Archive for the ‘international adoption’ category

In A Perfect World

July 13, 2008

My children are Asian in a Caucasian world. It sounds like such a simple statement. But it’s really not. People who adopt outside of their own race tend to see a child. Not an Asian child or a Black child or a Hispanic child….or any of the combinations in between. We see just a plain old child whose toes we have kissed and whose hair we have learned to style. We see the child that stresses about oatmeal for breakfast and spelling tests and social studies projects. A child.

And since they don’t really see themselves, as a rule, I think it takes a while for a trans racially adopted child to see that their parents are different from them. My son was blessed to attend a small daycare that encompassed a myriad of shades in it’s clientele for a couple of years. The director/teacher tried very hard to foster acceptance and awareness of differences. She worried that my son wasn’t aware of his. After spending a week or two collecting pictures of faces of many races, she set out having her students compile a mural about themselves. They were to select pictures to glue on their posters beginning with a face that looked like theirs. My son looked them all over carefully and then selected one of an adult Black man. His teacher tried to get him to exchange it for the Asian face but he said ‘no’….that the one he had was correct because he had black hair too.

Because we knew the state of things in his elementary school, we started early ‘desensitizing’ him to looks and stares and questions. We hoped that we were giving him tools to help people understand and to make him proud of being ‘different.’ We must have done our job well enough because it never crossed our minds to do the same with our daughter. The first time she was teased about her ‘Chinese Eyes’, it devestated her….and ME. But that moment was just a blip in her expanding world. She is well liked because she is funny and positive and a gifted athlete. My son has a killer sense of humor, a dry wit and is also a gifted athlete. He is a quiet kind of leader, willing to follow and not really understanding that he has others waiting to follow HIS lead.

We were having dinner in a restaurant in my sister’s small southern town recently. I caught a lot of people – especially older people – watching my children. Some, in the same way that I watched the little girls with huge bows and freckled face boys with big eyes at the buffet bar….and some not the same way at all. People wonder. And so do I. I wonder if it is going to matter that they have been raised a minority in a Caucasian world. I wonder if it’s going to matter that they have really shown no interest in learning more about Korea or Russia. I wonder if it will matter that I never forced it on them. I wonder if their birth origins will matter to the people they want to spend time with… date. I wonder if knowing so little about their biological family will matter healthwise. In a perfect world it won’t. And when we can look at another person and not see the Asian face…the Black face…the Hispanic face….or any of the combinations in between….just a person….it will be a perfect world.

The Circle Game

May 30, 2008

Rick Ely recorded this Joni Mitchell tune when I was a teenager and I bought his album (yes Daniel….a RECORD album…a flat thing that spins on a player with a needle and makes music….sheesh) because of it. I was pleased to find it on line about a year ago. Today I was thinking about the Chapman Family, as I have been most of the week. Was doing a search for a video blog that I subscribe to and found this video. Steven Curtis Chapman in the middle of the kids in the Chinese orphanages he has dedicated his giving spirit to. The video brought back memories of Nina’s Russian orphanage……

Heritage Projects

December 4, 2007

I am beginning to hate these ‘heritage’ projects. You know the ones. Family trees. Milestones from every year of your life. Questionnaires with lines to answer questions like ‘who was the first one to hold you?’, ‘what was the weather like on the day you were born?’ and ‘What did you look like when you were born?’ For a child who is adopted, especially if it was an international adoption, those projects can spell doom and gloom as parents scramble to make them fit into the specifics of our children’s ‘heritage’.

My son has never had any interest at all in his Korean heritage. It’s not for lack of our trying. He has a shelf full of books and videos and trinkets that we have collected through out his babyhood and childhood. He is more interested in learning about Israel (because his best friend was taking Hebrew classes to prepare for a Bar Mitzvah) and Germany (because his grandfathers fought there in WWII). He recognizes the South Korean flag however. In fact, I have framed a Mayflower project from first grade. Just a boat – but definitely identified as the ‘Mafloer’ – with three Popsicle stick flag poles. One holding a white sail, one flying an American flag….and one flying a Korean flag. History re envisioned through my Korean born son’s eyes.

