mommy, I want to fix my skin so it will be white

Ohhh . . . my heart is hurting tonight. This evening Jafta opened up about how he feels being the only brown person in our family, and it was devastating. He's really never commented about it before, and we try to keep the dialogue open. But tonight he said the following,

Mommy, I don't like my brown skin. I want it to be white.

I want to take my skin off.
I don't want this hair. I want hair like daddy.
I want to fix my skin so it will be white.
I want my skin to look like yours and daddy's and India's

and then, worst of all:

I just don't like myself
I tried so hard to listen, to keep from overreacting, to be empathetic, and to tell him how much I love him and his brown skin. But it was obvious that he has a lot of pent up feelings about this. I've wondered . . . especially watching the way he interacts with other kids sometimes. But tonight he left no question.
I am totally torn up about it. What do I do? We've read the books and followed the advice . . . but I'm just so sad because I know that there is inevitable grief in adoption, and this is a part of his life experience as a transracial adoptee. I WANT TO FIX IT. I want to protect him from pain. I don't want him to be sad. I want him to feel special and loved and secure and confident.

Mark and I talked about it for a long time tonight. Well, Mark talked. I sobbed and made word-like noises through my ugly-cry face. We were evaluating what we could do differently, if we've made a mis-step somewhere. We considered again, if we need to move to Austin, or Haiti, or a place with more diversity than Orange County. But we were mostly just hurting for our little boy.
It's so discouraging, too, that we want so badly to give him a sibling who looks like him. I wish so much that our Haiti adoption was not taking so long. I hate that he feels so alone in our family. I wish that he had just one face to identify with in our home.

UGGGHHHHH. Feeling sad tonight, and wishing I knew the answer.


  1. I'm so sorry. I wish I had the answers, but of course I don't.

    I know we're strangers basically, but I know for sure you love that boy! He knows you do. In the long run, as he matures, you can have hope that your unconditional love will shape his self-perception more than his appearance.

    That doesn't help for now though, when you just want to take his sadness and confusion. I know I would too. So sorry,

  2. Anonymous6:28 AM

    Oh honey, I wish I knew what to say. Keanan will be home "soon". Michou has been pretty happy lately, but I too can't wait for our boys to come home so she feels more "connected". We live in an all white area and I only notice her insecurity when we go into Pittsburgh. I took Ana to get shots the other day for our trip and there were a lot of families there getting ready for the school year. My bright, happy bubbly girl got noticably clingy with me. Like she wanted people to see that we "go together" because it's not obvious on the surface :( But then we went to the zoo and she was fine. Kids will surprise you with how resilient they are.
    Hugs, Jennifer

  3. I dread these conversations. Dread them!

    I have no advice, but just want you to know that I feel for you and your family. Being a white parent while having a son/daughter of a different race can be hard at some times.

    I started to think a lot about this last year when Deacon was the only brown kid in his preschool class, and the class under him and the class above him. I feared him feeling different and left out. Fortunately he is young still and we didn't see anything come out of that.

    One of our main reasons for loving Austin and our church is that we do see diversity. I pray to God every day that my children will find great role models to look up to. I also pray that my children will find great role models of other races to look up to.

    Thanks for sharing your struggles. You are not alone in this.

    On a selfish note ... when you come to visit we must meet up and hang out! I think we would all be friends!!!!

  4. Anonymous8:36 AM

    My eyes are welling up with tears as I read this. Adoption is such a beautiful tragedy. I know that sounds melodramatic, but really this tremendous blessing is so wrapped up in grief and sacrifice. I wish it weren't so. I'm praying for wisdom for you and assurance for your boy!

  5. We now have three children of color in our family (two Haitian and one African American). Yet, our kids (particularly my 9 year old daughter), struggle with this a LOT. Granted, we are doing our part to increase ethnic diversity in our white little town *chuckle* ... and I know that having other siblings of color helps.

    Yet, it doesn't go away. Our daughter begs for "white" hair styles, and says often that she wants to change her skin ... that she doesn't like herself.

    Some days it just plain su-u-u-u-u-u-u-cks.

  6. Bless his bones and you guys too !! You are not alone. Every mother, in every country, at some point whether dealing with an adopted child or not, has a moment with their child that deals with a child that is unhappy with some part of their life, body, circumstance, etc. And of course your heart breaks and you want to fix it but that really doesn't teach them how to cope. So we put on our parenting hats and we guide them and love them and show them how to get through it, so when the next time comes, and there will be a next time, they know they are loved and have the confidence to feel sad and good and brave and carry on....

