Monday, June 25, 2007

NEWSFLASH: I have two, well-adjusted, Korean adoptees!

How's that for a title! Not only do I have two children, adopted from Korea, who are self-confident, well-adjusted children, this has happened despite the fact they have been raised by white parents!

Apparently, according to at least one adoption expert, this is almost impossible. Well, POOEY ON YOUEE!! Can you tell I'm a little bit fired up over this issue? I am!!

I went to hear a lecture last week given by an "expert" on international adoption and specifically, inter-racial adoption. It turned out to be very disturbing as I disagree with much of the speakers philosophy. As a "seasoned" parent, I can only imagine how distraught some of the brand-new parents must have felt.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like psychology. In fact, I love psychology. I love learning about adoption, the issues of adoption, child development, parenting, sociology, anthropology, ad nauseam to many. Just check out my bookshelves sometime and you will see this to be true. If you see me reading, more likely than not, it is a non-fiction book covering one of the above subjects. (Although if you saw me reading today you would see me reading the 4th Harry Potter book! Yes, still trying to fulfill that promise!)

But sometimes, I think "the experts" have spent so many years studying their particular subject of interest that they start to get a skewed view of what is normal and what is right.

Let's back up to the lecture. Honestly, the speaker did have a lot of good information. BUT she also had some information that was, IMHO, not only wrong, but potentially damaging to families.

The speaker told the audience that we need to start preparing our children for racism and discrimination in the preschool years. I made the simple point that in my experience, being able to differentiate between races seems to be a developmental stage that most preschoolers can't see.

I remember years ago, when James and Joe were young, I used to babysit a boy named Charlie. We had been watching him for a couple of years and the boys liked to play "Ghostbusters" together. One day, James, who was about five or six, looked at Charlie with wonder and amazement and said, "Charlie, did you know you're black?" It was as if a lightbulb had gone off in his head and he had never realized this before! He was so excited because he finally saw that Charlie was the same color as one of the Ghostbuster characters!

What I shared at the lecture tho was that my son Paul was nearly eight before he could differentiate between races. We would sometimes refer to someone being "Asian" and he just could not understand or see what made someone who is Asian different than someone who has black hair and brown skin but is Caucasian (like his dad). It wasn't a big deal to me, I just found it refreshing and interesting that kids really don't see racial differences when they are young.

Boy, did I make the speaker mad! She went into a tirade that the reason my son could not see racial differences was, in fact, because my son was prejudiced against his own race! That he had been so surrounded by "white" faces his whole life that he had turned away from admitting he wasn't "white." (I found it interesting that she used the word "white" instead of the politically correct term, "Caucasian." I mean, she was so careful to refer to Asians as "people of color"--which I also found odd.) She further went on to say that my son had turned away from his own race because it brought back memories of us taking him away from his Asian culture, country and people.

Whoa Nelly! First of all, as I tried to explain to her (tho she did not want to hear my explanation) my son is NOT surrounded by "white" faces. His best friend is Chinese, other good friends are Indonesian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, Hispanic, Indian, and Hawaiian. His soccer coach is from Mexico, our dentist is Japanese, a family doctor is Chinese. Paul has an uncle who is Korean, a Korean cousin, and Japanese cousin and for goodness sakes, a SISTER who is Korean!!! A full 30% of the children in his school and our community are of minority races.

As to the idea that he has turned against his own race because he was "taken" from them. I'm not even gonna go there that is so preposterous!

Why would I want to take my children aside as three-year-olds, as the speaker suggested, and let them know that someday, someone is going to dislike them simply because of the color of their skin and their almond shaped eyes? First of all, I don't think a 3 yo is developmentally able to understand this and secondly, I feel that in the young years, my job is to build up their self-esteem about who they are and where they were born.

We DO have generalized discussions about prejudice and racism. And I DO know that there will come a time and a place that my children will be discriminated against. But, at least where we live, it isn't happening now. In fact, it's almost the reverse. I actually see that my Korean born children receive extra smiles, attention and even favors because they are adopted and they are Asian. People are drawn to them. And I think that all of this extra attention has actually helped them feel good about who they are. They feel GOOD about where they were born and the fact that they are Korean. They love to brag about their tan skin to me, who is perpetually Wonderbread white. They are both extremely popular in their schools, among ALL the races.

For now, we have a 1000 batting average on how my kids feel about who they are, where they came from, and where they're heading. And so for now, I'm going to keep right on doing what I know is working. What I know is right.


Christina said...

Oh that seriously would have had me raging too!
I agree, I think sometimes the "experts" get so caught up in their world where they only see the people who have issues/problems that they forget that a very large percentage of adoptees are happy and well-adjusted.
I don't know what to do with the racism thing. Like you, we live in an area with a pretty decent Asian population (5-20% depending on the town but the malls are all at about 20%) and while R~ notices skin color and has started noticing "asian" she hasn't seemed to experience any particular racism. Of course I want her to be prepared, but I don't want to make her paranoid or overly aware of everyone's ethnicities either. It's a balancing act, and you've obviously done very well, judging by your kids! :-)

Stacy said...

Kudos to you for speaking up - and shame on that speaker for having such judgmental, seemingly (to me anyway) inaccurate opinions on the topic! Sounds like your boys are absolutely well-adjusted and that you are doing exactly the right thing for them! As you said, pooey on the "expert"!