Sports is my family’s love language, specifically basketball and football. They bring us together around a TV screen or in stadiums and cause “spirited” conversations around the table or through social media. My husband and I met at a college basketball watch party and have continued to enjoy basketball and football games together. Never once did we consider adding other sports to our schedule. But that changed when we adopted our son from South Africa and became cross-cultural adoptive parents.
We researched South African culture and realized we needed to expand our love language.
The most popular sports in South Africa are football/soccer and rugby. On the first day of bonding with our new son, we noticed he loved to kick around the ball. So, we joined him in this strange sport, our feet awkward in stops while he moved with precision and grace. When we discussed this with our social worker, she explained that it was not uncommon for orphanage volunteers to put a ball in the middle of the courtyard for the kids to kick around. So, to honor our son’s interest and culture, we added soccer games to our fall and spring schedule.
Our son may look like us, but he comes from a different culture, and we want him to walk in the confidence that his differences inspire us to learn more about him and to try things from his culture that are new to us. We don’t want him to feel obligated to act like us, or in this case, to like the same sport that we do. We want him to embrace loving soccer and rugby, just as we love basketball and football. And yet, we have been pleasantly surprised to experience mutual curiosity about our different loves.
While we rely on friends who are rugby and soccer experts to teach us the rules and nuances of the games, our son watches basketball and football games with us and asks questions. He even took basketball lessons. Though he decided it wasn’t his favorite sport, we loved him for trying.
For me, that is adoption. That is cross-cultural parenting. That is love. Seeing your whole child, where they came from, and what they can become. Here are some of the ways we embrace our son’s culture:
1) We acknowledge that as African Americans we may match our son, but we are from different cultures. We must actively seek representation for him, so that he understands his South African culture.
2) As cross-cultural adoptive parents, we strive to be students of our child’s culture. My husband and I checked out books about sports in South Africa and watched documentaries about arts in South Africa.
3) We incorporate our son’s culture into our home. We display the South African flag and South African art; we shelve South African literature, listen to South African music, and watch South African television. And, of course, we cheer on the Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team.
4) We are our son’s allies, advocating for him and speaking out against racism.
On a cool fall morning, my son and I are running across the parking lot. “We’re late! Let’s go,” I cry as he lags behind me. We get to the grass, and I frantically scan for field ten. “There it is!” I yell.
As we race across the grass, a female voice cries, “There he is! Our best player!” My son jogs to his field, and I sit under a tall oak tree with my book and water bottle. But before I open it and begin to read, I look at my son, all 3-foot-6, 38-pounds, chocolate-skinned, and wearing a black jersey.
He turns to me, beautiful black eyes shining, and waves excitedly. “Hi, Mom!” I smile with my whole heart. Being his mom is the joy of my life.Leave a Comment