Tag Archives: Same-Race Adoptions

Traffic Stop Protocol

Hope and I are taking a trip to the beach this weekend. Note, this is not a vacation since both Hope and Yappy are accompanying me—this is a trip.

If you are traveling with your kids, it’s never a vacation. It’s a trip.

Posted by Add Water and Stir Podcast on Saturday, July 9, 2016

In the wake of all that’s happening in the world, tonight I will be giving my daughter another briefing on what must happen during a traffic stop.

I got a ticket about two months ago on the way to visit my parents. Hope followed my lead, remained quiet and made no sudden moves. Yappy was in the back seat, and the dog believes every human has the potential to be his best friend. Tail wagging, mouth open giving a toothy grin, he appeared harmless, charming even.

But that was before two more deaths of unarmed black men, the deaths of 8 police officers and this week’s shooting of an unarmed black man who was assisting an autistic black man and trying to get him out of the street with his toy truck, which some numb nut called in as a possible gun.

So, before we head out on a long, hopefully uneventful, fun filled weekend at the beach, I will remind my daughter what she must do if we are stopped by police.

  • Remain calm.
  • Before the officers approach the car, calmly turn on the video on your phone. I have purchased more data for this trip and set your settings to automatically upload anything you record to our family cloud where it will be safe.
  • Put the phone on the center console.
  • Make no sudden moves.
  • No reaching into your purse, there is not enough lip gloss or mascara in the world to explain how that might be misconstrued as you reaching for a gun.
  • Always carry your student ID, as it’s the only ID you currently have. You are tall and womanly and you might be mistaken for someone older; you need to be able to establish you’re just a kid.
  • If you are asked for ID, ask for permission to reach into your purse to retrieve it. See reason above.
  • Put your hands in your lap or put them on the dashboard so they are always visible. See reason above.
  • It’s all “yes, ma’ams, no ma’ams, yes sirs, no sirs” for the duration of the stop as anything else might be considered you being mouthy.
  • If you are asked to step out of the car, ask for permission to release your seat belt.
  • Do not put your hands in your pocket after you exit the car, no matter how fidgety you might be because you are afraid.
  • Remain as still as possible.
  • Try not to cry and please don’t scream no matter how scared you might be.
  • Let them search your purse.
  • Answer all questions clearly and as politely as possible.
  • I will reassure you as much as I am allowed to that we will be ok.
  • If we are separated in any way ask to call your grandparents; they will drop everything to come get you. I printed cards with their number and put it in your wallet since they may take your phone. Tell them where the number is. Better yet, write their number with a Sharpie in your hand before we leave.
  • When our stop is completed, we will stop at the first safe place so that you can let all of the emotions out. We will take as long as you need. I have put fresh handkerchiefs in the glove box.

As for me, I’ll also be turning on my video with an automatic upload setting, and I’ll be following all the same rules.

Yappy will try to get by on his adorable looks and charm. He will very likely be successful with this approach because well, he’s Yappy.

We live and travel the Interstate 95 corridor all the time.  This is a heavily policed interstate from end to end. It is known for being a big trafficking route for drugs, guns and sex workers on the East Coast, consequently, there are lots of troopers along our travel route. It is also notorious for being problematic when you are DWB–driving while black.

I’ve traveled this route for my whole life, especially so for the last nearly 30 years. I’ve got a few speeding tickets along the way, very few. The likelihood that anything terrible would happen may be small.

But the likelihood was small for all of the people who have died unarmed too. Statistics seem remote until you are a part of the few.

I’m not anti-police by any stretch of the imagination. I understand and appreciate the sacrifices that they make each and every day. I am grateful to them and all public safety servants.

I also know that they are not supposed to be my enemy.

I also know that I’m not supposed to be afraid of them.

I also know that having to go step by step through a survival protocol with my daughter on how to just be OK during a traffic stop should be unnecessary. I know that having to explain the nuances of why she has to be sure to have her student identification and why my highly emotional child has to contain herself for our safety is supposed to be unnecessary.