My daughter relishes every little thing we learn about Russia. She loves every story that we tell her about our adoption trip to retrieve her from her Russian orphanage. She laughs and demands that I tell the ‘bath tub story’ again and again. (Her first tub bath in our Moscow hotel and she played and played in the water. I flipped the switch to drain the tub, stepped out to get her towel and pajamas and was confused as to why the water wasn’t draining. She’d figured out how to keep all that lovely warm water in the tub by unflipping the knob when my back was turned.) She is proud of her history….of which we know nothing. Her required autobiography begins, “When the police found me at a bus stop in Russia, I was wearing a blue dress and could tell them my name.” She was approximately two when they found her and five when we adopted her. She remembers nothing before the Children’s Home in Tuva.

As a Teacher, I understand the idea behind a heritage project. It opens a door for exploration of traditions and diversity. It gives a child a sense of ‘continuity’…..of belonging to a much wider world. As an adoptive parent it drains my heart a little. I wish I could fill those missing pieces. But it does allow me to explain things like ‘grafting’ – the process used by tree growers to enhance a tree’s make up…to make it better…stronger. My family tree has been grafted twice, with shoots from different corners of the world. Stronger? Of course. Better? Definitely.

Pax – on the subject of international adoption

March 28, 2007

Angelina and Brad have a new son. People Magazine says she is taking time for Pax to ‘gently bond’ with their family. For once I know exactly where a celebrity is coming from. We have been there and done that.

After years of fiddling around with infertility issues and tap dancing around the subject of adoption, my husband and I attended an international adoption ‘forum’ in which seven different adoption agencies took part. Domestic adoption didn’t appeal to my husband AT ALL. We had just spent the past year following the Baby Jessica story. Apparently we weren’t alone. Once the statement was made that parental rights are irrevocably severed once a child leaves it’s country of birth, there was an almost audible sigh from the hundred or so people present. That was fourteen years ago. We filled out the paperwork, did the leg work, signed the checks, talked with social workers, did more paperwork and seven months later, on June 29, 1994, we picked up our son from the international terminal at Detroit Metro Airport. He had flown 14 hours (including a significant layover in Tokyo) from Seoul, Korea. He was four months old, had a gorgeous head of stick straight hair and eyes that totally disappeared when he smiled…and he smiled alot. He was a good baby, a curious toddler, shy Kindergartener, creative elementary student and now an intelligent and kind middle schooler..most of the time.

Six years later we filled out more paperwork, did more leg work, signed more checks, talked with more social workers and traveled to Russia to complete the adoption of a five year old daughter. She was in an orphanage in Kyzyl, Tuva. This meant an overseas flight to Moscow, a five hour plane flight to Abakan and a six hour drive through the Sayan Mountains in a cab with a driver that did not speak English. We spent 17 days in Russia. We ‘gently bonded’ with her in a hotel in Kyzyl for five days. During that time she screamed in the shower, cried whenever Papa had to leave, ate one piece of fruit after another, learned the ABC song, how to count to 10 and to sing ‘Rock A Bye Baby.’ In Moscow she laughed in the bathtub, went on her first shopping spree, ate her first McDonald’s french fry and charmed the visa guy at the embassy.

The ‘gentle bonding’ continued at home. She followed her brother around and made him absolutely miserable for a while by copying his every move. Her second week home we took her on a Halloween candy binging trick or treating campout for the weekend with our camping club. Two weeks later we took her to the wedding and reception when my husband’s oldest daughter got married. Two weeks later we were on the road to South Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with extended family. Poor kid. Her intial thoughts of America were probably that life was just one party after another!

She picked up verbal language fairly quickly. There was a period of about a week when she was very frustrated that she could understand our English and didn’t understand why we couldn’t interpret her Russian quickly enough. She finally stopped using Russian all together. That made me sad. She bonded very quickly with her preschool/day care buddies inspite of the language differences. Daycare was probably more familiar than home life to her. That made me sad.

But today she is a bright, funny, happy fifth grader. She is a Girl Scout. SHe likes life in the ‘fast lane’ – rollerblades, skateboards, sledding, her bike, horses – anything that gives her speed. She reads, struggles with Math, loves to write stories and has every boy in her class wrapped around her little finger. She is their ‘bud’…someone to play football with, to kick a soccer ball with, to share a joke with. I would have to say that she has ‘gently bonded’ very well.

So, here’s to Pax….and Angelina and Brad and Maddox and Zahara and Shiloh. May your family be as happy and as ‘gently bonded’ as mine.