October 30, 2008

Puppy and His Sister

Wow, you know the economy is bad when over 450 people enter to win a $15 gift card. Be sure to toss your name in the hat before tomorrow night if you haven't already. Sure, as of right now you only have a 0.2% chance of winning. But if you don't enter at all, your chances are 0%.

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Some friends gave Puppy a toy camping set for his birthday with a car, canoe, tent--that sort of thing. There was a set of action figures included, a man and a boy. Puppy promptly decided they were father and son, then asked where the mommy and Firefly were. The other night, after several days of asking, he completely melted down. Suggesting that maybe the rest of the family just stayed at home for this camping trip didn't help. "I want a Mommy and a Firefly! We need to get a Mommy and a Firefly!" the tired boy cried.

I've been poking around online to see what I could find for him. The toy's manufacturer only sells white, male figures, so they were no use to me. I found some figures from another company that should work, but they are only sold in sets. So now there was a new question: do I buy the white mom and baby or the African-American ones?* Would Puppy even care?

It is hard to know what racial differences Puppy notices at this point. He compares other aspects all the time. He talks about Firefly being a baby and him being a toddler. He will say that she is a girl and he is a boy. He comes into the bathroom in the morning to watch me do her hair and compares his short, straight hair to her longer curls. We were reading a book one night and came to a page with a picture of an African-American man tossing his baby girl in the air. "Look! It's a Firefly baby!" said Puppy. "What about this baby makes you think of Firefly?" I asked. He leveled me that look toddlers give when you ask an obvious question. "She's a baby!" he explained. Duh, Mom.

Between the election and transracial parenting, race comes up in our home most every day. And whether or not Puppy can use the language of race, he is experiencing being in an interracial family, seeing how others respond to us. I know he is taking it all in, unconsciously or not. He listens to us talking about race, watches me hold Firefly up to the mirror and compliment her pretty brown skin, hears the questions people ask (no one ever asks about his ethnic background, but we get that question all the time about Firefly). He's witnessed so many people comment on her hair that he heads it off as part of his stock introduction: "This is Firefly. She is my sister. Look at her curly hair!"

There is quite a bit written about the experiences of parents and children whose relationships cross racial lines, a little less about siblings whose do. It is not limited to adoption, of course. There are all sorts of blended families these days. Lately I've noticed myself reading with an eye on sibling relationships, looking for clues in the stories of other multiracial families. Puppy and Firefly will share the experience of growing up with T and me as their crazy parents. But Puppy will not know what it was like to grow up black in this family, or vice versa.

Adoption always has ripples, and our decision to adopt transracially subtly changed the nature of Puppy's adoption. Firefly made our adoptive family status visibly apparent, but it also made Puppy's adoption more hidden. Even after confirming that Firefly was indeed adopted, people are surprised to learn that Puppy was, as well. Only one has been gauche enough to ask why we "couldn't get another white kid" (my response was an incredulous, "Excuse me?").

As far as Puppy is concerned, this is just the way his family is and he doesn't think to question it. When an older kid told him that Firefly couldn't be his sister because they didn't look alike, he was too confused by the thought to answer. We are receiving wonderful advice about giving Firefly tools she can use as she grows up a biracial child in a white family, advice which I hope we'll be able to follow. Now I'm looking at my white child and thinking about how to do the same for him.

* I'm getting the African-American ones. Lord knows we'll have enough Caucasian action figures in our house over the years.

8 comments:

m de p said...

I love that Puppy introduces his sister with a suggestion to look at her curly hair. So cute.

I'd love to hear how Puppy reacts when mom and Firefly finally arrive to complete his set!

Dawn said...

We mix it up around here with an emphasis on getting more African American figures. because the white ones show up anyhow so it takes more effort to get black babies and figures.

When Noah was little and we realized we'd be adopting transracially, we went hunting for black Playmobil because those were his main toys. Playmobil is Scandinavian so it's white white white other than the Native Americans (for the Cowboys and Indians) and some random African American cowboys and stuff. (I think there might be Asian figures in some murky racist context like the cowboys/indians.) We had a hard time finding any but we finally did after hunting on ebay for "ethnic playmobil". Bringing them into Noah's play was part of our discussion about our family not matching and it ended up being a helpful way for us to talk about it (he was against our family not matching but is embarrassed if reminded of this).

AmericanFamily said...

We had those loving family dolls too and I had to hunt high and low for the darn Asian dad. I ended up buying it on ebay. If it were me, I might by both moms and see how Puppy chooses.

Lori said...

Okay first, 450 comments! Holy moly!

I love that kids are so matter of fact about things. I know that doesn't last forever but that innocence is precious. Wouldn't it be good for all of our kids to play with multi-racial dolls!

Frenchie said...

OMG I can't believe someone asked you "Why couldn't you get another white kid?" OMG OMG OMG. That makes me want to scream/cry. Ugh.

Puppy sounds like such a sweet, loving, smart and precocious little boy who loves his sister and his family so much. I want to know what happens when the mom and Firefly figures arrive. :)

heather.pnr said...

@americanfamily - Getting both is a good idea. I might just do that.

luna said...

what a sweet boy. also curious to hear about his reaction to the new toys.

DrSpouse said...

Coming to this a little late, but I wonder if kids from transracial blended families/half-sibs get this too - "you can't be her sister because you don't look the same" even though they are both being raised by their (same) birth mother?

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