I use my cruise control a lot when driving long distances. I’ll definitely be using it tomorrow as we depart on a 5 hour journey to the shore.

If we get stopped on this journey, I hope that we will be like Yappy and can rely on a cute, but compliant, charm offensive to ease the burden of DWB.




The Only One

Hope is currently in a day camp at local animal shelter. She’s been looking forward to this week of camp for months, and really is thriving there. She keeps asking can we adopt some critters. The answer is always no. No. Did I mention the answer is no? The Furry One is the center of the animal universe in Casa d’ABM.

This camp has triggered some difficult conversations about race between Hope and me. Hope is the only brown kid at the camp. #oneofthesekidsisdoingherownthing The ONLY one. We talked about it the first day, how did she feel about being the only one, I wondered. For the record, she brought it up first, no seeds planted here.

Hope really has internalized some unambiguous ideas about how Black folks behave; she wasn’t surprised that she was the only one. I hear a lot of “Black folks don’t do this,” or “Black folks do this” from her. It really is black or white with her. Her declarations about how we act are usually a negative characterization, i.e. “Black folks do all the stealing.” It stings every time I hear it. I hate the sense of self-hate that it implies; because Black folks don’t do certain things, she thinks that some of her opportunities are limited.

She thinks that as an educated Black woman I’m different, not the norm. I might as well be a rare bird. She’s actually told me that I wasn’t really Black because I didn’t act Black enough by any measure. Yes, she actually revoked my Black people membership card.



She rationalized that she ended up at her dream camp because her new mom was White enough to support her going.

Sigh. Damn, damn, damn.

I was taught all the good stuff about being Black and being descendants of African kings and queens, and I was brought up in an environment where Black History Month was all year long. I understood early that when I walked into a space, I brought a community of people with me; I had to represent by putting my best foot forward. I’ve been called Oreo and called out for acting White, and while it hurt from an adolescent social angle, it didn’t matter because I was making sure I carried myself in a way that showed White folks that people who look like me can get ‘er done. Pressure? Yeah, but pressure gladly shouldered—I’m a descendant of kings and queens remember? #KingdomofZamunda #ComingtoAmerica


But Hope’s racial development took a different trajectory. Black history was Tupac and Biggie. She’s been left to sort out her understanding based on what she’s seen Black and White folks do in her 13 years and in her limited environment. The separation and characterizations of racial groups is sharp with her.

It’s a struggle to figure out how to course correct some of this, and sometimes it’s like we’re not even speaking the same language. I want to teach her that we Black folks can do whatever we aspire to do, and we don’t surrender our Blackness to do any of it. There’s a need to learn to code switch in our culture in order to move from surviving to thriving. There’s a need to cultivate an image and narrative about whom and what Black folks are and that we, like any other racial group, span a pretty diverse group of folks and behaviors. Behaviors aren’t racial, they transcend race. Trifling folks will be trifling irrespective of race. Nose to the grindstone folks who are working towards something meaningful go beyond racial and cultural dimensions.

But, uh, supporting positive racial development at 13 is so messy. Some folks would rather embrace a color-blind paradigm. I reject this; I think it’s naive and it’s easy to say sure we don’t see things but the research about racial attribution, discrimination and marginalization is overwhelming in education (as early as toddlers–racism is learned behavior) on through the life-span. I want to teach her to own her color, but not to feel limited by small, biased bit of data she has that shapes what she thinks her cocoa brown skin means for her life.

The dichotomy of race in this camp experience comes up as a part of our daily chatter. This morning she pointed out how some girls thought she was hilarious. Hope is a funny girl, she uses humor excessively, almost like performance therapy, to gain acceptance with peers. She has a hard time. Given our discussions, I probed—I was concerned about inadvertently building the image as the class clown…the Black class clown. I already worried that such an image could be, and is often, aligned with the class troublemaker, instigator and so on (lots of data on this too). I want her to be herself, but I worried about the pressure of being the only one, trying to make friends and be socially acceptable.I worried that if she acted out, would folks remember that the Black girl had a meltdown or if Hope–personalized and personified–had a meltdown.

