Creating New Traditions to Reflect Our Families and Celebrate Their Identities

author: Avril McInally

For most of us, holidays can be a little overwhelming. Do we have all the candles we need for our Menorah or for our kinara? Have we gotten our holiday lights and decorations up? How are we managing our budgets? Is the house tidy and clean enough for our house guests? Do we have enough food? Speaking of food, what about those special recipes we need to prepare? Do we have all of the proper ingredients? And the gifts? Did we purchase enough gifts to make sure no one is left out or one child gets more than another? These are the scenarios for most families at Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Yule, yet what of our families? Our families manage these aforementioned holiday traditions of hosting, eating and gifting as well as creating space for our adopted children, their race, the family they were born into, their culture, their religion and more! Read our previous post: ‘Tis the Season to Reminiscence

Because our families rest at the hub of multiple aspects of identity, we visit the idea or concept of intersectionality. Some intersectionalities that help to describe our families include race, gender, sexuality, adoption, age and religion. We have several aspects of intersectionality to honor, celebrate, foster and sometimes protect too. There’s a little more “juggling” for us to do to manage these precious aspects of our children’s or family’s identities. One way to celebrate “us” is to create new traditions that reflect our families and celebrate their identities. Read our post about the conversation cards this month December - Reflections: Making and Breaking Traditions 

Traditions are a way for families to connect and memorialize important life events. To adoptive families, creating traditions is more than a way to bond, but it can also be a great way to commemorate each family member’s roots. By incorporating activities that celebrate birth culture, adopted children can develop a strong sense of identity.

This year, I’m going to work on creating a holiday card for our family with my family. I’ll make a list of our intersectionalities with my adult daughters. Black, White, Adopted, Not Adopted, Atheist, Immigrant, American, Cisgender, Female, Male….. You get the picture. Then, we’ll draw a Venn diagram of our family’s identity and decorate it. Heck yeah, “This is Us”! This is who we are with some holly on top! This could be a new holiday tradition for us. If you start this tradition now with young children, you can save your cards every year and watch how your list morphs or matures.

In addition to creating and honoring traditions, it’s important to make time to honor our extended family of adoption as we gather to eat a special meal, to light a candle, to build a fire on one of the longest nights of the year or simply when we tuck our children into bed at night. Remember it’s important to honor and/or acknowledge the family members absent from your home. It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” yet at the height of festivities and anniversaries, our children may be experiencing loss and sadness. Make space for children who are processing these emotions and thoughts and love on ‘em a little more and give them space to talk about their feelings. Let’s build traditions of inclusion, empathy and love!

This post is from our December, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


December – Reflections: Making and Breaking Traditions 

The December holidays give us an opportunity to think about traditions tied to different cultures and religions. Regardless of what you and your family honor and celebrate, we can be inspired to take a closer look at what traditions mean to us and how we can expand our thinking and actions.

December Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send out cues for conversations each month. Our Transracial Journeys card deck contains 3 cards for each month that the children use to ask their parents questions. Below are the questions for December. Before getting started, read the parent pro-tip each month.

December Pro-Tip for Parents: Resist the urge to hold tight onto traditions that may be holding you back from fully embracing new ideas that may better honor your child’s culture. Also think about simplifying or modifying some of the traditions you now honor to make room for new ones.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• As a kid, did you celebrate any December holidays?
• If so, which ones?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Were there things that you would do year after year as a family during the month of December or maybe other months of the year?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some new traditions or holidays you’d like to learn more about and/or try?

This post is from our December, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Mental Illness Awareness Week and Masks of Perfection

author: Avril McInally

This year, Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) runs from October 2 to October 8. In April’s deck of cards for October, she asks, “Do you think people wear masks that we can’t see?” This question resounded and rested heavily on those of us attending a recent Transracial Journeys’ Board Meeting. You could have heard a pin drop after one of our board members solemnly spoke of an associate’s child who had just committed suicide.

To bring this closer to home, this child was a transracial adoptee. They were the kind of young adult who seemingly had every opportunity at their fingertips. A child whose parents beamed over their accomplishments and a child who never did anything but please those same parents exceedingly, as well as the society in which they circulated.

“Adoption is often forgotten when speaking about trauma, leading to a form of disenfranchised grief, which is grief that is not typically acknowledged or validated by society. Both the trauma and the unrecognized grief may contribute to significant mental health issues.”

What sort of mask was this child hiding behind? Were there any outlets or therapies for their grief?

When working with this month’s cards, pay close attention to the relationship card and what it asks. Then, ask yourselves if our children wear masks to please us? Consider having a dialog in which we encourage our children to drop their masks in order to share their anxieties, experiences and fears with us. They need to know that they don’t have to wear the masks of perfection or excellence to be safe with us.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has themed this year’s MIAW “What I Wish I Had Known”. You can visit their website for an itinerary of their accessible programs and perhaps, in participating in this program or having honest and safe talks with our kids about the masks we wear, we’ll not have to ask ourselves what we wish we had known.

This post is from our October, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


June, a Month of Celebrations

- by Avril McInally, Transracial Journeys Secretary

Hello June! Hello Summer! Hello to a plethora of days on the calendar to honor, acknowledge, and/or celebrate. Take your pick from this list, folx!

● June 1 | Global Day of Parents.
● June 5 | World Environment Day.
● June 12 | Pulse Night of Remembrance.
● June 19 | Juneteenth.
● June 19 | Fathers’ Day.
● June 27 | National PTSD Awareness Day.
● June 26 | LGBT Equality Day.
● June 28 | Stonewall Riots Anniversary.
● June 29 | International Hug Holiday.

There’s a lot to think about in the month of June. There are so many holidays to choose from that we could find moments to reflect almost every day. Just as we search for the ripest strawberries to pick from our June strawberry patches, we have the opportunity to hand-pick these moments for our families.

