "idol". Culturally, my Iggy will be an American. After all, he was born in Pennsylvania. Home of the first Capitol City and where our country was officially "born". How more American can you get? Beside perhaps, eating apple pie while watching baseball?

I am proud of my heritage, but I decided long ago not to wear it as a badge of honor. Besides, carrying bag pipes and a peace pipe, all while wearing a buck skin kilt would be tough while doing the dishes and changing diapers. It's the same for Mr. Clean. Imagine our kids in the same scenario, except they'd have to wave St. Andrew's Cross, Union Jack, the Maple Leaf, Schwarz-Rot-Gold, Dannebrog and Old Glory, while balancing the Seal of the Cherokee Nation. It' s a heavy load to bear. Pride is one thing, obsession another. So we wrap it all up in a nice neat package and hang it on a peg hook. Underneath the Cross.

The fact of the matter is that while we are now a global society, we all still have allegences. To our God, to our countries and to our families. That comes long before our skin tones. I am just thrilled to be a part of such a diverse family. An American family.


Susie said...

Amen, Angel! Me too! Nine nationalities leaves me a bit bewildered as to which one has more claim on me. I like being all-American! :o)

GDS said...

Great post.

Ah yes - the "tan" comment! Like you, I always just laugh at that one more than anything else. The angle that most cracks me up is when people say - gee - "what I wouldn't give for a tan like that!" Ugh. Like you said - not totally annoying, but I wonder what's going on in people's brains when they say this.

It sounds like you are handling it like an awesome mom. Our kids are fully American, but will be viewed as outsiders even in a modern, "enlightened" US of A. Unfortunately both governments and bigots will stick our Latino kids into a separate "other" buckets even given the diversity of backgrounds among your "average" American.

I have found that people who ask the questions you mention are simply curious and aren't sure how to ask exactly. Answering in a positive, non-defensive manner helps keep the "normalcy" of bringing a child into your family in this manner and helps reduce the stigma.

Anyway - I'm sure we could share some stories - but I don't want to drone on here.

Aduladi' said...

AMEN Susie and Greg!

Mrs. Sam said...

You Rock! My dad was adopted and he was darker on the complection, picture Italian, Greek kinda look. In highschool a Hindi guy asked me out because my hair was long and black down my back, my skin was dark and he assumed I was Hindi too. Nope! He uninvited me quickly with as much grace as he could muster up. My point is that my dad was adopted to two very white people, he was born in London Ontario and was a Canadian through and through. His 'heritage' is a mystery. His 'papers' say one of his bio parents has an Austrian last name, but the other bio parent might be English like England English...! We just don't know. I have people ask me all the time if I'm Italian (my last name is due to my husband but I'm not) I've had people start speaking foriegn languages to me because they assume I'll understand. Crazy. When I was little I looked First Nationesque. All this to say, people assume all kinds of stuff about each other all the time. I had someone think I lived in a mansion once because the kind of engagement ring I have. I live in a humble backsplit in suburbia. People think and ask weird things and the best I can do is chuckle and add it into my combined life experiences. One day, I'll write a book. Until then, I'll blog. Happy Day!

Carolyn said...

Interesting topic. I don't want Thing 1 and Thing 2 to see the differences in peoples skin color. I know they don't with Iggy, but they do with other people. They just haven't had enough expericence actually being with people of different skin colors. Today, Thing 1 had his first social skills group and there was a lovely brown-skinned woman in the room and he wouldn't go in. I couldn't believe it. I asked him if it was right for someone not to be around him because his skin is white. He didn't think that was right. I told him it matters what is on the inside of a person. He did go in and was fine. My boys need more experience around a diverse group of people.