Bracelets for Our Brothers
Help Us Bring Our Brothers Home
Where is your "REAL" mother?
Posted on May 25th, 2017

​I’m right here, darling. 

I’m right by your side, and always will be.  I’m not naïve; I knew this day would come.  Well, days, really, because ignorance, disrespect, jealousy, criticism, racism, sexism, prejudice, assumptions, well-meaning comments that still hurt—these things are not limited to just one day. You now know enough English to internalize these things, though, so I am reminding you today—I am real, and I am right here.  Forever.
January 24, 2015 was the date posted on your referral pictures.  You were 8 and 11 in these photos.  Your father and I saw them just a few days after they were taken.  We knew instantaneously that we were your parents, and that you were destined to be our children.  Both of you were simultaneously so beautiful and vibrant in your videos, yet so frail, malnourished, oppressed, and deprived.  Today you are many things, but no longer starving, neglected, silenced, and ignored.
I forget, sometimes, that I didn’t give birth to you, that I didn’t carry you in my womb for 9 arduous months, that we look different, and that your skin is strikingly darker than mine.  I forget, also, that I’m only barely twice your age. 
Then, someone brings that reality sharply back in focus.  Maybe it is the department store sales clerk who said “I just wanted you to be aware that some random children were putting items in your cart while you weren’t looking.” Maybe it’s the many people who, trying to be polite, carefully reassure themselves with comments like “these are your children, right?” Or, perhaps, the medical assistant who questions your relationship to me as we go over insurance and payment; she makes me show her a court decree and social security card to prove you’re mine.  I comply only because I’m caught off guard and have no time to craft a sharp response.
I often wish my skin looked like yours—olive, caramel, tan.  You wish your skin looked like mine—paper white, fair, and translucent.  I often marvel over the fact that someone could want skin like mine.  While you see my skin as something to be envious of, I look in the mirror and see my middle-school nick name, “Casper”, and wish my skin wasn’t so pasty and it didn’t have such a pink tint to it.  
You speak like I do a lot of times now; you try to imitate my tone and mannerisms.  You carry yourself proud, courageous, empowered, and brave.  I try to model these things for you every day because I know you are watching, and we have years of lost time to make up for.  You are learning to accept yourself, be proud of your life circumstances, and to advocate for yourself.  But, sometimes, you are caught off guard by innocent but powerful questions like, “where is your “real”mom?.”  You ask me if you are a “fake” child.  You don’t really understand, but are learning, that DNA doesn’t make someone a parent.  Your young mind is processing things it should never have to, but I am here, and I am real, and I will always be here to support your journey.
When people aren’t satisfied with your answers and they challenge your response to the question “where is your “real” mom”, I know it is frustrating and confusing for you.  I know it makes you question everything I’ve ever told you.  Some children in your class augment the difference in our skin tone, and use it to justify their position that I, in fact, could never be your “real” mom.  After all, I am white and you are brown, so there’s no way I could have given birth to you, case closed
I am listening when those around you talk about adoption innocently but flippantly.  It is trivialized and minimized because it is powerful, but few are brave enough to adopt or be adopted.  It's more comfortable and convenient to make big things into small things sometimes.  Adopt a dog, adopt a highway, adopt a stuffed animal.  These are easier things, and the "ownership" is rarely questioned.

I know you’ve heard my students ask if I could just adopt them so they could stay a few minutes longer in my classroom.  I know you’ve heard the same orphan jokes and racial slurs I have (because your ethnicity is such a tiny minority in our country, and is romanticized and revered to be the equivalent of a free-spirit, it is somehow acceptable to call you a “gypsy” or for people to say they were “gypped” out of something right in front of you, and not blink an eye.  It is socially acceptable.  You and I are “snowflakes” if we speak up about this glorified stereotype, while other equally offensive slurs are virtually outlawed in public, spoken often in faint and embarrassed whispers.).  You and I both know that we are trying to undo years of damage from your birth country where you were barely recognized as a human being.  Female, Romani, orphan—these three labels sealed your social status as invisible and unworthy.  Just as all of this is real, I am real.
When you told that boy in your class that I was your real mom and he told you to prove it by showing him who I was at awards day, I wasn't there for you to show off.  I was working.  I was trying to raise money to bring your brothers home.  You were expected to perform miracles to prove your place in this world, and I didn’t know it. I’m sorry I didn’t come that day; I didn’t realize you were on trial.  When I didn’t come, his comments only intensified. 
“Mom guilt” and anger are driving a special trip to your school tomorrow.  I will show up, I will make a presence, I will give you the biggest hug and kiss, I will prove them all wrong.  Instead of a lecture, I am bringing a large donation to your classroom and your classmates.  I want you to see me respond to these comments with grace and a smile.  I want you to learn the power of a kind and generous response; that it can be far more impactful than screaming a hateful retort.  I promise, my darling, I am real and I will be real and in the flesh tomorrow.  You don’t know it yet because I haven't told you, but I will try to swoop in during the final seconds of the school year and make it right.
Next school year I promise I will be more proactive.  I will be more present and visible.  I will remind you every day that you and your sister, and your brothers, and your Daddy and I are REAL.  I will make sure that you have answers to give to difficult questions, and that you have the strength not to doubt the answers you provide.  One of your answers can be, “I know you didn’t mean to be hurtful when you asked that question.  I know you were just curious, but my past is my story, and I will answer only the questions I want to.”
You owe no one an explanation, and neither do I.  You don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to, and neither do I.  You are my “real” child and I am your “real” mom.  We are human beings with flesh and blood and emotions and life.  You can choose your responses carefully and respectfully, but it is my hope that, in your answers, you will always protect your identity—you are a child with a family, with a mommy and daddy, and a sister and two brothers who love you endlessly, unconditionally, and passionately.  Forever and ever and ever.
You are real.  I am real.  Our family is real.  It might be different, but it is no less valuable than any other family, and it is REAL.  You are beautiful.  You are courageous.  You both are my heroes.

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Paula - June 21st, 2017 at 2:57 PM
I love this. Great job, Mom!
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