So, I’ve been pondering this topic for a minute and am finally sitting down to see if I can parse through some of my own thinking and feeling about a curious phenomenon related to my recent announcement to family and friends that I am adopting Hope.
Last month I posted a cute picture of Hope and me as an announcement of my #pregnantbypaperwork status. The very, very kind and supportive comments flowed. It was lovely, beyond lovely actually. It was super awesome. Numerous people commented, “OMG, you guys even look alike! Match made in heaven” or something like that. I had a lovely chat with a sweet, dear friend who called to check in today. During our chat, she broached this subject of my and Hope’s alleged resemblance tenderly, noting that she wondered if she really saw a resemblance or if it was some kind of way her brain was trying to knit Hope and I together in a supportive way.
Hmmm. I’m utterly convinced it’s the latter. Hope and I do not look alike, despite many comments to the contrary. Good Lord, even my mother thinks Hope has my late uncle’s eyes…she might, maybe, a little bit. Eh, shrug.
So, here’s my thinking on this: People are happy for me (warm fuzzies). People want to be supportive (more warm fuzzies). We see what we want to see in order to further the desire to be happy and supportive. This is pretty natural. Hey, I dated someone for two miserable years because I thought being with him would one day, miraculously, make me happy—it didn’t. Actually, I’ve had a few of those kinds of relationships, though I seem to have broken that nasty habit. Ok, maybe that was a melodramatic example, but stay with me here.
I’m not creating a family the way that many of my friends are or have, and I had no desire to seek out a child who bore some resemblance to me or my family. Sure I thought about it as I thought about all the various scenarios about what life would look like with my child and how we might be received by the world around us. I really didn’t give much thought specifically to resemblance though; maybe because I just assumed we wouldn’t look anything alike. I mean really, what are the odds?? It was startling when people started to comment about Hope’s and my alleged resemblance. I didn’t see it then; I still don’t. Hope says she favors her biological father; she’s proud of that. She loved him very much. She doesn’t have any pictures of him, so looking like her dad is important to her and her identity.
I’ve come to believe that the warm desire to help me tie my adoption of Hope together with a neat bow and be supportive leads the brain to seeing a familial resemblance between Hope and I that really isn’t there. Of course, Hope’s desire to look like her father may affect any ability I have to find some shade of resemblance between us; the brain is funny that way. I’m sure the fact that we’re both Black helps to facilitate all this brain activity. I’m guessing it also happens in other same/similar race adoptions too. I’m guessing this is not a particularly common occurrence in cross-racial adoptions, but some quick google searches reveal there are desires to find some kind of resemblance connection in these adoptions too.
With infants, we’ve all made comments about whether the little one looks like a presumed parent—this just happened with fellow blogger, Complicated Melodi, who was providing respite care for an infant recently. Hope isn’t an infant, though, and really, I don’t think she favors me at all, so it’s an intriguing occurrence to receive these comments from pals.
This is different than when we’re out and about and someone assumes I’m Hope’s mom. Usually, the assumption is based on our proximity together or their having been privy to a bit of our banter, which on my trip this week I realized totally sounds like a mom and tween daughter (Squeal!! More on that later). There is rarely a mention of any resemblance; no, this phenomenon only happens with people I know.
So, what’s the point of this post? Not sure, other than to parse through another emotional nugget in the adoption process. My daughter is lovely and just beautiful. I don’t think she looks anything like me. I have no idea if she looks much like either of her biological parents. The compliment that Hope favors me is sweet and I think I understand what is really being seen and said. I’m a mom. Biology really doesn’t matter, because I’m still a mom. I’m grateful for the sentiment even if I don’t see the visual connection. I’m also grateful that so many people were so kind and supportive of my new little family.
December 29th, 2013 at 11:42 am
Thanks for linking me. I was going to write about this in more detail one day because I have had some fairly complex feelings about this and have not been sure how to articulate them.
I think we all look for patterns of connection and it makes it easier if they can see this visible connection, even if it is extremely tiny. We showed pictures to my in-laws over Christmas and they even exclaimed that she looked like she belonged to us.
“We see what we want to see in order to further the desire to be happy and supportive.” That hits the nail on the head.
