"My Daughter's Loving, Supportive Role Model"

I don't always know how our racial differences affect my daughter. But I know that having a role model of the same race has been a blessing for her — and for me.

Tasia and Frank, her role model of the same race

As always, Uncle Frankie, my only close African-American friend, sat in his favorite armchair when he came over to watch Monday night football last week. My 13-year-old daughter, Tasia*, perched in the yellow chair she prefers, her brown feet curled under her. I occupied the couch, absently looking at the TV, admiring the dreadlocks that hung down the back of one of the players.

Frank once showed me a photo in which he wore dreadlocks, too. It was taken before we met, long before I adopted Tasia. When I became her foster mom, I twisted her thick hair into dreadlocks myself, before she was old enough to tell me she preferred braids — which she has now.

Uncle Frankie isn’t really Tasia’s uncle, but she’s called him that for a while now. It’s been nearly 10 years since her adoption was finalized. During that time, my learning curve as a single, transracial adoptive parent was slow, and sometimes bumpy. For instance, I didn’t know how important it was to learn about black hair care, or to live in a diverse community. Until I took racial awareness training and read about transracial adoption, I didn’t know that we needed a social circle that included African-Americans. Everyone in my extended family is white, as I am.

Luckily, I had known Frank for a couple of years before Tasia arrived. He and I worked together in the art department of a newspaper. Our artistic sensibilities, and our preference for one-on-one socialization, led to a friendship that included museum visits, brunches, dancing, and pool games.

A Doting Father Figure

Frank loves to take pictures, so he was the official photographer at Tasia’s adoption party, after a fost/adopt process that took almost two years. Now and then I pull our album from a shelf and flip through its pages. What strikes me is that virtually everyone in the photos is white. Although a handful of African-American acquaintances came to her celebration (out of nearly 100 invitations I sent), the only person who shares my daughter’s ethnicity and who is still in our lives is Frank.

Frank’s skin is a shade lighter than Tasia’s, and the angle of his eyes suggest Asian blood. Like my daughter, he grew up in a home without a father, and there are parts of his background that he’ll never know. Besides having this in common with Tasia, whose family history is largely unknown, Frank’s gentle, generous presence in our lives is, in many ways, a gift.

Frank buys Tasia actual gifts, too. He takes her on a clothes-shopping spree before the start of every school year. He brings stuffed animals, jewelry, and sweatshirts, emblazoned with Seattle, San Diego, or Vancouver, from the business trips he goes on.

So Many Blessings

During the recent football game that Frank came over to watch, he and Tasia were riveted. To me, the players on the field were only a blur of color and movement.

I was more intent on the easy repartee between Frank and Tasia. I realized that, over years of Monday night football, and other visits with Frank, I’ve been watching him watch my daughter grow up. Earlier in the evening, when he saw us standing side by side, he said, “Almost as tall as your mom, huh?” We marveled that, in a couple of months, she might be taller than I. Then, her eyes fixed on the screen, Tasia asked, “Are football players allowed to grab the ball away from each other?”

To what extent her connection to Frank is based on race, my daughter has never expressed. I don’t know whether race permeates her day-to-day life, or how often she thinks about our atypical, transracial family.

I do know that Frank responded to my daughter’s question with a solid explanation, using words like penalty and linesman and defense. When he was done, I was no wiser about the rules of football than I was before. I was half-listening. All I heard was that Tasia was completely engaged, leaning forward in her seat as Frank talked. And I felt a surge of love for both of them.


*Name has been changed to protect privacy.


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