There are SO many levels to being a parent and so, so many more layers when we parent children with trauma and so, so, so many more layers when said children are people of color.
Our world is (rightfully so) coming to terms with some hard history related racism. I, too, am still on a steep learning curve regarding this as a privileged white woman. In hindsight, it is some gall to have assumed that I could raise any child not of my own race.
But…. It happened and is still happening (the raising of children) and I have and continue to learn hard things. I do not live in their skin and I make mistakes all the time.
Here is what I HAVE learned… to listen. That is ALL I can do. When I listen, I learn. And when I learn, I live differently. I have learned to listen to learn.
I was a long way day the road of parenting my first daughter before I got even an inkling that I should remain quiet. With her biological family, with her Native American community, and with her trauma I tried to ask questions at first. I asked about culture and activities and skills. I asked about events and customs. I was met with one- or two-word answers.
It was uncomfortable and entirely unsatisfying to feel shut out, so I asked fewer and fewer questions. Guess what? That’s when I started hearing what I needed to learn. So I asked less, then even less, and pretty soon, I was as silent as I’d ever been in my white, take charge, do-gooder life… and that is the point that my education began.
After a while, the ONLY questions I asked were about when we could visit/join in next; where should we be and what time should we be there. And as an outsider, I would bring my daughter and my knitting or quilting and just sit. It was not my world, nor even my place to be there, except I had this child who needed to be there.
From there, from child to child and family to family, I stopped trying to be the voice to or for my children about ANYTHING related to their history or race or first family. I decided that my role was not to teach, but to bring my children to those who had the right and the desire to teach and train and nurture in their way.
And in that process, I have learned SO much. What I have learned is not mine to pass on to my children. It is mine to inform ME on what my actions can be within their reality – what is my role to raise these children to be empowered, valid, valuable and integral persons within their chosen journeys.
My children, and all who have skin colors that are different than mine are the ones who will continue to teach our world what is right regarding their history and their experiences and their path to healing and reparation. In the meantime, I will still make a lot of mistakes, but I will do my best to just stand right next to them and say only, “Yes! THAT!”