I spent all day at the church we’ve been attending because it was their family weekend, so last night was a family talent show and today was a set of lectures on topics like communication in relationships and cobbling together the legal protections of marriage when you can’t legally marry for the adults and arts/crafts/conversation for the kids, and tomorrow will be a big picnic and celebration at a city park. Even with Lee out of town, I went, both because I think it’s important for me to put myself in situations where I’m in the minority without her as a “native guide” helping me pass and because I’m trying to build a relationship with these people because I think they’ll be our church family when we’re a bigger family. And on both fronts, I believe I clearly made a lot of progress. (And if I were as single as I appeared to be this weekend, I could have made another sort of progress — if you know what I mean –though that’s another story.)
At any rate, today the woman who leads the local COLAGE group was there to direct the activities for the kids. She’s a white woman who looked to be in her early 40s and I got her kids’ ages but didn’t ask anything about how they joined her family or whether she has a partner. I have never seen her or her children at church before, though it’s a very child-friendly church and I’m still figuring out which children belong with which moms because so many adults and children spend time holding babies and hugging little children that it’s hard to know who leaves with whom. At any rate, this woman was outside getting things together and her two young children — a light-skinned black boy and girl, possibly biracial and thus possibly hers biologically, which is why my title might be a little unfair — came into the sanctuary where we were waiting for things to begin. Her young son immediately sat next to me, the only white woman in the room, and eventually asked about my knitting. His little sister came over and hopped in my lap without saying anything.
I don’t have any proof that this happened because I’m white and because their mom is white. Obviously the older boy likes knitting and that was part of the appeal for him, but I have definitely noticed that I’m an object of special interest to some of the very small children of black couples in the church. In fact, just last night the little boy (age 4 or so, I’d guess) Lee calls my boyfriend because of the way he stared at me the first time we visited gave me a hug during the hug-heavy greeting session. For two months or however long it’s been, he just stared at me and I’d smile back, and it took that long for him to hug me the way he hugs other adults. Again, I don’t know if this has anything to do with his concept of race or if it’s just that I’ve been around long enough that I now count as a regular churchgoer and he relates to me on that level. This isn’t anything I’m about to ask a 4-year-old or even today’s 11-year-old I barely know.
But I know that if I’m going to be transracially adopting, I don’t want my son to automatically look for the white woman in the room as the one who’s “safe” or “similar.” I feel much more comfortable with the decision to stick with this church even though it doesn’t meet all of our preferences simply because I want there to be a place where lesbian moms are normal, where there are black kids (and a few white kids) in all different kinds of families. I want to make sure that we’re getting the diversity we need on many levels. Sure, I never take the dog for a walk in our neighborhood without seeing another black person, but blacks are never anything but a small minority here. I don’t want my child internalizing that and thus feeling out of place among other black people. I want him to be able to code-switch like the sweet little boy across the aisle this morning, who was equally comfortable talking eloquently to the older teens in the row behind him about his academic plans as he starts middle school and turning from that conversation briefly to say, “Hey, what it do, bro?” when another of his peers walked in.
I do feel kind of strange thinking of church mostly in terms of race and culture and community, but since I’m not religious that’s what I expect to get out of it. Today I got some great conversations, some suggestions for things Lee and I could try in our relationship, some good advice about legal concerns. And I did it all without Lee, which is kind of nice even though I’ll be getting up early tomorrow to make sure the house is extra clean for her return. I’ve enjoyed this break and I know she’s had some good and some tough times visiting her relatives and old (girl)friends. Tomorrow we’ll be back together and back to our routine, but I think we may actually go to the church picnic too. And I definitely already told her that next year if we have a cute kid, we’ll have what it takes to totally sweep the talent show. Everyone likes us already.