Goody, goody – an interview!!
I’ve really come to love these. The kids surprised me with their willingness to give thoughtful answers to anything I threw at them, and they’re already asking when their next interview will be. (Click to read their first ones: Bear and T-man.) It was refreshing to sit one-on-one with them and fully focus on their perspectives.
Now BrightSide’s bravely faced the tape recorder (well, Voice Memo app), too.
me: What are some of your memories from growing up in a small town?
BrightSide: The first thing that comes to mind is a close sense of community…everyone knowing everyone, and when you hear the term “it takes a village” we did have a village. We had about a mile radius from the house that we could play in. Mom and dad never knew where we were, but with one or two phone calls we always had eyes on us. I remember having close friends in the neighborhood and through church. There were a bunch of things like ice cream parties with mom and dad’s Sunday School group. I remember going up to the Peaks as kids with the church group to play softball, do cookouts, and sunrise breakfast on Easter. I remember Brunswick stew cookouts at the neighbor’s house, all the parents sitting around stirring a big pot of stew and us playing flashlight tag and kick the can. I remember how strange it was for all of us who grew up together – when we went to high school and other schools fed into it, it was a sense of strangers coming in that was kind of odd, but by the time we graduated everyone was back to being tight friends. It’s just really good memories.
me: Okay…how did coming from a small town influence who you are?
BrightSide: You couldn’t fake it. Everybody knew who you were, either good or bad…and I was very blessed hitting the jackpot with mom and dad and Mo [his sister] for the family I was a part of. Everybody knew who you were so it made things easier in a small town because you’re automatically trusted, but I can see if you had issues it would be that much more difficult because you’d carry the stigma of your reputation everywhere you went. For me, I always loved it because if you’re a decent person…well…you can just see a reaction in people’s eyes, you know? It’s like “I trust you, you’re a good person”, and it’s a really good character builder. It’s like when we were talking with Jon. It’s not really what happens, it’s how people react to what happens. And if you do something wrong, as you’re always gonna do, you’d have somebody say “You know what? That’s not you, you’re better than that.”…I enjoyed it. I can see how it could feel like a fishbowl but I enjoyed it.
BrightSide: Did I answer the question? [laughs]
me: Well…I asked how did you think it influenced who you are now, and you sorta did because you were saying –
BrightSide: You’re comfortable with who you are.
me: Yes. And that you know people are gonna see you for who you are.
BrightSide: It has a sense of self identity. You’re not questioning who I am and what do I stand for, you know who I am. And I know who I am. And I go back – not just me but some of the friends that I had – they all know exactly who they are, too.
me: So name two of your highlights from high school. Stand out memories.
BrightSide: Being chosen as the most athletic in my graduating class…hmmm…the other thing that comes to mind is my very last basketball game. I had a kid at the end of the game hit me in the eye. It gave me a black eye, my eye was swollen shut. It was to the point that there was thirty seconds left on the clock, and the coach asked me if I needed to come out of the game. I had the presence of mind to realize this is it. I stayed in, could only see out of one eye, shot my free throws, made both of them, and my high school career ended.
me: With a swollen eye?
BrightSide: With a swollen eye, and I didn’t give up. Perseverance…it’s one of those things that…I don’t know, it’s just that I remember that.
me: So what were two of the hard parts from high school?
BrightSide: I’ll tell you one of the things I’m most ashamed of is one of my good friends got in a fight with a guy from a rival high school over at the YMCA. My friend was getting his butt whipped and I remember thinking “I need to do something about this”, and at that point when I was trying to decide? [snaps] Before even thinking, another good friend, Lonnie, jumped on top of the guy, took him off, and said that’s the end of it. I’ve always regretted that I didn’t have the reaction and impulse as quick as Lonnie did.
BrightSide: Wish I had a do-over on that…also wish I had a do-over on some of the things I told people that I thought would be held in confidence and it wasn’t, ’cause that can come back and haunt you in a small town.
me: High school.
BrightSide: Yeah, that’s high school.
me: What were some of your biggest influences?
BrightSide: Family. And teachers, ’cause teachers were also mom and dad’s friends. All the people who surrounded me.
me: All right. What do you worry about in the world today?
BrightSide: I worry about people being exposed to too much information, making up their minds too quickly, and not understanding hyperbole versus facts. I think there’s a lot of people who rush to snap opinions and decisions, and they’re faulty because they don’t know the difference between what’s fact and what’s fiction. I don’t think with the flow of information as fast as it is that people take enough time to discern the difference. I see that the world at large is becoming more selfish as opposed to more generous, and that bothers me. And seeing the foundation of faith removed from being the foundation of a lot of people’s lives. That bothers me, too.
me: Where do you think we’ve made progress?
BrightSide: We made progress in making life a lot easier. Technology’s a huge part of the progress in innovation and productivity. We’re beginning to make progress, I believe, in understanding that America is not the whole world…but there’s a lot of learning that people still need to do. [pause] Are you gonna transcribe this word for word? [laughs]
me: I was planning to…why do you ask?
BrightSide: I might want to choose my words more carefully…I’m kind of prattling on.
me: You’re fine. The road leading to our family was long. Before we came to it, had you ever even considered adoption?
me: Is that anywhere in your history?
