Monday, May 5, 2008

Issues? What issues?

Lately I have been doing some reading about raising an adopted child and some of the issues she and we will have to face as she grows up. With all of the negative and scary things happening with adoptions, I decided it is time to stop focusing on the "what ifs" and start dealing with the reality of what will happen when she comes home.

One of the issues that I know will be a big one is the feeling of loss she will face. As she grows up, she will undoubtedly feel the pain of losing her birth family. She will wonder why she was abandoned and feel the sting of rejection at a very early age. I hope we will be equipped to handle this as we have all dealt with loss in our own lives. We know what it is like to lose a member of our birth family so I hope we will be sensitive to her feelings and not push them aside. I have learned that the best way to deal with loss is to face it head on. You cannot pretend it isn't there. You have to give it a voice. You have to find a safe place to express it. Sadly, that does not usually happen in our own families. Because it makes people uncomfortable, we learn to stuff it and pretend everything is alright. I hope we never do that to any of our children.

Another issue she will face is racial prejudice. Because I am a white American, I like to believe that it doesn't exist anymore. I tell myself that we are beyond that and she will be loved and accepted for who she is. I believe that because I don't face prejudice and I think it doesn't exist. Well, my rose-colored glasses have been shattered recently. I have seen it for myself. We have friends who use the word "oriental" to describe our Asian friends and everytime I hear it my stomach tightens. I also heard someone refer to a group of Asian people we know as being good with all of that "technical" stuff. A member of our own family was recently talking about all of those "China" babies people keep bringing over here and what we're going to do when it is time for them to get married. What? I don't even know how to respond to that! My illusions of Anna living without facing prejudice were quickly removed that day. She will face it in her own family. I'm so sorry. I am not a fighter by nature but I will have to learn to respond to these people in a kind but firm way when they put their fears of anyone different than them onto my daughter. I had another person look at her picture and say "Her eyes don't look too slanted". Hello people, she's Asian. She is going to look different than us. If that was not okay with us we would not be adopting from Vietnam.

I guess I compare it to the prejudice and rejection we faced with Emma. I remember when she was finally healthy enough to go out in public and we started to go to the mall and Walmart. To me she didn't look that different but I would see people staring at us and I would think, "What are they looking at?" And then there would be the sickening realization that they were staring at Emma. The older generation, especially, would give us looks that said, "How dare you bring her out and ruin our day?" She made people uncomfortable. As time went on, we learned to ignore these people. Children were the most accepting. They would simply ask, "What's wrong with her?", and I would explain the best I could and they would go about their business. You have to love the innocence of children who haven't learned prejudice and fear yet. I can usually take this from strangers pretty well but from our own families and friends I cannot. There are certain events that I will not attend because of the way Emma was treated. I remember a church we were visiting where we were asked to take her out of the service because it was distracting the other members. So I tried to take her to the nursery and they said she was too old to be in the nursery. I lost my composure that day. And don't even get me started on people who throw around the word "retard" and "retarded" as an insult or joke. I have lost alot of respect for alot of peole when I hear that. I taught Allie from a very young age that if she ever used those words like that she was personally insulting her sister. People can be so cruel.

My point with all of that is that I hope the life experiences we have had will help us to be more aware of what she faces and at least a little prepared to deal with it in effective ways. It has to start with us and I have been trying to notice my own prejudices and face them. I would be lying if I said I don't have any. All we can do is face each situation that arises with as much grace and understanding as we can and pray that our children can be an agent of change in their world.

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