Through some combination of chance, coincidence, and “that makes perfect sense,” a large portion of our family circle through the years has included a variety of nontraditional (NT) families. It’s almost as though kids from alternate family structures have a sixth sense and can feel each other out. I would call it the NT-family-kid version of gaydar, except my gaydar is so exceptionally lousy (read: always wrong) that I’m not sure such a thing exists.
Whatever the cause, my kids have certainly bonded with a proportionately large number of kids from “like” environments to our own. As examples, I will pick two of each kid’s best friends over the years
Daveon’s first best friend when he moved to Oakland was Quinn. The first day Daveon went to elementary school at ASCEND, Quinn took Daveon under his wing and showed him the ropes. As Quinn later put it, “I remembered what it was like to be the new kid at the school, and I didn’t want Daveon to have to go through that.” (Yes, Quinn was and is a sweetheart.) Daveon and Quinn were pretty inseparable during the first few ASCEND years, and though their paths later moved apart, they still see each other a couple of times a year and remain close.
Quinn’s mother is Tammy. His grandmother, Tammy’s mother, is Esther. Quinn lives with Esther and her husband, Dave. Tammy’s father was Esther’s first husband—Dave is husband number two. Quinn considers Esther and Dave his parents. Tammy lives around the corner and they see each other pretty much every day.
So what, exactly, is a traditional family again?
Fast-forward a few years: In high school, Daveon’s first best friend was Michael. Like Daveon, Michael ran cross-country and track. Also like Daveon, Michael is adopted. His parents, Mike and Melinda, adopted Michael from birth. Michael’s biological parents are in the area and he sees them once in a while. Melinda’s sister also has an adopted son, who is her (the sister’s) biological nephew. That nephew/son, Ali, went to the same high school as Michael and Daveon (at the time) and was also a cross-country/track runner. So you had Michael, Ali, and Daveon, as the adopted runner brotherhood.
For what it’s worth, Quinn is mixed-race Mexican, Michael is mixed-race Latino, and Ali is black. What is the saying about like attracting like?
Meanwhile, Mark’s best buddy in elementary school was Siddhartha, and his best buddy in middle school was Carmen. Siddhartha’s birth parents are divorced (or split up—I’m not sure they were ever married), and each has remarried and has had a second child. So Siddhartha splits his time between his birth mom, step dad, and little brother, and his birth dad, step mom, and other little brother. Carmen, meanwhile, has it pretty simple: She is the adopted Chinese daughter of a single white mom, Becky. She also plays a mean ragtime piano. (Shameless plug: I give Carmen a shout-out in the ragtime post on my other blog.)
I could go on (and on, and on), but you get the point. I’m pretty sure that in none of their classes did either of my kids stand up and say, “Hi. I’m adopted and part of a cross-racial, single-parent family. Anyone here can relate and want to be friends?” It just … happens.
Even white, WASP, originally from Michigan Aunt Leigh has two mixed race boys by her Chinese-American partner, Uncle Marty. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I can think of one “birth mom + birth dad + kids all of the same race under one roof” family in our circle. Maybe it’s something in the water, maybe it’s a sign of the times. Or maybe it’s time to reexamine our sense of normal.
Next: Weekly Visits