Census Sensibility

This is the poster that I have hanging up in my classroom.

I shared my enthusiasm with my students about my first opportunity to fill this out as a mother, and how important it felt to me that I was recording my multiracial family accurately on the form.

And when I read the question about adopted or biological child I did not feel a sense of othering as others have. I felt a little surprised perhaps, but then I cam to a sense of “OK, let’s show the world how many families have come together this way.” But I waited until I had read umpteen takes on the topic before I filled it out last night. (Adoption Mosaic Blog, as always, presents a very thoughtful, measured take on the issue, as well as presenting their reader with a great list of resources providing alternative takes on the topic. ) I did not feel that I was in anyway harming my son, by acknowledging how he came to share my last name, live in my home, and call me Second Mom can I have another brownie please.

I will say that I had this weird whoa what will I be filling out in ten years moment. Will I be the one filling it out, or will my spouse or partner? Will I have another child or two through marriage, partnership, foster care, or adoption (there are no other options that I know of there) on the list? What about other extended family?  I certainly didn’t anticipate I’d be recording my brother’s name on my 2010 census. Nor did he.

Official ten-year markers are loaded for people.

All the children who are not there, all the ones we wished were here by now, or heaven forbid, should have still been taking up a column of their own.

Former spouses that are filling out their own form, or who are adding someone else’s name as person #2. Partners who have died, parents who have passed too.

The pride in the college student who is now filling out her own, the disappointment in the twenty-four year old who isn’t able to get themselves out the door yet…

It is easy amidst all those feelings, hopes and grieving to not see it  as a piece of paper that might help your school have more money for the new jungle gym next year, or your hospital to upgrade its neo natal wing.

In ten years how do I hope my census form will read? I want to record my children two or more, after my chosen person #2. Whoever they may be, I know that their form is not quite completely right yet either!


  1. What a refreshing perspective. I honestly didn’t give it much thought, other than the moment (actually a few moments) it took to capture an accurate picture of our family’s multi-racial/ethnic design. You reminded me of the things I take for granted even in completing the census. At some point, for a short spell during this past decade, my person #2 was elsewhere. I’m grateful we’re back, and even more grateful that you’ve reminded me to be grateful. Have a great weekend.

  2. I hadn’t thought of the process of recording and being recorded in this way either. Like your brother, my daughter and I were counted on my grandmother’s form. I guess I did have that slight feeling that you described in the hypothetical 24 year old, especially when my boyfriend pulled his form out of the mail the other day and asked me if I had filled mine out yet.

    As always, thanks for the enlightenment Mama C =).

    • Reading your reply makes me think of a poem about which form we are on today… Which form we could be on tomorrow. How it is this snapshot of a moment of our lives in so many ways. The boyfriend image is very clear too. Thank you as always for showing me that the writing resonates with you. It always makes me so happy to see your name attached to a comment!

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