“I found another me!”
I had just picked my son up from school and was trying, like every mother everywhere, to drag out any detail I could about his day. That’s when my son told me that he met a boy who looks just like him. “His hair is the same and he is the same. He’s just like me!” he said.
Friends, this is why we moved.
Everything I read about international adoption, especially where the child will be viewed as a minority, says to get your child to a place where they don’t feel like the “token (in this case, Asian) kid.” This is especially important to do at a young age, if possible, so that when adolescence and search-for-self comes, they’re not feeling even more alienated than they already are by being adopted. Yes, adoption is a beautiful thing, but it comes from a place of tragedy and that doesn’t go away once adoption papers are signed. There will always be, to varying degrees (and no matter how great their relationship with their adopted family), questions of why and feelings of rejection and abandonment. This new life comes with questions and heartbreak and…well, staring. Our family looks different. If there is any way of alleviating this feeling of difference where the child spends most of their time—namely, school—the experts say, do it. We're so glad we did.
|First day of kindergarten at new school.|
Last year, in his preschool, my son was the only Asian child and one of very few minorities in his school. In addition to being “the only one” at school, my son’s parents and most of his extended family are now white. We hadn’t discussed our difference in race at this point, as he was so new to the English language, but our little guy noticed. He noticed the race of the parents of the one other minority child in his preschool the year before, and now, he really noticed when he finally found another boy from China. In preschool, he happily made a best friend (who was white) who I’ll call Andrew. My son is doing amazing with English but isn’t great with names. When my son refers to his new best friend from China, he says, “You know, Andrew…but he looks like me.”
Even in the midst of the insane racial upheaval going on in our country right now, some would try to claim that kids don’t see color. I’m calling BS on that nonsense. Kids see color; they just don’t carry any bias about it. This is what has to be, or rather, doesn’t have to be learned.
When some learned of our impending move and reasons, they made it pretty clear that they thought we were being silly. Move for more diversity? Does that really matter? The simple answer is: yes. Yes, it really does matter. I'm hardly the example for this, but I can distinctly remember each of the few times I have been the minority, including on the amazing trip to get our son in China. It is something that can be felt. While this was not unpleasant for me, I am secure in my identity and it is also not a constant experience in my everyday life.
I’m so glad that my son has friends of any ethnicity, but I also want him to have friends and teachers and community members from all walks of life who make him feel like part of the mix instead of the “odd kid out.” And, just like I want him to see both men and women excelling in all areas of life (because, already we have had the talk that women can be a “protecter” too), I want him to grow up seeing business owners and professionals and athletes who look like him, so that he can literally see himself in whatever role he can imagine. For us, moving is helping with this. Living closer to a university with a large Asian population and in a more diverse school and community and neighborhood is part of making that happen for him.
We don’t deny it, moving into the city is unique. Where I work in the downtown area, white flight happens right at 5 o’clock. And, honestly, we have less space than we did before. But as we are building new relationships and having new experiences and increasing all of our exposure to those like and not like us, we keep reminding ourselves why it’s worth it. Hearing my son say that he “found another me” is making that ring truer than ever.