Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Your Life As a Joke
That's a link to a really wonderful post from the perspective of an adult adoptee from Korea. In it she addresses the impact on adoptees of seemingly "harmless" statements by adoptive families and the community at large. She specifically addresses this:
That image horrified me when I saw it, only to horrify me more when I read that adoptive parents are actually walking around with it on T-shirts.
If you've been reading since 2005 you know that I see the adoptive community like many other communities: mostly normal people with the best of intentions, with an unfortunate minority of people who are clueless to the point of malignancy, and a smaller number who are just outright bad for kids, bad for America. This T-shirt, for me, determines who sits in what category.
Our agency, and everything we read, emphasized the importance of truly thinking through the permutations of an international interracial adoption. Do you live in a community that will be hospitable to your child? Will your family provide an environment of unconditional love for your child? Are you comfortable that rest of your life will now be spent either educating or politely brushing off often-well-meaning but nonetheless-rude people? Are you comfortable with the fact that you will need a complete toolkit of skills that a biological parent may not need to have? Are you resolute in your belief that the only important thing is your child and not someone else's feelings/intentions/sense of humor? Do you have the skills and the commitment to become a "visible" family while working to ensure your kid is as anonymous as she (like most kids her age) wants to be? Are you at ease with the presence of biological parents, whether physical or emotional, in your family's life?
To my mind, the most important element for deciding to internationally adopt was to truly examine my motivations. In contrast to some of the literature, I genuinely felt that I was ready to adopt internationally when I could say that I was doing it for ME rather than for the child. After all, if I'm adopting a daughter from China to "save" her or to make her Christian (which, believe me, many many people there were quite open about), I'm not treating her as a person, as my daughter. I'm engaged in charity and conversion, not parenthood. I felt like it was the right decision when I said, "I want a family and we're going to China because that is where our daughter is." End of story.
Now that Bambina is my daughter I cringe when I see T-shirts like this, or I see behaviors among adoptive parents that fetishize their child's ancestry (like celebrating Chinese holidays without putting them on an equal footing with the family's other holidays, or constantly dressing their kids up in the qipao for special occasions when they can't even pronounce qipao or understand its place in Chinese culture), or when they search methodically for any potential biological siblings among the many adopted Chinese children which, aside from being almost impossible, only tells their kids that "bio is better." I pray every day that I find the right balance between saying, "She's not my Chinese adopted kid, she's just my kid," and recognizing that being Chinese and adopted are parts of her identity that are hers to decide what to do with as she grows. And it is my job to help her trace those parts of her heritage that matter to her, and to help her navigate between and among "American" culture, Chinese-American culture and Chinese culture. I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin, recognizing that she may take herself and our family on uncomfortable journeys to get there. I want her to be able to feel the losses she will inevitably feel, to seek the answers she may inevitably seek, and to live proudly and comfortably in all the worlds she must inhabit. Most of all, I want her to understand and feel in her gut and in her heart that she is loved completely and soulfully (in a way that will perhaps not have meaning till she has her own kids); a feeling she can't have if I treat her birthparents or her birth country as a jokey T-shirt.