Saturday, December 6, 2008

Match Point

Josiah loves to match the people he loves. He loves to love the same things they do, wear the same color, or share the same opinion as Josh, or I, or Olivia, or a friend. Like my husband (and my father), Josiah does all of his worrying on the front side of change, and during his delliberation about his new baby brothers and sister, still unknown, not "matching" bothered him...a lot. I first learned of his struggle after a free swim session at our public pool.

Josiah had played with a little baby sitting in a stroller near where I was changing. In vintage Josiah style, he had the little one cracking up at his ninja-warrior dance moves. When I took his hand to leave, I told him how proud I was that he was so gentle and fun for babies. He said, "I love babies." [Big pause.] "And I really like light-skinned babies best."

I said, "It's okay that you feel that way, Josiah. And I'm so glad you told me. Can you tell me why you like light-skinned babies better?"

"Well....they just seem more.....powerful."

Powerful? It took me a minute to reign myself in from the vortex of white privelege/white shame and race theory that "powerful" dragged me toward, but Josiah's reference point for power, of course, includes none of that language. Power, for him, involves the force, and web-slinging, and super-human strength. I quickly realized that, at four, he might well me that white babies can fly, so I asked: "What does powerful mean?"

" me. We match."

Matching, for Josiah, is so....powerful.

We had just received the pictures of the triplets, and (despite the fact that we had spent hours looking at pictures of people from Ethiopia together) I think the fact that our babies would have skin that was different from his hit him kind of suddernly.

"Are you worried, Josiah, that you might not love the new babies because you won't match them?"


"I can totally understand that. You know, I used to worry about that, too."

"You did?"

"Yep. But I'll bet we'll find lots of ways that you match them once we're all together. One thing that will match right away is that you'll both be in our'll be brothers and sisters. And, after awhile, we'll probably find other ways that we match. Maybe they'll like Ninja Turtles."

"Do you think they'll like Ninja Turtles, Mom?"

"Maybe, or dinosaurs."

"I could share my dinosaurs with them!"

"Exactly, so it's okay that you feel the way that you feel about light-skinned babies. I think that you'll find lots of ways to match your new brothers and sister once we're together as a family. When I was a little girl, I wanted to bring a dark-skinned baby home from the hospital after my mom had our little sister. I just liked the way she looked. But you know how much I love Aunt Karen. She is my sister..."

"Do you still?"

"What's that Josiah?"

"Do you still like dark-skinned babies better?"

AHHHHHH, now we're at the heart of it.

"I love my children. I LOVE your light skin, Josiah, because it's on you, and I love you. And I LOVE our new babies' dark skin because it's on them, and they are my children. Your skin is absolutely perfect for you. You make your skin beautiful. And the new babies' dark skin is perfect for them, and they make their skin beautiful." ....on and on.....etc., etc..

So he was satisfied....for that day.

A few weeks after we were home, I overheard him run into the kitchen where Girum was playing in his exersaucer. (I was changing someone or feeding someone in the adjascent living room) whispering, "Girum, I prayed and prayed for God to make one of my new brothers look like me, and God gave me you" (people often comment on the fact that Girum and Josiah sort of resemble each other. I guess he sees it too)......I started to smile....matching solved, right? We've arrived. Josiah left the room and then scurried back in to add, "but I still like light-skinned babies better...." So, maybe a little more ground is left to cover....

I write ALL (ALLLL) of that as background information for a conversation that happened last week. Josiah bolted up the stairs (he bolts everywhere....I think that's part of being "powerful" :), ran over to where I was holding Girum, laid his cheek against Girum's so that both of their faces shown up at me, and said, "Look, Mama. Girum and I match perfectly. We both love you!" And then he scurried off.

I can't get that moment out of my mind.

Both Girum and Josiah are particularly attached to me, in their own ways. Both boys calm in my arms and look at me with a disarming adoration that NO ONE deserves. And now, Josiah thinks they match.....with a force stronger than superpowers.


And, now, I keep thinking of the ways that all of us match because of Whom we adore-- in various shades and flavors of adoration....we powerfully match.


Cindi Clark said...

Well...all I can say is...powerful in so many ways. Josiah is so good. I hope that in some way I match him.

I love you all!


Kimberley said...

Wow! Transracial adoption is a journey for the whole family! It is great to see the journeys of other bio siblings in working through the issues on their own levels!!! You did a great mom job of discerning his meaning and working through it with him!!! Thanks for off to my thinking chair....

lmstephenson said...

Wow! THis story brought tears to my eyes. Love is powerful.

Lynn Stepehsnon

Kdicamilla said...

What an in incredibly sweet moment. Thanks for sharing it.