When Raising Him Means Raising Me Too
By: Megan Miles
Raising children of color when I am not a person of color is so much harder than I ever imagined. I love my children and no matter what they look like or who they turn out to be I will always love them, but realizing that I am not comfortable with who my children are trying to be right now is a difficult pill to swallow. My eldest son, my first son, just turned 13 and has been trying to find himself. He’s longing to see where he belongs.
His journey to find his own identity is so much more confusing than I had ever thought it would be. First, he is a male, second he is Ethiopian, third he is adopted, and fourth he is now American. That’s a lot of tricks in one bag. A lot for an adult to deal with let alone a hormonal teen. I see him grasping at straws to try and fill voids in his heart. He wears an Ethiopian colored sweatband around his wrist everyday. He is trying to grow his hair long and afro-like in order to stand out and be noticed for something positive and not just because his parents are a different color than he is. He wants to wear his pants a little “saggier” than I prefer because his friends do, but at the same time he wants them to fit snugly against his long, lean Ethiopian legs unlike some of his classmates. He wants me to “line” him up every few days even when he doesn’t need to be “lined-up.” He wants to speak English perfectly but at the same time never lose his native tongue of Amharic. He so desperately wants to talk to some of his birth family, but at the same time doesn’t want his dad or me to ever leave his side. It’s a complex, hard, emotional journey. A journey where I’m learning that I have to let some things go. I have to be more flexible and remember that no matter what as long as we parent them covered in love that everything will eventually turn out to be ok. We have to be accepting and encouraging. We have to go outside of our own comfort zones and grow right along with our children.
We learn so much with each passing day. We learn to listen to each other and, even though I don’t want to, I have to admit when I’m wrong. I am wrong a lot (ohhh, that was hard for me to say) but it’s ok because underneath it all is love. A fierce, never give up kind of love. A love that exists even when we don’t like what our children are wearing, or how they choose to walk, or talk in front of their friends. A love where I learn to shave designs in my sons’ hair and learn to “corn-row” and bead my daughters’ hair. The kind of love that has us standing in the African-American hair care section of Sally’s for hours just trying to pick out the best products for our children. Love that has led me to be a part of more Facebook hair care and skin care groups than I ever thought even existed. A love that is unconditional and not based on whether they are obeying us or not. A love that is not based on living solely within the strict, rigid box that we know so well. Loving a child whom was not born to us, our child loving us as parents he or she was not born with, a fierce, never give-up kind of love.
A little bit about Megan: I am a mother to 6 beautiful babies from Arkansas all the way to Africa. I’ve been married 6 years and counting to my soul mate and best friend! Back when I just had two kiddos and fewer grey hairs, I graduated with my bachelors in social work from Arkansas State University. After college I decided to take a break for a bit…and somehow brought home 4 more rambunctious babes. Yup, that’s right 6 kids in only 6 years of marriage. My kids are now aged 4,6,9,11,12,13, my husband is 34, and I am well, let’s just say not 30 yet. Life at our house is crazy and a lot of times there’s a bunch of yelling just to be heard, but at the end of the day it’s a home that’s bursting with love!