To my child who is a different color than I

You'll want to read this moving letter from a mom to her child about what it means to be human, adopted and a minority.

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  • As it turns out, Kiddo, you and I are the outliers. Your dad is Asian and your three sisters are half-Asian. I'm white; you're black. By the time your dad and I adopted you, after I'd given birth three times to babies with full heads of dark hair, I (with my blonde locks) had already heard plenty of times from strangers, "Are they adopted?"

  • With you, some people have asked if I'm your foster mother. Go figure.

  • On one hand, I could make the case that you and I have this in common: Everyone else in our family is Asian, so we're the minorities. At the same time, in all seriousness, I know I will never truly know what it's like to be a minority. And I know you do know that feeling.

  • We never avoid the topic of you being "brown." We talk frankly about what your skin looks like, what mine looks like and what the rest of the family's looks like. Heaven knows we talk about the need for your skin to be lotioned on a regular basis: It sucks up any cream or oil like a sponge and then begs for more, and still manages to look ashy far too often.

  • And then your hair is probably the biggest topic of all: We, as your parents, have been aware of our utter unfamiliarity with how to style your very curly, distinctively textured hair since day one. We sought advice from black friends and received plenty of unsolicited advice, much of it conflicting. I settled on combing it and plying it with plenty of nice creams and oils from a reputable brand. I still haven't learned how to do those tiny braids. With four children, I just don't have time for that. (Well, honestly, doing cool things to hair isn't my thing. Be nice to your 13-year-old sister, and maybe she'll feel inclined to work her styling magic with your hair.)

  • But we haven't really talked at all in these eight years you've been with us (since you were a day old) about what it means to be black. It just hasn't come up. And we may have done you a disservice because of that. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there with plenty of opinions about it, but I'm not going looking. Because we all know how many differing opinions are "out there" on every possible topic in the universe. I just don't want to muddy parenting waters that so far have been clear enough, at least as clear as I've achieved in almost 20 years of being a mom.

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  • It's not that I don't care or that I'm naïve about it being an issue. I've never cared about color. It's always been so strange to me that some people do. But since some people do notice, in a negative way, we definitely will end up talking about race and racism. And we'll find some good ways to help you feel a connection to your black culture, your roots.

  • I guess to this point I've been focusing my energies on just parenting you, all four of you. Making sure you're all fed, clothed, educated, spiritually nourished and happy. All of which takes up pretty much all of my time and energy.

  • I've been focused, in short, on raising you to be a hardworking, grounded, good person.

  • Is that enough? For the past eight years, I've felt it has been. For the next 10 or more? It won't be. So we'll talk more about the culture you're missing out on, living with a family that isn't black and living in an area where there's not a large number of blacks.

  • Just know this, Sweet Pea. I love you. I've told you many times and firmly believe you were meant to be in our family but came a different route than your sisters. In that way, you must really have been meant to be with us because it took some extra work to get you here. So you're pretty special and very loved.

  • Your dad and I will be here for you in whatever ways you need us to be, including helping you find your way in the world as a person, as an adopted person and as a black person. We're different colors, but we're on the same team. And we'll figure it out together, and maybe even come through with flying colors.

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Cathy Carmode Lim is the founder of RatedReads.com, a website that reviews books and gives them ratings according to content. She is also a copy editor and blogs at LifeandLims.com.

Website: http://RatedReads.com

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