Tuesday, 22 February 2011

brown babies

Things are changing, I might be a mum! Aaaah, by the power of my super-fertile blog title. No, more the power of the Powers That Be.

Adoption guidelines are changing. Single women can adopt (guideline up to 45 years old) and they can adopt a child of any race. This is big news, this could rearrange everything - without rearranging our bodies. Imagine a non-patriarchal home-life, just a mum able to concentrate on being a mum and, when the kids are asleep or away, herself. I think this is the most exciting part of it all, it frees a woman up to enjoy her life, knowing she can plan for a child without being at the mercy of hormones or romance.

However, this being my tiny, frightened, ex-colonial little island home, the hot-spot of the debate is the the race/heritage issue. I agree it is important a child knows their family history, and where that fits in the history of the world, whether they are adopted or not and whether that heritage is single or mixed. It broadens their horizons. My heritage is part working class Irish stock (horizons not so broad but I know we were treated like dirt) and I live in London where there are many mixed family and friendship groups. Could this shift on policy increase the chances of an eventual a utopian outcome where every family is mixed?

But we must not use this shift to shore up the notion of the UK as a racially harmoniously mixed society (multi-cultural was all a bit of a mistake apparently, like private pensions - oops, sorry, they say) - because it is not. As I listened to the debate yesterday there was throughout an assumption implicit that a black child adopted by a white couple will be immediately snatched and kept from any cultural references other than those of the adoptive parents. I would argue that there are differences between black and white households in the UK, particularly those of the the older generation, so the guidelines should be - will the kid have access to both households? Is this over simplifying things? We must not offer children platitudes, tell them it doesn't matter what colour they are, it does because it's who they are, they could be told it doesn't matter insofar as it will not hold them back, that they should not see colour, not be frightened of difference. Most importantly, we must show them by being like this ourselves.

I think this is an area where many women my age can pay forward some of the fun we've had as we've prolonged our own adolescence, either not looking after the kids we've got, or delaying having any as we wait for the right person, the right time, the right job. If we have been negligent as adults so far and are now ready to be parents, it's cool we have the opportunity to take these kids, whatever they look like, and show them a good time too. And there’s no reason we can’t still do it in pairs. We don’t have to pair up with a father, or live together, just 2 adults, 1 child, it’s a division of labour, without the labour.

Right, time to flick through the social services catalogue. Wonder what the maternity leave is? And the returns policy...

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