THAT Family

photo by Shelby

by Shelby

We started dating right after I graduated High school. The black, football player and the white, preacher’s daughter. We were ‘that couple’. The odd pair to most, not only that, but we lived in the deep south and news of our engagement struck a cord with many. We had words said to us that were a sad commentary on the hearts of those speaking them, it didn’t surprise us- we always knew this would be the case. By now we were used to it: the stares, the ignorant, some times hurtful, comments. But our supporters and encouragers cheered much louder than those who took issue. And the real reason none of the nonsense mattered was because we had each other, we were a family now. Most of the time we ignored the comments and stares. Although I would be lying if I said that I didn’t lose my cool a few times when the jabs were directed at my husband. But, overall it was life, and in life people sometimes say really dumb things. 

Then we became parents and a few things changed. When we were deep in the trenches of filling out paperwork to became foster parents we came to the form where we were asked to mark what we would be willing to ‘accept’ into our family. Without even discussing the issue we checked the box that included all ‘races’ and genders. We had no doubt that our family would be loving and accepting to any children that walked in our door, and we were certain that our church family would welcome any child with open arms. We honestly didn’t think much about being a ‘transracial’ family, I mean we already were one-what could change?

Then, we got a call for our very first placement about two weeks after being added to the call list. It was a 2 week respite placement for 3 sweet, blonde hair, light skin, baby girls . We got plenty of stares and confused looks when we toted them in the grocery store. Unfortunately,  when the world sees a young, 20 something couple, with 3 kids in tow (that clearly do not share any resemblance to the father) their first thought is not ‘oh, cool-they must be foster parents’ if you’re catching my drift. No big deal, it wouldn’t have been my fist thought either 2 years ago. 

By the time we were placed with our 5th foster babe we had gotten plenty of remarks. One day my husband was out shopping with our blonde hair & blue eyed foster son. One lady walked by with a disgusted look on her face and said ‘well, you don’t see *that* every day.’  And that's when things changed for me. It became a lot harder for me to have my speech seasoned with salt when it involved my children. It infuriated me when people would look side ways, I couldn’t care less about them judging me but, when I felt like they were looking at my children with disgust-it fired me up. It made me want to shake my fist, shout, and tell them how wrong they were to care that our families skin didn’t look the same. They look at our children with pity, there must be something wrong with this family. We were ‘that family.’ The family that evoked an immediate response of whispers and stares. The family that made some peoples' blood boil-but…at the same time made others wonder and smile.

A few weeks later my husband had a very similar outing but with a different response. He was out with our foster son and was chatting with him and being silly to keep him happy sitting in the buggy as they picked up a few groceries. An older woman noticed and commented on how wonderful it was to see a father with his son out and about and so happy. When I heard about what had happened, I honestly could have cried. It was the first time anything like that had ever been said outside of our little community of people that know us. She recognized them for just what they were-a father and son, no less. This woman saw the bond. Yes, I’m sure she noticed their pigmentation but that wasn’t all she saw-she saw a family. 

There are countless other stories I could reminisce about but I think you get the point.  People are going to take notice, some people will genuinely be curious and maybe even ask questions, answer with grace, that doesn’t mean you have to give them all the information they want, but be kind. At the same time, some people are speaking out of the hatred of their heart. Pity them (it’s taken me a while to get there), but also speak up-especially if your children are with you. Don’t ever let them hear someone making them feel ‘less than’ or embarrassed because it is obvious that you didn’t give birth to them. Educate. Now I don’t think that everything is everyone's business, but if you feel the time is right and you think it will do some good, talk about foster care and adoption and how it is a way of serving the Lord and your community. My husband gave me some pretty good advice once-‘treat every comment and every question as an honest one, then you will never have an improper response.’ Sometimes, that's a hard thing for me to do, a really hard thing, but I try my best.

I’m not a person that believes love is color blind. I believe we see color, and we love it-all the different shades. Sometimes, we just need to take the time to help guide people along to see that there really is no such thing as a ‘transracial’ family-we are all one race-human. We are a family. Just the same as the family down the road whose children share the same eyes and nose as their parents. We are no different-the eternal bond, the unconditional love, the yearning to be together…it’s all the same. Some people may see us as ‘that family’ and that’s fine-we couldn’t be happier.

Shelby is a Christian, wife, and mother. She and her husband have been foster parents for going on two years & it has been the most wonderful & difficult experience of their lives. They are passionate about adoption & caring for children in needs. They plan on being apart of the foster care world as long as they are able.  Hear more of Shelby's Story on Episode 14 of the podcast.