‘Mother Wit’

It’s May! Our nurseries are bustling with customers searching for that “ just right“ plant to gift that special someone on Mothers’ Day*. Yours truly has also been searching for some “just right” inspiration for this month’s newsletter. Serendipitously, I came across this quote from Maya Angelou:

“I’m grateful to intelligent people. That doesn’t mean educated. That doesn’t mean intellectual. I mean really intelligent. What black old people used to call ‘mother wit’... intelligence that you had in your mother’s womb. That’s what you rely on. You know what’s right to do.”

Transracial Adoption

What is Mother Wit?

What is Mother Wit I ask, as I sit with April’s cards for the month of May spread before me? Why is this concept reverberating with me? Could Mother Wit help me embrace or face differences of race or culture? I ask myself, “what intelligence or wisdom do I draw from to be a loving, supportive and woke mother to my children?” This is a deep dig for me as much of my mothering journey had been traveled without any peers until I found my community in you, Dear Reader.

In the Encyclopedia of Motherhood, Mother Wit is “... the wisdom women develop based on their lived experiences. It is a type of knowledge that is informed by women's common sense, relationships, informal interactions, and life lessons…In addition, it signals the intelligence and astuteness that women can have, even if they are not formally educated.” Mother wit has been a tool much relied upon to dispense “protective advice and help them [our children] avoid harm and/or learn how to care for themselves.”

In her article, “Black Women: Holding Families Down for Generations with Chewing Gum and Mother Wit,” Desiree Cooper proposes the ancestral wisdom of women in her family and community is Mother Wit. Dr. Camille Wilson writes that Mother Wit is a form of “wisdom especially revered by African American slaves because it guided, informed and inspired oppressed African American families and communities to persevere amidst the grueling physical, social and political conditions imposed by slaveholders.”

Bitter Sweetness of Mothers' Day for Some

Mothers’ Day is a bittersweet day for me. It’s not grueling and I’m not oppressed, but I do experience sadness on this particular holiday of cheery flowers and breakfasts in bed. It’s a day that’s supposed to be bold and beautiful and celebratory, and yes, it is because I love being my children’s mother. However, throughout the day (and surrounding days), I sit in the shadow of another woman’s loss and I wonder, “how is she getting through the day?” Last year, I wrote about our children and the themes of love and joy and motherhood and how they contradict a, perhaps unspoken, awareness or concern of and for their biological mother. This day could very well be oppressive or grueling for our children!

Mother Wit is an old, folkloric concept related to maternal wisdom. What does yours look like on Mothers’ Day? I don’t write about Mother Wit to appropriate it. I write to shine a light on an important part of our children’s culture and in turn, ask you to take stock of your own motherly wisdom.

I have come to rely upon the relationship and community I’ve forged with other adoptive mothers and fathers …. People like you! I look to you for back-up and moral support. I look to you when things get really tense in the world or in my family. I look to you to see reflections and resemblances of my own family. Seeing that reflection makes me breathe a little easier. I need the wisdom, community and support of you.  You are how I experience and build my own Mother Wit, and I’m holding you all in my heart this Mothers’ Day.

Citation: O'Reilly, Andrea. “Mother Wit.” Encyclopedia of Motherhood, SAGE, 2010, pp. 873–874.

This post is from our May, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.

April Beginnings: What’s in a Name?

Your name is central and significant to who you are and, in essence, can be the keystone of identity. When your child is adopted, there’s another world, another narrative, and perhaps another name that accompanies them along with their “who am I?” journey. The way in which we build a strong and healthy identity often begins with our names as one of our central building blocks.

April Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from our Transracial Journeys card deck, given to all our families at Family Camp 2021. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for April. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

April Pro-Tip for Parents: : Becoming more fully aware of the deeper elements of adoption related to names will prepare you to authentically hold the realities of identity formation experiences. Diving into these delicate topics may evoke strong emotions. Have confidence in yourself to take steps on this journey. As part of the TRJ community, you have the support, love, and guidance of this community to commit to moving toward complexities in service of a healthier, fuller experience of adoption for your child/children, your family, and for YOU!

• How do you feel about your name? Love it? Dislike it? Have never really thought about it?
• Did you ever change your name?

• How did you choose my name?
• Do you know if I had a different name before I was adopted?
• Did you discuss my name with anyone in my family of origin?

• Does my name have cultural significance?

This post is from our April, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.  You will get invitations to our Parent Meet-Up each month, a virtual meeting to act as a transracial adoption support group - sharing issues, ideas and strategies for creating a culture of communication and curiosity in your home, as well as monthly card prompt to keep the conversations about race, adoption, family, love and relationships front and center all year long.  And lastly, you'll always be made aware of important dates for Transracial Journeys Family Camp - registration is open now!

The Luck Code

It’s March! The spring equinox/first day of spring is on March 20 and March is Women’s History Month. It’s also St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 - a day when “everyone is Irish” and, more than any other time of the year, “luck” is in the air.

For families formed by adoption, there’s a type of “code talk” surrounding the concept of luck. If I had a dollar for every time a stranger told my child how lucky she was to have been adopted or how wonderful I am to have rescued a child from the system… Well, I don’t have to explain this conversation to you, my beloved, village of families formed by transracial adoption because you know the lingo.

Having lived a life on the receiving end of these messages, April writes:

"If I was lucky enough to be rescued from whatever situation I was in with my first family, I should be happy, grounded, have no issues whatsoever, and of course, I should never ever question my identity related to adoption. And heaven forbid, I should never search for my family of origin."


"These individuals (sometimes close friends) had no earthly idea that in fact, an adopted person loses something even when they are adopted by an amazing new family. I am not sure they meant harm."

What can help is to hold some space for having a conversation with your family about this month’s prompts. These conversation starters on our cards will really help when it comes to others’ reactions to our children and families, as well as the ensuing comments of luck and saviorism that may also be aired. As April says,

“these are intricate and complicated realities and thinking about them and talking about them will help ease what often lies under the surface."

This post is from our March, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.