Becton is going to dance camp this week. Yesterday, when I went to pick him up, there were two older teens (maybe young adults?) maintaining the sign-out list outside the dance room where the kids sat waiting for their rides. They asked, “Who are you here for?”
Now, I must admit, I was a little surprised. Becton took hip-hop at this studio for a year when he was six. At that time, it seemed everyone knew who he was and my relationship to him. When we returned this summer for camp, Becton was greeted warmly, with exclamations about how much he’d grown, by familiar faces. These two young women in the lobby, apparently, did not know “the famous Becton.”
“Becton…Becton Falco,” I responded.
The name was relayed to another young person in the dance room; and Becton appeared with a smile on his face. Almost immediately, he turned his attention to the snack food machine in the lobby. I turned to listen to him – but not before I caught a glimpse of the expressions on the faces of the two women maintaining checkout. Their jaws visibly dropped as they stared at us.
Becton didn’t notice. He was too busy selecting his snack and asking for money. I smiled. We hadn’t received this reaction in quite a while. Oh, I recognized it. It was the reaction of someone surprised by the fact that a black child had a white mother.
As I dug in my wallet for coins and asked Becton to count the change, I thought back to my early responses to this kind of shocked expression: I worried.
I asked myself: Are you disapproving? Am I doing something wrong? Does he look ill-attended to? Are you angry that I’ve taken one of “your own” away? Do you pity him? Do you pity me? Are you thinking ‘you have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into’?
Over time, Becton and I settled into just being who we are: a mother and child; and I worried less about what others thought. After all, Becton has never seemed bothered by the difference in our skin color. He has many friends who are either adopted or a different race than their parents or both. He accepts this as the way some families are configured.
I’ve been reading a variety of things this summer and happen to be in the middle of Pat Conroy’s Beach Music. I just read a passage where the father tells his young daughter that she will come to reject him when she’s a teenager. He says to her that this is a “certainty.”
I know I have rejection to look forward to with Becton as well. The thing is – when Becton rejects me, I won’t know if it’s because of race, because he is adopted and I’m not his biological mother, or because he is an adolescent. My friend and adoption triad member therapist, Leslie Mackinnon, says it’s impossible to sort out. But, she also says, when you are adopted, it’s likely to be “adolescence with the volume turned way up.”
For now, I want to hold on to this moment in time when it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks about us because we are happy with who we are. I’ll be preparing, as best I can, for the next stage. But I never want to be so lost in worry about the future that I fail to cherish the time at hand.
Now if I can just get Becton to choose a granola bar instead of Doritos…