Everyone has them.
Childhood memories. Memories of special events. Memories of defeat and of triumph. Everyday we live, we create more and we store more away.
For me, memories are a very complicated thing. I know that when I talk about the memories I have of my childhood, people get hurt and offended. I cannot help that my reverie of being the only Black child in an all white space doesn’t conjure up favorable feelings. I cannot help that. I know that I had good times and even some great times. But all of those memories are over shadowed by the hurt that I felt being in this space.
Any memories I may have of a loving and caring family are over shadowed by feeling that my adoptive family is racist. Maybe not Ku Klux Klan racist – although there is a grandfather who was a member, but implicitly biased. Snide remarks about how Black people talk linger in my mind. Comments about Black people “whining” tickle my memory banks and as hard as I try to repress them, they are still there, shading any good memories that I may have of that life.
And people don’t get it. They want me to focus on the positive and the good and forget about the bad. And that’s all well and good. I spend hours a day in directed meditation. I listen to the Tranquility station from the minute I wake up to the minute the kids change the channel. So, I actively work to keep a positive attitude. I used to actively work to repress bad memories.
However, that is short sighted. When I was repressing those memories, I was dooming my own children to live in the same white washed environment that I grew up in. My desire to only look favorably on my past inhibited me from seeing the truth. I would have had them surrounded by the same people who caused me so much pain and angst in my younger years.
That is what repression does – it dooms you to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over and over.
So, “the good ole days” are not the same for me as they are for everyone else. As I said, I know I had good times. I know I had great times. But to what gain?
Are the people that I was laughing with at off color jokes back then standing beside me today in my fight for equality?
They are no where to be found. Or worse. They are butt hurt that I have “changed” and don’t see the past the same as they do.
Where is my family as I struggle to figure out the best way to raise proud and emotionally healthy Black children in America? Are they supportive of my goals? Do they even acknowledge my goals? Or do they sit in their uber white world and say that they just “don’t understand why Sara doesn’t like white people.” (which isn’t true anyway, but for people who live in dichotomous worlds, it would seem that way).
I’ll give you a clue – they don’t support my efforts. I don’t even think they understand my goals.
So all the years and memories that I have of being a bi-racial (Black and white) transracial adoptee seem to be a bit of a waste. I was never prepared for parenting my children. I was never afforded the keys that are necessary to learn to navigate life as a Black woman.
Do I regret my past and these memories?
They are what they are and they are mine. If my life deviated one iota from what it was, I am afraid that I wouldn’t have my children today. So while I don’t have fond memories, I know that these memories led me to where I am today and for that and only that, I am grateful. Because my family kicks ass and I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world or for a world of happy childhood memories.
But that’s not to say that the way that I feel is right or that White Adoptive Parents don’t have to be mindful of the environment that they are raising their kids in. Remember, I had several suicide attempts before I even graduated college and had children. So, the risk is too great to be complacent.
I spend a lot of time with White Adoptive Parents (probably more than my sanity can take) trying to help them see the truth of the words that I speak above. Their rosy glow and bright outlook for their family might not be shared by your child. The things that you think are creating “special memories” for them may be that catalyst for many therapy sessions as an adult.
For Adoptive Parents reading this, be mindful of your child. Do not just assume that because YOU love something, that your child will too. Talk to the people that mirror your child. Talk to adult adoptees and get their input. And not just one or two, talk to twenty or thirty of us. Because we all have different outlooks and different opinions. It’s your duty to make sure that YOU are making the effort and not your child.
In the end, it’s all about them. It ‘s the reason I write. It’s the reason I spend time in on line groups. It’s the reason I feel that I have a talent for writing. To help the younger generation of adoptees to not feel a lot of things that I feel.
I wish with all my heart I had a different way to feeling about the memories of my childhood. I wish I had a different feeling about my family. But right now, it’s squarely in the “complicated” box. I work everyday to try to come to terms with it all.
I feel it’s what I owe to the children. To my children and to their future children. Happy memories.