Tag Archives: adoptees

Our Independence

While most Americans were celebrating our country’s independence on July 4th, my family woke in the wee hours of the morning to make a pilgrimage.

My children were reluctant and kept asking why we needed to get up at 5 a.m. and drive four and a half hours to Minnesota. What could possibly be SO important?!?

Camp Chosŏn

Upon our arrival, we were immediately enveloped into a touring group. Many adoptive parents huddled around the tour guide as she walked parents and preschoolers around the Girl Scout Camp Lakamaga. In the shade of a large tree, my friend, Dan, worked with small elementary children on their Taekwondo skills. My teenage son began to fume, most likely wondering why we brought him to a tiny kids culture camp.

We walked into a dance studio and were met with swirls of color and graceful toes sliding across the floor.

The dance instructor, Brooke, walked over to chat with everyone and introduced herself to my children. Then, she smiled, looked at me and said, “You must be the adoptee.” My son continued to fume.

Next we ventured to the market, where Korean items could be found and bought. The kids tried frozen confections. I was drawn to a Korean pendant.

Our tour ended in the dining hall. Round tables were filled with smiling, laughing faces. All but a few were distinctly Korean. My son picked at his Korean food. My daughter gleefully ate her meal and said, “I love Asian food!” My husband went up for seconds of kimchi.

Two of my friends, Cam and Matt, counselors at Camp Chosŏn came to chat with my family. They talked to my son and expressed their excitement at possibly seeing him next year at camp. Again, my son fumed, but this time a bit more politely. 

As the dining hall emptied, Dan came to sit with us to eat. He talked candidly with my son. He explained that many of the very young campers were Hapa (mixed raced Asian). “They are the second generation adoptees,” said Dan, “We could use you (my son) to come and join the camp. When they grow up to be teens, they will need someone like you to talk to. I’m not sure I can talk to them like you can. You are Hapa, I’m not.”

The shroud of doubt began to slip away. My son began to see his place. 

Our day ended watching the young teens play and talk along the lakeside. Cam invited my son to come back and join the group next summer. I watched as the teens gathered for photographs. 

I quietly sighed, longing for that chance to connect with kids like myself at that age. Perhaps, Camp Chosŏn will introduce me to more adult adoptees so that I can share and reflect with them. From the number of small Hapa children, I suspect I will not feel alone.

Cam and Dan have such an understanding of themselves and their transracial adoptions that I have yet to fully grasp. Comfort lies in knowing I have them to help me and my children along the way to our independence.

 Camp Chosŏn, we shall see you next summer!

 

On the sunny side of life?

What a week it has been! I began my week helping at an adoption conference, WISE Up.

I met some incredible young adoptees … all third graders. The conference allows the kids to talk about their adoptions and feelings in a safe place. It also gives kids the tools to respond to outsiders’ questions. They can walk away, say, “It’s private,” share something about their adoption story, or educate others about adoption and adoptees.

As you can guess, I personally advocate the last two. I understand the need to walk away if a question is offensive, and many of the younger kids just need reassurance that they have the power to control the situation. Unfortunately, when acting out some of these scenarios, more often than not, the children chose walking away. Some scenarios just involved something as simple as someone asking if they were adopted.

That had me thinking … is adoption a negative thing? Why do young children feel negatively about their adoptions? One girl mentioned that she felt jealous of those who asked her why she was adopted. She wanted what she perceived as the normalcy of a birth family. Looking back, I had some of the same feelings. They were often rooted in experiences in public or at school. In the comfort of my home, I would feel reassured that my home was indeed the place for me.

Perhaps what needs to happen is a better atmosphere in which kids can feel proud of their adoptions. As children, we look for a clan. As I have written, there are many of us.

In this conference, I introduced the kids to Kid President. His effervescence, his optimism, his generosity … they speak to us. We watched his pep talk, and then I explained to them that not only was he in third grade, but he was also an adoptee. One little boy excitedly said, “We just watched an adoptee on an invention of an adoptee!” (Of course, I had told them about Steve Jobs too.)

In my childhood, I wasn’t aware of other adoptees. It took close to 40 years for me to understand that my experience was not unique. Adoption seems better supported than it was in the 1960s and 70s. 

But as Kid President says, “We can do gooder!”