“That picture looks just like me and Baba!”

 

There we were, standing at the register at Walmart.

Daniel was pointing out the Halloween decorations, and Leo was hanging off the side of the cart.

I was digging in my purse, struggling to find my wallet, when I heard Leo say, “Mama! Mama! Look! That picture looks just like me and Baba!”

I followed his pointing finger and saw a large photograph hanging over the glasses counter. There was a sweet photo of a boy kissing his father on the cheek. The boy’s skin was darker than his father’s.

Aha, I thought. This is when we are going to start talking about racial differences—here at the register at Walmart. That makes sense. Leo is almost 5, and I keep expecting to field more questions about race.

“Look at that!” I said.

And I paused to consider what to say. John and I talk often about how Leo and Daniel were born in China, cared for by loving people there, and then adopted into our family. Leo also knows that his parents get freckles in the summer, and he and Daniel tan instead.

But we don’t emphasize that we are a transracial family. We emphasize that we are a family—and one formed through adoption with God’s help. Our social circle—and the boys’ school—includes many other transracial families, formed both by birth and adoption. So we don’t know whether our sons see us as a conspicuous family.

We are, however, ready and willing to talk about race or adoption or anything the boys want to talk about whenever they’re ready. And we try to plant seeds so our sons are comfortable asking us anything that is on their minds.

But I hadn’t planned to have this conversation while signing an electronic credit card pad—though, naturally, important questions often seem to pop up at moments just like that one.

So I wondered. Was this a chance to plant a seed? Should I comment on the differences between the father and son? Should I say something to point out the color of the skin? It shouldn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter, but one day—because of the realities of our world—it will.

I decided to test the waters a bit and see what Leo was thinking.

“That does look like you and Baba,” I said.

“Yes,” said Leo. He was beaming. “That boy is making his father smile just like I make Baba smile.”

Ah. Yes. And that, too.

“You know just how to make your Baba smile,” I said.

Then Leo and Daniel were back to talking about the giant inflatable black cat in the Halloween display.

Joining Theology Is a Verb and Reconciled to You for Worth Revisiting Wednesday on Oct. 6, 2015.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.