Friday, January 11, 2008

Fortune's Sisters

Here's a link to a story in the New York Times about three girls adopted from China who continue to have each other as they grow up. It's actually somewhat reflective of our experience. We met a couple on our trip to China who adopted a little girl a week older than Bambina from the same orphanage. We hit it off, became friends, and now consider each other family. What makes our relationship so wonderful is the fact that our two girls have known each other longer than we have known them. They are each other's connection to their first few months of life, and as they grow older and begin to contend with their very unique histories, they can be there for each other in ways that even committed, understanding and loving parents can't be. It's also a moving discussion of the challenges facing both adoptive parents and kids as the kids get older. One line really hit home for me: "Having read about older transracial adoptees, some of whom say they resent having lost their cultural identity, these three mothers worry about what their daughters will think when they are no longer the silent characters of their own stories but their authors — and editors." This speaks to my motivation in addressing the element of adoption in Bambina's life: preparing her--and allowing her no matter what--to embrace the authorship and editorship of her own life story. It's why I guard details of her early life, why I don't post her photos on blogs of adopted Chinese kids, why I insist that Chinese traditions become a part of our family's traditions. Why she took Chinese lessons. Why she and I are going to do Chinese School on Saturdays as soon as I am out and about. Am I "forcing" Chinese culture on her? Only if you consider the other stuff we do to be "forcing" American culture on her. Are Irish parents whose kids take Irish dancing lessons forcing Irish culture on their kids? Who knows? The point is, that by doing so you are giving your kid a connection to her heritage and giving her choices later in life. If Bambina feels like Chinese dancing is not her thing, she is more than welcome to drop it when she's older. But to not give her the chance to learn it for fear of "forcing" it? That's hooey. She is entitled to know about and understand and find joy in her birth culture. And quite frankly, so am I! The key is that we do it together, that we connect with other Chinese families, and that Bambina has the opportunity to get involved with something that might give her pride, fun and enjoyment during those years where sometimes you just need a place where you can feel at home in your own skin.


Anonymous said...

From an adult adoptee who knows, I want to say amen to this post. I've been reading your other stuff too. I think you aredoing right by your daughter by embracing chinese culture and making it your own while avoiding the annoying habit of some adoptive parents of saying that they are somehow Asian too. They're not. When they go out alone people see white. When I go out alone people see Asian. No amount of love for me makes them live as Asians in America. No one called them chink at school but they sure called me it. I love my parents who did their best. I'm just glad to see more awareness on the part of adoptive parents like you.

Molly said...

I'm one of the moms in that article - and I'm glad to hear it resonated with you.