Last spring my daughter, Bethany, was 15 years old and loving “all things Asian.” It seemed a good time to visit her birth family in China. Armed with a powerful appetite for dim sum, and a shopping list of Anime titles (Japanese animation) she hoped to find in Hong Kong, Bethany joined me on her first visit back in 10 years.
Last week, my husband and I hosted a dinner with our extended family to celebrate six different birthdays that occur during the months of January and February. At this dinner, as at all of them, my sister and I look around at the 15 people there (it’s sometimes 20 or more) and marvel at the relationships around us.
It's the annual Vietnam Connection Christmas party, and we've invited new families with small children adopted from Vietnam to join us. Bemused, fellow adoptive parent David Kuefler Ter Weeme and I watch the chaos. Our group is, after all, a wildly improbable group of people. But for adoption, we'd certainly never have met. After seven years, the only common trait we’re sure of, besides children of Vietnamese heritage, is stubborn individuality.
Generally, grown men shouldn’t cry in public. Particularly not in Tim Hortons on a Friday night. But here I am, holding back tears with my laptop open and my coffee cooling. Five minutes ago I was typing away happily, and now, here I am, writing this.
This powerful story was the keynote speech at Growing Together: a retreat for parents of persons with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in January 2010.
Hi, my name is Nicolas. First of all, I’d like to thank the organizers of this retreat for asking me here to share with you. I’d also like to thank and welcome all the parents and families for being here today.
Last week I expressed some concern about whether or not my first-grader was old enough to be learning about some of the more violent aspects of the civil rights movement. One of the frustrating outcomes of that conversation is that the teacher (and a few commenters) misinterpreted my concern as being over conversations about race in general, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I am a firm believer that we should be talking to our kids about racial differences from a very young age.
Chelan Gill remembers always knowing she was adopted. It would have been difficult for her parents to hide it because, although Chelan’s mother is South Asian like her, her father is Caucasian. Adopted at birth, Chelan was raised within western culture and influences – even having the last name of Fletcher. However, at 26, she married a South Asian man who taught her about Indian culture and customs, and at 27, Chelan decided to search out information about her birth parents and medical history before having children.
One-year-old covergirl Maddy Devitt appeared on the cover of Focus on Adoption magazine in 1994. She is now a gorgeous 18-year-old working as an au pair in London, England. What has her life been like in between? “Like a Skittles box!”
Madeline Devitt was born Alcinia Dore in Dessalines, Haiti on March 8, 1993, in a typical cinderblock home with a dirt floor. Her family already had four children, and her birth mother died soon after due to complications from the birth. Her birth father tried very hard to find a wet nurse for Maddy but couldn’t.
Andrew Martindale, an adoptive parent, and assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, explains that the concept of race is man-made and, though it holds enormous power, has no biological basis.
The history of race relations makes transracial adoptions deeply personal, and, at times, very public statements of reconciliation. What do we say to our children, ourselves and others about the nature and significance of racial difference within our families?