Why do I have to be tall with blonde hair? It's not fair.

Katie and Carrie

Ahh, how strong our desire is to belong, to fit in, to be the same as those around us.  For the very youngest kids, that translates into a desire to look like their family members. 

As Katie enters the tween years, she will probably age out of a desire to be just like us, but right now, she actually thinks it would be great to be like mom and dad

I recently got a keratin treatment and straightened my very curly dark brown hair.  At first, Katie loved it. 

“Now you look like me,” she exclaimed with delight.  “We both have straight hair.” 

I knew Katie would appreciate the similarity, because some weeks earlier she had sat in the bathtub and lamented how different she looks from the rest of the family. 

First she helped me pour some water on Cleo’s fuzzy little head, as we rinsed the teeny brown curls. Then she watched me struggle to rinse shampoo out of Annie Rose’s squirmy little head, covered with dark brown ringlets.

“It’s not fair,” Katie suddenly burst out.  “I wish I were short with frizzy brown hair and brown eyes too.  Why do I have to be tall with blonde hair and blue eyes?  Nobody looks like me in this family!”

I ducked my head for a moment to mask the smile that threatened to appear at the thought of an American child wishing away her long legs, straight blonde hair and bright blue eyes.  On the positive side, Katie’s comments indicate that she is still insulated from the cultural messages about what is considered beautiful in America. 

On the negative side, my child was feeling distraught about looking different from us, and I wanted to talk with her about it.

“Katie, there are a lot of families where the kids look different from the parents and different from each other, even in families where nobody is adopted,” I pointed out to her.  One of my oldest friends has curly brown hair and brown eyes and her younger sister has straight blonde hair and blue eyes, and they have the same biological parents.

“I know,” she said, “but I still wish my hair would be fluffy like Annie Rose’s.  I love when you put my hair in braids because it is curly when I take them out.  I want to look like you.  Everyone always says that Annie Rose looks just like Mama and Cleo looks just like Daddy.”

“That’s hard, isn’t it?” I asked.  “You know who you look like?  M.  And E and D.  Sometimes, you make a certain expression, and you look so much like M (her birthmom) that I can’t believe it.”

“Really?” Katie asked and smiled.

“Yep,” I told her.  “The reason you have to be tall with blonde hair and blue eyes is called genetics.  You inherited genes from your birth parents that determine how you look.  But that has nothing to do with how much you belong in this family.”

And I was reminded that, for all of the challenges of maintaining an open adoption, here was one of the real benefits – I am able to help Katie feel connected to why she looks the way she does.  It comforted her to be reminded that she looks like her birthmom and her birth siblings. 

Then we talked about all the ways that we are the same.  “I can think of one,” I told Katie.

“We both LOVE dessert.”
“We both have long hair,” she said.
“And one nose and one mouth and two arms and two legs,” I added.
“We both like to watch movies and play soccer,” she pointed out.
We have an adoption CD by Chuck Kent called Same Same, and one of the songs on it focuses on all the ways in which adopted kids and their adoptive parents are the same.  Katie and I ended up playing a Same Same game during her bath. 

Katie went to sleep without too much fuss, and the next day, I made a point of telling her how very beautiful her thick blonde hair was.

For several weeks, I wore my hair straight, but one night, I decided to wash it and let it dry curly.  I wondered if Katie would be upset, but when she saw me, her face lit up and she said, “It’s the old mommy!” 

“I like your hair better curly,” she confided.

“Not me,” piped in Annie Rose.  “It looked better straight.  Go change it back.”  Can’t please ’em all. 

But I was glad that Katie is feeling connected enough to the family and confident enough in her own looks to take the curls in stride.

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  • aw that's sad! why would you straighten your curly dark hair? curly dark hair is by far the sexiest :-)

  • "The reason you have to be tall with blonde hair and blue eyes is called genetics. You inherited genes from your birth parents that determine how you look. But that has nothing to do with how much you belong in this family."

    What a beautiful & wise thing to say. I appreciate your blog, you are teaching me to be a better adoptive parent(when I adopt, Lord willing)! :)

  • Oh Katie my baby!!!! If i had pics of myself when I was younger I would send them to you, but unfortunately I don't. You are absolutely beautiful!!! You look a lot like E and D. E gets mad all the time that her hair isn't curly like mine. D just doesn't care!!! LOL. He's such a boy.

    Being tall has it's advantages!!! We never have to ask for help getting things off the top shelf, and when you get taller you can laugh about how short your mom is. I know I did when I first met your parents!!! LOL. I'm used to people being shorter than me though!!! If it makes you feel any better, a lot of the women in your birth family are tall. So are the men!!!! There are some short one's too. I have an aunt that's smaller than your mom!!!

    Cheer up baby!!! God made you PERFECT IN EVERYWAY!!!!! I love you so much Katie Bear!!!!! XOXOXOXO

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