Choosing to Host Juneteenth Instead of July 4th

Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year. So, in 2021, I decided to ditch hosting any Independence Day festivities. I chose to acknowledge the holiday that honors my child’s cultural legacy. I chose to show her that her race and culture matter. For me, hosting Juneteenth instead of July 4th prioritizes the energy and the funds I dedicate to these historic holidays.

Kwanzaa Celebration in August?

Ultimately, as a parent, I was the one to decide how we celebrate as a family. In choosing which parades we attended or participated in and/or which holidays we celebrate was a reflection of how I showed up and supported my children’s identities and our multicultural family. In light of this, Transracial Journeys will be reimagining the calendar a bit as we celebrate Kwanzaa at camp this summer. What better way is there to celebrate this year’s camp theme of “Commitment, Community, Culture and Celebration”?

Global Day of Parents and Happy Fathers' Day!

May and June are near and dear to our hearts as most of us are parents ourselves and if not, you probably have a parent or two to celebrate. Getting back to the list of June holidays, the Global Day of Parents was made an international holiday by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2012. The UN worked to recognize and honor parents who work tirelessly to raise and support children in a holiday which:

“recognizes that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children."... "For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”

Hats off to you, dear parents and most especially this month, hats off to all of the dads who are doing all of this hard work. Happy Fathers’ Day!

 

This post is from our June, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


June Fathers’ Day: Claiming Family Realities

Fathers’ Day came a bit later than Mothers’ Day and there are many of the same things to think about and reflect on as we come to this day and the men that are part of our lives as fathers and father figures. (See our post last month about Mothers' Day for some additional thoughts around the complexities that adoptive parents can face.)

June 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 May. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

June Pro-Tip for Parents: As with May it is important to spend some time reflecting on how you hold Fathers’ Day for yourself and how you might be better equipped to hold your child/children as they experience their own version of the holiday. Best to have planned time for conversation with trusted loved ones and/or community members before, during, and after your family conversations.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• How do you identify with Fathers’ Day?
• What are the different feelings you have about Fathers’ Day?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• How would you describe your relationship with your father/fathers/father figures?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some things that fathers of different races might have in common and what are some things that may be different?

This post is from our June, 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!


Book Corner: Why Not You?

Why Not You?

Written by Ciara and Russell Wilson
Illustrated by Jessica Gibson
Preschool-2nd grade

 

Book Recommendations for Transracial Adoption

How can children make their big dreams come true? The encouraging rhyming text of this colorful picture book encourages kids to believe in themselves, work hard, and try again when they meet obstacles along the way. The joyful illustrations are action-packed with diverse children playing and pursuing their dreams. Why Not You is a happy and inspiring confidence booster!

Book Recommendations for Families Formed in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves. We are fortunate to have a resource in our Transracial Journey's Secretary on Board of Direcors, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleagues collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Mothers’ Day: Claiming Family Realities

As a country we have been celebrating Mothers’ Day since the 19th century, honoring women who play a pivotal role in the lives of children of any age. For some, Mothers’ Day can bring the feelings of both celebration and complexity in very poignant ways. We can both celebrate the mothers/mother figures that are active in our lives and we can also wonder and have emotions surrounding the mother that is not in our life as much or at all

May 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 May. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

May Pro-Tip for Parents: : Be sure to build in time for you and your child to process all of the feelings that may come about surrounding Mothers’ Day. Resist the urge to expect gifts and instead give yourself something special to honor yourself as a mother or mother figure. Be prepared to help your child hold the both/and of this holiday.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• How do you identify with Mothers’ Day?
• What are the feelings you have about Mothers’ Day?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• How would you describe your relationship with your mother/mothers/mother figures?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some things that mothers of different races might have in common and what are some things that may be different?

This post is from our May, 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!


‘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.


The Arc of Identity

In our April, 2021 Newsletter article entitled “What’s in a Name?,” We wrote about identity and the names our children carry. In this month’s set of cards, April writes,

“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.”

Finding Community

Identity development is a large part of a child’s journey throughout adolescence and young adulthood. Finding community is also a large part of answering this “who am I?” question. For those of us who have been involved with Transracial Journeys for several years, we’ve had the privilege of witnessing our children and some of our camp counselors mature and enter young adulthood.

Trans Racial Journeys Camp Counselors
Family Camp for Transracially Adoptive Families
Support for children in transracial adoptions

On The Board, we work to provide support to our families and children - that’s a given! But, in the wings, we also work to nurture, train and support our camp counselors who themselves are often adopted persons and therefore older versions of our children. When you come to camp, you’re not only supporting the healthy growth of your own family, but you’re also supporting this community of your child’s future peers.

For the past few years, we have been fostering the transition of our young campers into counselor-in-training and counselor roles at camp. We have been observing a “rite of passage” of sorts from camper to counselor. We’ve discovered one of the gifts of growing up in TRJ is this transition where a child leaves their family of experience and enters a new family of friends, advocates, and peers who share a lot of the same lived experiences. Finding your people and availing yourself of their support, friendship and wisdom is incredibly nurturing to the development of your sense of self and to your identity in being part of a group.

"Who Am I?"

The community building that’s happening with our counselors, and their friendships forged is pretty amazing. Several of our counselors have been coming together now for years to work with our children, and in doing this work, they’ve also formed relationships with a community of peers who share intersectionalities of race and/or adoption. Finding a network of kindredness and support will help our children in their search to answer the question “who am I?”.

We look forward to helping our young adults find support and reflection of themselves on their journey to adulthood and beyond. Who knows, perhaps your child will be a counselor someday too.

This post is from our April, 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!

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

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• 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?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• 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!