If you thought adopting a child at 22 years old was out of the ordinary, throw in the fact that your child is Caucasian and you’re African American. Now, at the time, I didn’t understand how uncommon our situation was as a family. I must admit, before Jaxon came along my experience with white children was at a zero. I didn’t realize how much I needed to know about before caring for him.
Here’s the shortlist of what I didn’t prepare for:
1. Where to go for haircuts
2. What kind of foods he eat
3. Yes, I forgot sunscreen once or twice
4. Proper clothing (cultural wise)
5. And the fact that he would call me “Dad”
This list, among other things, is not something I anticipated when agreeing to take Jaxon into my home. I definitely had a lot to learn at the time and didn’t have a problem admitting it. Out of that list, the one thing that surprised me the most was Jaxon calling me Dad. Honestly, when he first said it I was extremely surprised. In that moment what I realize was that this child is about to change my life for the better. Jaxon is going to teach me so much more then his little heart knows. I would think to myself, “How can he just call me Dad without giving it a second thought?”, “Am I really deserving of this title that this child has bestowed on me?”, “Does he realize I’m Black?”. Here’s the truth, Jaxon didn’t care what I looked like, all he wanted was to have a consistent father in his life. He wanted someone to commit to take care of his needs as a child. For him to embrace me as his father and not feel embarrassed to call me, a black man, Dad spoke volumes. Sure, we would get looks when he would call me Dad in public it just didn’t matter to him.
Committing to being Jaxon’s father meant, to me at least, that every decision I made had to revolve around him and his well-being. We lived in a very urban area, personally I didn’t feel comfortable keeping him there in that environment. Me being a committed father, I felt we needed to move to a more diverse area with schools that presented better opportunities and resources, so that’s what I did. In addition it was important to me that Jaxon was able to see more people that looked like him on a regular basis.
Let’s face it, we will never avoid conversations about race outside our home but inside I’m thankful there are no issues. I actually don’t foresee any issues in the future. Why? My boys know they have a father that is committed to their character and well-being, not their skin.
“Get Connected, Stay Connected”
Barry Farmer grew up in Kinship Care with his grandmother from ages 5-18. For the last 15 years he's been devoted to working inside and outside the classroom with youth and their families. Learn more about him at barryfarmer.com