Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#MicroblogMondays - Being open to discuss adoption with our kids

Parenting an adopted child must be pretty similar to parenting a child from my womb, but sometimes I wonder if I make the right choices by talking about adoption so openly.  It is very obvious that my child is Asian.  Since we both have big smiles, brown hair and round faces, I guess that some people guess that I had a previous relationship with an Asian man when they see us together.  When I was in Jamaica, the locals intimated that I might have created Sofie on a previous visit.  Also at airports, people have asked if her father was Asian  (My answer - "Well, probably, but it is hard to know").

When I meet new people in my personal & professional life and talk about our family, I do mention that Sofie is from China because I think it is so cool that we are a Chinese-American-Norwegian family.   I love being international by association.  I think it is cool that she will speak English, Norwegian, Mandarin, and Spanish because of our unique positioning in the world.  I feel like she is a citizen of the world, more than I could ever be - despite my travels, adventurous cooking/eating adventures ("Hello, Durian") and attempts over the years to be fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, and Mandarin and smattering of Arabic, Russian and French.

Also, the process of doing adoption was so challenging, I want to open the conversation to any potential people who are thinking about it - openly or in the dark.  Mentioning adoption definitely has opened some interesting conversations with people who are ashamed to talk about infertility openly - you know, the talk about the fear of never having a child, the frustration with all the medical procedures & hormones, spouses being uncomfortable with adoption, bonding with the child, the difficulty of national and international adoption, costs, family reaction, surrogacy, etc.

We have also been very open with Sofie about her being from China.  She openly identifies with other people who "look like her" and seeks them out today.  To try to bridge the gaps, we tell her stories about what happened in China when we met her.  We also talk about the assimilation process (at a very high level since she is only 5).  This spring, she and I have started taking Mandarin at the local Asian Community Center, so we have a direct link with the Chinese community and its customs.  Of course we also have Asian expat friends, but I worry that we will not expose her enough to her culture and someday she will resent us for her not being 'Asian enough'.  Also, I worry about her feeling 'different' with her peers because they all look like their moms and dads.

I am not sure how the open speech about it will affect Sofie in the future.  We will need to figure out how to deal with the abandonment issues as they come.  Even now, we talk about how her foster family loved her so much that they wanted her to come to the US.

We used to be a melting pot in the US where race didn't matter, but now we seem to embrace the differences with their own 'flavor'.  Is my active parenting enough to keep the flavor but take the edge off the bitterness?  Time will tell.

What are you doing with your local or international adoption as your kids are growing up?  When are they really ready to talk about their roots & work on it?  Did you get counselors or was open communication and love enough?  Has it come up multiple times?

Don't know what #MicroblogMondays is? Check it out here.


  1. Our daughter is two--nearly three--and she has noticed that daddy and mommy have blue eyes and she has black eyes. We explained that it was because China Mommy has black eyes.
    We talk about adoption often, but at a two year old level it is different. I think she thinks of China Mommy as a relative that we love but seldom see--not so far from the truth. I'll be interested in how you do this going forward.

  2. It's hard to know because it's a bit of trying to predict the future. There's no way to know how your child will respond to their upbringing and the world around them. All you can do is be there as they navigate it and help them through it.