Light Brown Hair :: Dark Brown Hair

September 9, 2013 birth family, Nancy, telling their life story 6 Comments

I was putting Tess’s hair into pig tails, getting her ready for school and tying bows in her piggies.


We live in a Caucasian community bombarded with messages about what beauty is, and in its absence what it is not, in every magazine, billboard, and television commercial. I figure I need to counter balance the mass messaging she already receives.
I finish
of our primping-in-front-of-the-mirror-time the same way.

Tess, you’re gorgeous.
You’re beautiful.
Do you know how very pretty you are?

Today she has a reply.
Tess: I like your hair mama. It’s light brown.
Me: I like your hair, Tess. It’s a beautiful dark brown. And so are your pretty eyes.
Tess: But I like your hair. I wish my hair and my eyes were light brown like yours.
I know what she means. This is about looking like your mama and wanting to be closer.
Me: Tess, I think your first mama probably has gorgeous dark brown hair and eyes just like you. I think she is beautiful just like you!
We talk about their first mamas as if these women are another person in our family, just ones we haven’t met.
Tess: But I wish my hair was light brown like yours.
{maternal sigh}

Back to me.
My mom has auburn hair.
My birth mom has blond hair.
And my hair is brown.
I get what Tess is saying.
It’s taken me no less than 40 years to come to my own peace regarding moms and first moms and wanting something so badly that just can not be. And it breaks my heart to think she might struggle with who she is and who she does and does not look like. I want her to love herself in the here and now and feel how she is perfectly made and a perfectly shaped puzzle piece to our family puzzle. I don’t want her to continually reach after something that may never be attainable. And grieve the loss that could define her.
Says the lady that tries hard 4 decades later to not do just that.

Yet, I want to help her discover who she is and help her piece together her own identity if that’s what she wants.
It’s a balancing act that parents who adopt constantly walk.
Give them the information they crave, but only if or when they crave it. Attempt to satiate their curiosity, but not your own. Tell them their story but don’t let it define them. Help them figure out where they came from, and help them accept that they may never really know.

Back to hair.
Humor me; Let me do a mom thing and tell you how beautiful she is.
Tess has the most amazing hair. It’s dark brown with a slight wave. It’s not coarse or stereo-typically Asian hair, yet so shiny. Not to mention her eyes that are just-can’t-stop-gazing-into-them gorgeous. Her eyes are huge and so dark that one can’t really see her pupils amidst the very dark irises. This makes them appear huge. And again not really Asian looking. And her darker than normal skin tone. Which makes her appearance, although undeniably beautiful, not stereo-typically Asian. But an absolute beauty!
I know. I know. I’m biased of course! In fact she’s often mistaken as Mexican in our very Mexican community. Or Hispanic in general. Or even middle eastern. Or even Italian once.
And all of this makes us wonder if she’ll have trouble identifying herself with any culture at all.
And what we should do about it.

To be continued… Part II {Genetic analysis: to test or not to test}

6 responses to “Light Brown Hair :: Dark Brown Hair”

  1. Stefanie says:

    As always, so well said, Nancy. This especially resonated with me as an adoptive mama, always striving to be the best mama I can but knowing I’m not their first mama: “Give them the information they crave, but only if or when they crave it. Attempt to satiate their curiosity, but not your own. Tell them their story but don’t let it define them. Help them figure out where they came from, and help them accept that they may never really know.”

    • Thank you, Stefanie. I want to know. I WANT to answer the questions that I see coming but she hasn’t asked yet. And maybe that’s the key… SHE hasn’t asked them yet. But time is the killer of the information trail. Strike early and you may learn more. Strike to late and the trail may be gone. So where to strike the balance is tough.

  2. Stefanie says:

    And yes, she is an absolute beauty πŸ™‚

  3. Sophelia says:

    This is a lovely post, thank you πŸ™‚ I just want to comment though that having lived in Asia for many years there is a huge variation in “Asian” looks. Even just in Japan eye colour ranges from almost golden to black, and hair comes in everything from soft wispy honey waves to dead straight, black and coarse through to full on Afro curls. Your gorgeous little girl might not look like the stereo-type of “Asian” you are familiar with but then since I don’t have blond hair and blue eyes, I don’t look like the stereo-type of Caucasian either πŸ˜‰

  4. I find it very interesting that you say, “We live in a Caucasion community.” (implying very few minorities). Later you say, “she’s often mistaken for Mexican in our very Mexican community”. Are you, in actuality, surrounded by many Mexicans . . . but you only relate to (and label yourself with) the “Caucasion community”? Maybe it would be better to say, “We live in a community with many Caucasions and Mexicans, but few Asians.” Just a thought . . .

    I, too, would have guessed that she is Hispanic (coming from a very Caucasion and Hispanic farming community). But, how important is that. America is the melting pot, right? Do we Caucasions care if we look Dutch? or German? or Norwegian? My Greek husband certainly isn’t offended when mistaken as Italian. Shouldn’t our message be that we are all beautiful in the unique way that God designed each of us?

    Trouble identifying with any culture? Can’t you help her understand that not all Chinese look the same, just as not all Americans look the same . . . nor do all people from any other country in the world. I hope that you will be able to help her feel beautiful just as she is. I hope you will not point out ways that she is not “stereo-typical”. Your critiquing of her seriously concerns me.

    Genetic Analysis? Really? Why??? She came from China, right? She’s Chinese, right? Why does it matter if she has some Japanese, or Taiwanese, or Philippine, or even Hispanic in her??? My husband’s dad is full-blooded Greek. His mom is a mixture of who knows what. And . . . it really doesn’t matter to anyone. We have no need to know what mixtures of cultures he came from. He’s American . . . as is your beautiful (though not stereo-typical) Chinese-American daughter.

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