I am acutely aware that I haven’t gotten everything right as a dad, much less an adoptive dad. But when my kids can be comfortable in their own skin; when they can talk with me about things that are a big deal and it’s not a big deal – I know that somehow, someway, and often in spite of me, we are headed in the right direction.
Some interactions with our kids are simply too priceless not to share. So it was with a recent conversation with one of my boys (whose permission I obtained to share this story with the understanding I would not identify him by name).
I walked into my bedroom and one of my sons was lying on the bed finishing up a TV show just before bath time.
“How was school?” I asked.
“Fine,” he replied.
Of course it was, I thought. “Who did you hang out with today at recess” I asked, trying to elicit a bit more engagement.
“The same people,” he replied.
“Was that new girl playing with you – what’s her name?” I asked.
“Racquel . . .” he replied.
“Yeh, her. Was she there?” I asked.
“Yeh. Oh, and I found out where she’s from,” he said.
This is an ongoing point of interest between us because this son in particular has friends from literally all over the world. Our neighborhood, and thus our neighborhood school, is incredibly diverse in terms of its racial and ethnic make-up, and this son and I often talk about the language, cultural and other differences among his friends.
“She’s half Mexican and half Italian,” he said, pausing for just a moment. “You know, she’s kind of like me – I’m a Tex-Mex,” he said matter of factly, without so much as even a smile.
I stopped. “You’re a what?” I asked.
“I’m a Tex-Mex” he said again, straight-faced. “You know, I live in Texas and my birthmother was from Mexico. I’m a Tex-Mex.”
“That is really pretty creative, son. Did you come up with that on your own?” I asked, trying my best not to make too big of a deal out of just how funny and original what he said was, not to mention the way he said it.
“Yeh. Well, actually I saw it on the restaurant sign yesterday and I thought – that’s me, I’m a Tex-Mex.”
“You’re not the only Tex-Mex in the family, you know,” I replied, referring to one of his brothers who shares his same Mexican birth heritage.
“I know. But Kate and Carter, they’re Tex-Guats,” referring to his younger siblings who are twins and were born in Guatemala.
“Yeh, you’re right,” I said, this time not able to hold back my laughter. “I guess that makes us one big Latin family, huh.”
“Yeh,” he replied, and then headed off for his bath.
There was nothing at all profound about this conversation, but I suppose that is what made it so profound. I am acutely aware that I haven’t gotten everything right as a dad, much less an adoptive dad. But when my kids can be comfortable in their own skin; when they can talk with me about things that are a big deal and it’s not a big deal – I know that somehow, someway, and often in spite of me, we are headed in the right direction.