  7. AH, Kristen. All I can say is you are a fabulous mother. That Jafta's not in your family by accident. That I can't think of better parents to help him wrestle with this issue. I've been thinking about you all day and praying for Jafta....

  8. Kristen--You don't know me, but I've been reading your blog for awhile...and thoroughly enjoying it, until now. I am weeping for for you and Mark, and especially little Jafta, and can truly say nothing more other than that you are in my prayers. (For the record, I'm not a creepy stalker. I grew up with Mark at MVCC. Tell him Charla (formerly Speelman) says hello!)

  9. Kristen- My mom told me that Jafta was saying this last night. I am in tear right now. Jafta is so beautiful and perfect, we love him so much. I am so sad that he is feeling these things. You and Mark could not love him more. I am sorry and I love you guys.

  10. ... thinking about you and your family ...


  11. I can hear how hard this is for you... of course you want to protect Jafta, just as you do India. But I must say that I'm so glad he decided to talk about it! As a therapist you know that things not talked about tend to fester and can turn to shame. Race is always in the room (no such thing as a color blind society) and the fact that he feels safe to talk to you is really remarkable. I know it is hard for you, but I feel a sense of gratefulness that he was able to talk about it and share the confusion with the people he trusts most in this world... his amazing parents.

  12. Kristen,

    OK, so now that I am officially crying. I read this post at 1:30 am and I went to wake my husband up to pray for little Jafta. That is how much Jafta has my heart. Since I was a little girl, I kinda knew that my kids would probably look a great deal like Jafta and now that I married Anthony, I pretty much am certain about that assuming I don't have problems conceiving.

    As I read this I started crying so hard I couldn't console myself as I grieved for Jafta's heart and also had a glimpse into what Anthony might have gone through as a black kid! I went in and woke him up and I wanted to share some things with you. Anthony had a LOT of white friends and often times wanted his brown skin and hair to change. He said this didn't last forever though and the love that you guys have for Jafta will outweigh any and all doubts he has now. I believe that with everything I little Jafta has been in our prayers for a long time.

    Not that I don't LOVE India's adorable little mini kristen face but I have had a soft spot for Jafta actually since he was a baby. I saw you guys once when he was LITTLE at macaroni grill and thought he might be the cutest baby that ever graced the planet and then soon started rock harbor and found out who you were. Jafta is being saturated in prayer in our house. I don't know if that helps you to know but he holds a special place in Anthony and my heart. We watch his videos and read your posts and he is amazing!

    Kristen, thanks for sharing your struggle and know that I truly felt your pain in reading that. I fear all kinds of situations like these in my future and I can only hope to be as dedicated to my children's happiness as you are!

    Praying for you through tough questions!


  13. I'm praying for you ALL about this! We are adopting(well, trying to anyways) and have just begun to scratch the surface in understanding how difficult transracial adopting is, even if you read all the right books and say all the right things. Praise God that He knows all hearts including Jafta's.

  14. This is so hard. We haven't had to deal with this much since for the most part our adopted kids look like us. But we just adopted our son who has amniotic banding on the face and I think this may come up one day.

  15. I am so sorry. That is SOOOO hard. It sounds like you are getting some great encouragement here. I AGREE! I think it is amazing that he feels so confident to tell you how he feels. That really says something huge. Keep up the good work. If he feels that loved and safe I think he will be just fine. Angel

  16. My heart was breaking too as I listened to Jafta share his feelings--Kristen, no one could have handled it better than you did. You and Mark are absolutely amazing parents--as Jodie said, Jafta is not in your home by accident. God hand-picked you to be his loving parents--with wisdom and love to see him through many difficult times. And I am also amazed at Jafta's ability to communicate his feelings. I love you all so very much and pray for you daily.

  17. Anonymous5:49 PM

    While I may never hear my children question their appearance. I know the pain of hearing them want to change who they are. There is no pain like hearing my son (at age 9) cry out that he hates who God created him to be and he wants to die. As tears streamed down his face I was at a loss. The knowledge of his sorrow haunts me. I, too, question my parenting. What should I have done or said differently to help him embrace who he is?

    It has been two years since that horrible day and his feelings of resentment for being different still linger under the surface. As parents we love, we pray, and sometimes we just have a good long cry.



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