Tag Archives: Multiculturalism

The Ugly Duckling and Transracial Adoptive Parenting

Remember the story of The Ugly Duckling? Where a baby swan was hatched and raised by a duck? The mother duck could teach the ugly duckling everything there was to being a duck, but she couldn’t teach him about being a swan.


The baby swan was perceived as an outsider and, therefore, believed he was ugly.  He didn’t realize he was a beautiful swan until he was an adult, but he had already suffered so much.


The story of The Ugly Duckling is about how a creature feels when he is not connected to his birth heritage or culture.  It’s a story about a swan in search of his place and his identity.


When I read this story to my children, I took away a deeper message as an adoptive parent. The story of the ugly duckling is similar to transracial adoption and what needs to happen within the adoptive family.  Like the ugly duckling, my children are in search of self.


I have found that one of the biggest challenges as an adoptive parent, especially as a parent to transracially adopted children, is that I cannot meet all of their needs.  I know each of my kids feels they belong in every possible way.  They know that each of them holds a special and unique place within our family.  They know they are deeply, deeply loved.  I can, have, and continue to teach and share my history and heritage with my children.


I do all I can to make their heritage and culture available to them, but meeting my children’s needs to discover their birth heritages and belong to them – as they choose, well, I can’t do that. Culture is lived. I’m White.  I can’t live my children’s cultures, but I can honor them – and do.  My kids know that I care how they feel and what they think about adoption and their race, ethnicity, and birth culture. (They all have different feelings and thoughts.) They know that they have my, and their dad’s, total encouragement to explore, discover, and embrace their birth cultures.  It is my hope that my children will continue to be happy and grow into confident and well-adjusted adults.


 What can you do as a transracial adoptive parent?


  • Be honest.
  • Challenge your assumptions about differences and identity.
  • Acknowledge differences. In transracial adoption, race is an obvious reminder that the child is not biologically related.
  • Make sure your child feels that she belongs; she is in her rightful place.
  • Help her to explore, discover and connect to her heritage.
  • Listen.

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Filed under Adoption Issues, International Adoption, Multicultural Families, Parenting

On Being “Obvious”

p8110479The energy in the room changed as we filed in. Although I was focused on feeding my hungry kids, I sensed the stares and the toned-down conversation. My kids were already in the thick of making decisions at the vast breakfast bar and talking about seeing their cousins and being at the beach later in the morning. With a quick glance I could see that my kids were oblivious.


It had been some time since I had experienced this – at least a year. I felt my hackles rise and, as I looked up and away from my kids, I found myself being stared at by another adult, one of many in the room openly staring at us. He was taking us in. It wasn’t computing for him. I met his challenge and I’m sure my thought of, “What’s your problem?” came through loud and clear. He dropped his eyes. My message had been sent.


Sometimes adoptive parents just don’t feel nice. And I didn’t that morning. I was bone-tired from driving in the rain and fog for eight hours the day before, across six states and through mountains without my husband or oldest son. My younger kids had been super, but mind you when you’re traveling without a third of the family – it makes a big difference. Having people make non-verbal comments was the final straw.


Parents of multiracial families know that they are and always will be obvious. It’s part of the landscape.  Most parents take it in stride. Most of the time. But sometimes we just need a break – from the inappropriate stares, the well-intentioned comments, and the prying questions. 



Filed under Multicultural Families, Parenting