I also read an article that stated that agencies find it difficult to work with AA couples because they are more specific about what they want in a child as it pertains to color. I’ve been sitting with that for a minute and seeing how it plays out within our family.
December 29th, 2013 at 12:24 pm
I never occurred to me to be specific as it pertains to color. I did feel some kind of way about eliminating White children from my search; I felt a little convicted about limiting my search. But as for limiting my search within race, it never occurred to me. We want to connect and visual connection is important and powerful. I have to say, writing it down and put my little theory out there makes me feel a little better about hearing it. I’ll take it for its deeper meaning rather than really trying to wrap my head around believing that we look alike. 🙂
December 29th, 2013 at 5:34 pm
At the family photo shoot just last month someone commented on the fact my kids look like me. Um no they don’t my oldest daughter is the image of her father and the youngest is a dead ringer for her mother. I know it is people trying to say something complimentary but honestly I start to be offended. No I never say it and yes I understand why they do it but it does make me more careful when I go to compliment a child just in case they to are adopted. So I never say “Oh you look like Mom or Dad” I just say “What beautiful hair/eyes/smile you have”. My kids share my traits for sure but no we do not share any looks.
December 29th, 2013 at 9:00 pm
Ah yes, I’ve had one of those foot in mouth moments. Like you, I’m far more sensitive to it now. I can’t say I’ve gotten to the place where it offends me (yet); but I do have some feelings about it. I do think that it’s an instinctual response based on a desire to be supportive. It is what it is!
December 30th, 2013 at 6:50 am
Oh the blog I could write on my experience!!! I haven’t been brave enough to share some of my experiences as a black foster mom to a white child. I can recall when she first came and was so pale to me. On our first trip to the pediatrician, this woman on the elevator had such a look of disgust on her face. She turned away from us. We are a rarity. There are lots of black children with white families but not the opposite. The stares and random comments haven’t stopped. I have just came to a place of being able to ignore it. I remember feeling like I was going to have heart palpitations when she came home from daycare and said, “my daddy is black!” My face was like, what????? I’ve never referred to myself as black, no reason to but the children at her daycare were apparently letting her know! Last note, she was clearly not feeling the version of Cinderella as a black woman. The whole movie she said that the girl was not Cinderella because she wasn’t “yellow”. I responded that she was Cinderella and that princesses can’t always be yellow. Sometimes…..princesses are brown. Alright, novel done!
December 30th, 2013 at 8:34 am
Puddin, as always thanks for the read. I can only imagine what you experienced with your Stinky. I came across a blog yesterday that raised the question about why POC’s don’t adopt White children (Why don’t more black people adopt transracially? (also on WP)), you might check it out. Your reply also begins to tackle issues of racial identity and identification of others (which the ground work on gets laid so very early). It’s innocent enough when it starts but is so easily perverted into something else. 😦 . The visual connection stuff is much more complicated than we often admit. Hang in there!
January 6th, 2014 at 1:49 pm
I’m an adoptive mom of a 16 month old girl and a 7 week old boy. My daughter looks nothing like me really, she just has dark brown hair and squirrel cheeks. She doesn’t look like my baby pictures at all. She looks like her bio sister and her birthmom and that’s fine. However, I am constantly being told she looks like me. What people really mean is she looks like I could have given birth to her. They mean to be supportive and complimentary. But my daughter is going to be a beautiful girl and woman, much prettier than me. I’m not sure it’s a compliment to her to say she looks like me. And as she grows, it discounts her natural family. And I’m afraid it will make her feel less a part as she starts to look less like me and more like her genetics dictate. I wish people didn’t think that kids need to look like their parents. I have strangers who do this too, not just family. I want to say ENOUGH. But I usually just smile and say thank you.
January 6th, 2014 at 2:01 pm
Thanks for the read! I think that it really is supposed to be a compliment, but it’s one that really sits in a blind spot for those around us. I haven’t quite gotten the chops to just say, “No she doesn’t and stop saying that,” because I don’t want to give the wrong impression. It leaves us adoptive parents worried about everyone else’s feelings (again)! It’s a small thing, but an annoying one. Thanks for stopping by!