BrightSide: It was in mom’s history because she was raised not by her biological parents but by an aunt and uncle. We didn’t really talk about it that much; I never really thought about it much. But no, adoption never really crossed my mind.
me: What was the hardest thing about making the decision to adopt?
BrightSide: Making the decision to adopt was, as I look back, quite easy. Because that’s what we had to do to have a family. The hardest thing was coming to terms with the fact that we were not going to have biological children.
me: That’s a good way to put that. Yeah. So the adoption process, start to finish…what was it like from your perspective?
BrightSide: Soul searching. Tedious. Frustrating. [laughs] Joyful. And exciting. Do I need to elaborate on any of those?
me: No, those are all good words! All right. What does it feel like to you to have a transracial family?
BrightSide: I’m proud of it. I suppose the reason I’m proud is that I believe we’re evolving as a society…I think people are becoming more accepting of people who are not exactly cut from the mold they are. And in a way it almost feels like we’re a pioneer. And it may be the only opportunity I have to be a pioneer…I mean, I’m as Anglo Saxon as you get. [laughs] And I’m not blazing any trails in anything else, but I think that we can be a model to serve that families come in all shapes and sizes…I like it.
me: So do I! Okay, those are joys. Challenges or concerns?
BrightSide: My biggest concerns are the people who are not yet evolved to the point of understanding that being different is not bad. There is a lot of racism in our country. It may not be as open and blatant as it is in other parts of the world but it certainly is there in undercurrents, and it concerns me how that racism affects our children.
BrightSide: To add one more thought to that…what’s really dangerous is there’s a lot of people who have racist bias, but they don’t realize it. There’s a lot of people every day who are subject to micro inequities and the person who dishes it out doesn’t even know they’re doing it, but the person who’s on the receiving end certainly feels it. I wish people could do a little bit more self-analysis and be honest with themselves.
me: Okay. We’ve got open and closed adoptions in our family. How do you see those working out?
BrightSide: In our personal experience? I like the concept of the open adoption better in theory, but the way that it’s unfolded at this point it seems like the closed adoption has been a little bit healthier. Still, in theory, I like the benefits that an open adoption provides but with the benefits there’s also a whole lot more risk involved. And I would say the answer to that question still remains unknown until we move further along, until the kids turn of adult age and we see how that unfolds. At this point in time…well, I started preferring open but now I’m preferring closed with our own experience.
me: But we’re only part way through.
BrightSide: We’re only part way through. So only time will tell.
me: Given the opportunity, what would you ask the kids’ birthmothers and birthfathers?
BrightSide: I don’t even know where to start…I’d want to know some family histories, to be able to share that information and that sense of belonging with our kids. In a perfect world I’d want to see how involved they’d want to be in the kids’ lives, also understanding that we’re walking the fine line of we are their parents. I wouldn’t want to ask too much…because I think some of the things I might be curious about might be a little too painful for them to relive.
me: That’s fair.
BrightSide: Some questions are best left unanswered. But I would like to know, if they could observe what we’re doing now, I’d like to know their opinion and perspective on what kind of a job we’re doing as parents.
me: That would be interesting. I was gonna ask how you feel as an adoptive dad, but you’re clearly very proud of being a dad. So I guess what I really mean to ask is do you ever feel different because you’re an adoptive dad versus a dad?
BrightSide: At the beginning, when our family was new, I did. I felt like an adoptive dad. Now I don’t see any differentiation. I’m just a dad. I haven’t thought about being an adoptive dad in years.
me: The birth and adoptive moms can have a more complex relationship. When it comes to our children’s perceptions the comparison between the women, it can be different for the mothers. Do you ever sense that on the fathers’ side of the issue?
BrightSide: No, I think guys kind of adjust to it is what it is.
me: Not so much you personally, but from the kids’ perspective. You know how ours have had some conflicting emotions about me and their birthmothers, figuring out how to work out these two people in their lives? Do you ever get the sense that’s going on with birthfathers?
BrightSide: I haven’t from Bear but I have from T-man. We’ve talked about that. He would really like to know more about his birthdad, but I think as he’s matured that’s become less of an issue for him.
me: Why do you think that there’s such a discrepancy between the female and male sides?
BrightSide: It’s that maternal bond, in my opinion. You know, women are the ones who do all the heavy lifting and the guys are there just to pick up the slack. [laughs] You’ve probably got more skin in the game. Although I’d say as a family, we’re pretty equal on our parenting.
me: I think I know what you mean, though…these women spend nine months carrying a child and they say a lot of stuff happens in the womb so…I think there’s something to be said for that maternal bond.
BrightSide: I think it’s certainly important for children to have fathers because we offer a different perspective than mothers, but I’d have to say that the maternal bond is stronger than the paternal bond. Especially at young ages. That may change over time.
me: So, what are your hopes and dreams for T-man and Bear?
BrightSide: Happiness. And independence. [laughs]
me: “Get out! Get out!”
BrightSide: Well, that’s our job as a parent, to teach them right from wrong and how to stand on their own two feet in the world. Love ’em and let ’em go.
me: All right, I asked everybody else this…this is your golden opportunity since I blab all the time on the blog. Anything you want to shoot out there?
BrightSide: Share Laura’s blog with your friends and family.
me: Way to plug, man! Thank you!