It may sound like I have little faith in anyone else in the camp—oh I’ll admit to being suspect because I don’t know them. But I also know that Hope is “comfortable” with being Black and she’s comfortable with a paradigm in which being really Black doesn’t have to be about anything more than spitting rhymes on a corner while sipping a forty. She only kind of got my concern.. Somehow, I think we’ll have many future opportunities to wrestle with this topic. We’ve got a big internal Black folk, culture clash going on around these parts. Fun times.  #notreally

Apparently, racial development is a rock to kick over in same race adoptions as well. Silly me to assume I had dodged that bullet.


ETA: Oy–so tired can’t even spell my titles right…

Last week was tough.  It was tough in so many ways.

My heart broke when Hope described her angst about going to school.  I was frustrated because I still hadn’t finished the conclusion of the chapter I was writing.  I was really scared by some of the things we discussed in the initial consultation with the absurdly attractive therapist (Side note: My GOD he’s is so handsome it hurts, and it might be a problem since I can barely look directly at him without thinking I’m going to burst into flames.).  I wasn’t very productive at work because I was consumed with home life and I have no idea when some semblance of balance will be discovered.  I was frustrated by all the paperwork I needed to complete, the scheduling that needed to happen, the permission slips that needed to be signed and the school fees that needed to be paid (I’m convinced school fees are the new hustle).  Oh and I registered Hope for a few camps for the summer that cost a grip.

Then I had to get us ready for our first road trip.  The road trip that involved a weekend with the Grands and a wedding to go to and Hope meeting her godparents—who happened to be the couple tying the knot.

Oh and how could I forget the Friday night post- travel, middle of the night, ER visit? We started our health care adventure at a local Patient First, where I enjoyed some same-race adoption privilege in which despite my fumbling efforts to pull out my care authorization everyone assumed she was my kid.  On the one hand the ease of it was cool, but then the nurse kept looking at me like I was stupid because I knew so little about Hope’s medical history.  When we got to the hospital later and I needed a bathroom break, Hope cut through all the BS while I was in the loo and just told everyone that I was her new mom via adoption—everyone was so nice, gave good advice and relieved my terror when, essentially, Hope was not really all that sick.

Got all that?  Heavy sigh!

I am astounded by how much I accomplished last week, and how much must be accomplished to keep my house running.  There is always something.  And the some things almost keep me from thinking about anything meaningful outside of the Hope universe.   I’m still sad about the things, the critical things that keep my individual life running that I simply can’t get to.  I still struggle with feeling incredibly selfish at times about my own sadness and angst.

I’m tired and weary, but looking back, I’m not broken.   Bruised, yes, but not broken.   Taking time to reflect on the week in its entirety gives me solace that I made it, and hopefully I can do it again next week.

And I’ll survive next week.  And the week after.

But it does come at a cost.  It’s worth it for moments like the one in the car this morning returning to the DC area; I insisted on playing gospel for the ride since we were missing church.  She broke out singing Marvin Sapp’s He Saw the Best in Me.

For her, she was just singing it; but for me, I know the song to be true for all of us and especially for her.  She’s been struggling to keep her badass persona and it’s crumbling, little by little each day.  So moments of testimony that she doesn’t yet realize are such, bring me exceeding joy and comfort in knowing that she’s doing ok.

Now I have to just to make sure I keep grinding, so I can also be ok and so we can thrive.

Special thanks to those who reached out to me concerning post-placement depression.  I wish my agency had some info on it during the process.  But I’m glad to have discovered this issue and I am deeply appreciative that my experience was validated.  I thought I was going nuts. Thank you.

OMG, She Looks Like You!

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.

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