Jillian Lauren and her partner Scott adopted their son Tariku from Ethiopia in 2009. In 2011, Jillian shared her family’s adoption story and perspective on identity development at a Tedx Talk at Chapman University.
I have watched this Ted Talk more than a handful of times, and every time I am impressed by Jillian’s ability to relate to others and her insightful hints into transracial parenting. Jillian is an excellent speaker, who articulates and brings to light many aspects often overlooked or ignored in transracial adoption, that simply seem to be a part of the adoption journey and life when you are raising a child of a different race.
She begins the talk by explaining how transracial adoption “is not for people who want to be invisible.” She is right! When your child is a different race than the rest of your family, the adoptive family is conspicuous, which often results in undesired surveillance. Transracial families often experience stares, judgments, opinions and stereotypical remarks from the public. These parents need to advocate on behalf of their children and stand up when stereotypes present themselves by the public, family members, friends, the school system, etcetera. This type of advocacy is not for everyone; it is exhausting and sometimes makes people uncomfortable.
This unwanted attention is a part of transracial families’ lives and shapes the adopted child’s story and identity; which bring us to my favorite part of Jillian’s talk - when she explains how every child and adoptee has a story that is ever evolving. Their story is influenced by their experiences and also their imagination, which assists in shaping their identity. For Tariku it took years before he was comfortable with his life in California, and with his parents. During these difficult times of disrupted attachment Jillian and her partner told Tariku stories about his adoption, where he came from, and stories of their childhood. As he gets older and asks more questions about who he is and where he comes from, it appears the couple answers these questions honestly. This allows him to build his identity by understanding his past, and also looking forward to what he wants to become.
If you want to watch the Ted Talk you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN_eblCUE30
If you want to read about the real perspective that Jillian brings to parenting, adoption and life in general, I highly recommend you read her blog. If you don't take anything away from her adoption posts, at least you can have a good laugh, and probably relate to some ‘uh huh, been there!” parent moments.
If you want to take a look at the blog, please follow this link: http://www.jillianlauren.com/category/adoption/