Life as MommyMo

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another hurdle cleared

I woke up this morning kind of sad to realize that summer is already half over. We haven't even gotten in to any kind of groove yet. Rob's been so busy taking care of his dad that it seems like we can't settle on any kind of routine.

I did have a couple of days off this week. We had our final Parents in Process class on Tuesday at Holt, so I also took Monday off. We spent Monday at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden because it was so hot outside that I about passed out at the very idea of spending the day at Sesame Place. Sam had such a great time at the aquarium. He's followed it up with almost obsessive requests to watch some sea life kiddie documentary Rob discovered. I swear, he spent the entire time he watched it yesterday morning shouting "Look, Mommy! Did you know piranhas..." I admit I don't recall a single detail that he was so excited about, but in my defense, he fired so many aquatic facts at me while I was just trying to down my first cup of coffee that I really can't be expected to have absorbed the information.

As for the hurdle we've cleared, we took the last requisite parenting class at Holt this week. When we first started the process to adopt, I was kind of annoyed that we had to go through formal classes in order to parent. I felt like it was another element of the cosmic unfairness that had been chasing me for a couple of years. After all, I've encountered plenty of parents just during trips to Target that clearly could have used the help. However, when I went to the classes, I realized their value. It's good to spend some conscious time thinking about the unique aspects of raising a child born in another country.

This particular module was geared toward parents who were not first-timers. I thought that meant only people who were adopting again, but it must have meant anyone adding a child to their family. Several couples were adopting for the first time from China after having biological kids. We were among a group that all had preschool-aged boys from Korea and were in process for a second child.

The biggest eye-opener of the day was listening to a lovely woman who was an adoptee herself, and had also adopted two boys from Korea. (I did ask if she had requested gender, since they make exceptions to that rule for adoptees and other people born in Korea, but she did not. Note to self: adjust the mental odds when people ask if we'll be matched with a boy or girl!)

Anyway, this woman spoke to the exact issues Rob and I have always worried the most about... The biggest such issue is how to deal with the inevitable racism that children like Sam are likely to encounter in school. It's easy for us suburbanite Caucasians to feel that our community is diverse and "color-blind," but that's never the truth. No matter how much we want to believe it is, adoptees like Sam and this woman struggle throughout their entire lives to fit in some place. Most adjust just fine and are happy people, but they still deal with the constant awareness that they feel white but are not, and that people assume they are Asian, but don't feel Asian either.

I was in tears twice listening to this woman talk about how her own family could make her feel without realizing it and how she has been treated while doing something as innocent as trying to register for school. I know we've tried out best to gently correct people in our own circles who don't realize that, for instance, Sam is Asian -- not "oriental." That seems like an innocent mistake to some people, but for someone struggling with real identity issues, a family member who can't be bothered to learn the correct term can be deeply hurtful.

We will continue to try to do our best (and need to do better at that) to expose Sam and his soon-to-be brother or sister to aspects of their birth culture that they will want to be somewhat familiar with later in life. It's not easy to balance both sides of their world, but that's our job.