Safe Space

I haven’t written about my adoption as much because I didn’t have a safe place to explore it until now. I’m part of the Facebook group Transracial Adoption Perspectives and I joined as an adult adoptee about 6 months ago.

In this group, I’m not afraid to discuss the unique experience of living as an Asian person who grew up in a white household. I am able to share when I was affected by prejudice and when I reacted to something from a white person’s perspective. I’m able to admit that I had to sometimes remind myself that I was truly a part of my family because I didn’t look like anyone, but I was grateful that they chose me as a daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, etc.

This Face group is a safe space.

This group is also a revealing space. I become more aware of how racism might have affected my experiences and how I very much see the world as a person raised in a white middle class family. Some of that is hard because I realize I have not treated people right or secretly had judgemental thoughts such as, “At least I grew up in a better part of town.” “At least I’m part of the model minority (Asian)” “At least I was educated…”

I’m learning to embrace the complexities of being born in the Philippines but growing up in white middle class America. My hope is that I can use these experiences to encourage other adopteee, educate adoptive parents, and love people better.

I will conform to belong

I will do my best to conform to belong. This thought came to me as I thought about my involvement on the Facebook page Transracial Adoption Perspectives. It’s a great group that gives non-white adoptees a voice that has often been ignored.

Conforming to belong is a norm for us adoptees. Transracial adoptees have pressure to conform because we don’t look like our families. Some would say conforming is a survival mechanism, if we feel like we might be rejected by our family for some reason. Maybe I felt that way because I was trying to make up for the hardships my mom experienced after my adoption. I was making up for it by trying to fit the ideal daughter type that my mom wanted.

This need to belong is inherent in all adoption stories because a child is leaving one family to join another. This need to belong is especially strong for me, because for me to belong, someone had to feel pain. Therefore, I had to make that person’s sacrifice worth it. I had to not just belong, but perfectly conform.

When I want off to college, I had the same ideal that I would find myself and find my identity whenever I wasn’t studying hard to maintain my academic scholarship and have a shot at getting into CU med school. I found myself and I found a set of Christian friends who really did genuinely want to be my friend and hang out. I couldn’t complain because they were nice, didn’t mind giving me rides when we would go do stuff like late night Wal Mart or Ice cream runs.

As time went on, I wanted to continue to be accepted by my friends and the leaders of my college youth group. I wanted to be accepted as one of God’s successful adoption stories as we were all adopted by Christ. So, I found myself wanting to conform to the ideal of a good Christian college student. I wanted to ace every Bible question my small group leader threw out. I wanted to be praised for knowing the finer details of doctrine and doing as much community service as my schedule would allow. I really believed I was doing the right thing, and yes, volunteering at food banks and in Sunday childcare is a good thing, but I did it to be loved.

Unfortunately, I did some unloving stuff to conform. God loves Truth, so I believed that telling people how He viewed ‘culture wars’ issues was my civic and spiritual duty, especially if I was confrontational abou it. My other friends would do this and get approval from our small group leader and college group leaders, so I followed suit. A large part of me truly thought I was doing the right thing, but deep down I wanted to continue to be accepted by my group and be one of God’s good kids, because it would be a shame for Him to waste an adoption on a bad kid. As my ‘Christian resume’ grew, my view of God became small.

After a few years out from that experience, I felt myself mellowing out and being able to think about both sides of issues instead of just reacting in a way I thought I should.

I thought my involvement in political and cultural issues was waning and becoming less intense. Then racial tensions came to a head in the mainstream media and in our national conversations (Thanks, Trump.) Then I joined Transracial Adoption Perspectives and began reading articles posted about race relations from non-white aka People of Color’s perspective.

I felt myself sliding into that need to conform my posts to belong to the group of other transracial adoptees in the group. Here was a group of transracial adoptees who started a group to give their peers a safe place to discuss all aspects of adoption, and they let me be a part of their group. Was I ‘woke’ enough? Have I shed enough white thinking to belong to their group?

I don’t mean this in a bad way or to diminish the experiences of my fellow adoptees. Some people have had terrible experiences and faced outright racism from their families who were supposed to love them and their community that was supposed to support them. That is never okay.

But I need to take a step back and ask myself if I’m saying something or agreeing to fit in and be accepted by a group, or do I believe something because I have indeed come to the conclusion that said idea is true?

Adoption and parenting perspectives

I’ve been away from my blog for a while because a certain 19-month-old has kept me busy. I also work full-time and do what I can to tidy up after the baby, the husband, and stepson. Yes I am the only female in the house.

Anyway, during this time I have actually thought about my adoption and I think my adoption has impacted how I interact with the baby. For example, I have embraced the practice of Babywearing ever since my C-section scar was healed enough not to be irritated by having a small baby in a carrier pushing on it.

(This photo was from a memory book my mom made for me for baby’s 1st birthday. Thanks, mom!)

Not only does baby wearing make life so much more convenient and is much less hassle when you need to take baby on public transit, but I am reminded that I’m giving the baby a closeness that I lacked for the first 18 months of my life. I don’t take for granted baby snuggles because I know that I missed. them as a baby, and yes, I do feel a bit of sadness that I had nobody during that time.

Also, I’m grateful for the things the baby has as part of a middle class American family. He has his own bed, eats three full meals a day, and has enough food that he can spare dropping a few Cheerios and crackers on the floor. He has had access to medical care even before he was born, and his parents and pediatrician regularly monitor his development. He has stability. He knows he goes to grandmas house while mommy and daddy work and he knows he will see both of us when we come home.

I think the fact that I didn’t have these things for the first 18 months my life, I don’t take for granted what he has and I hope to tell him when day how lucky he is. I don’t want to do it in a way that makes him feel guilty for his privilege, but in a way that encourages him to pay it forward.

Being adopted also reminds me to be more sensitive to my stepson. Even when I was pregnant, people would ask me if I was happy that I finally would have a child “of my own” God gave me grace to help me gently remind them that my first child is my step child and yes I was excited that I would be a part of this new child’s life from birth. I don’t want my stepson to feel lesser because he is not biologically mine because I remember feeling like people thought I wasn’t really my mom’s daughter because we didn’t share the same DNA. When my step son comes over, I do my best to make time for him and ask him what is going on in his life. I hope I continue to show him that he matters just like his baby brother matters to me.