Monday, March 16, 2009

Fish out of Water

As a prospective parent I am trying to find as much information as I can about raising a happy and healthy child into a happy and healthy adult. I am clueless in so many ways, and am currently using the internet as my primary source of information. 

I love learning from other people's experiences, and thus have been looking at a wide variety of blogs of adoptive parents and adoptees. I was hoping to learn how parenting an adoptive child will be different from raising a biological child, and wanted to see what mattered to adult adoptees reflecting on their experience growing up. What I found scared the living bejesus out of me!

There is a very large population of "angry adoptees" out there, who are very vocal about how adoption has impacted their lives in a very negative way. Not all of them are transracial or transcultural adoptees, but since I focused on the expereinces of adoptees from Korea, the majority of search results that popped up were KADs. 

A recurring theme was their feeling that they did not feel like they did not belong in American society, and should have never been taken away from their own culture.

First, let me say that I wholeheartedly agree that in a perfect world, every child would have a loving and secure home with their birth family. In a less perfect world, every child would be cared for by an adoptive family in their country of birth. In our world, children find families across oceans. But they do find families. 

Second, I do not believe in the myth that there are millions of healthy children in the world who are waiting for adoption. While there are certainly millions of children who are in need of a good home, most of them are not sitting in orphanages waiting for a Western family to come along and rescue them. And yes, sadly in some countries, adopting children out to the "West" is nothing but a money maker. But there are those children in foreign countries that are "available for adoption" (oh how I hate how that sounds) to Western families because their country cannot take care of them. Reasons may be poverty or just the societal stucture. In Korea, children are available for domestic adoption until the age of five months, since most people want to adopt an infant. Only then are they referred to an international family.

Third, I have no idea what it is like to grow up in a family that does not resemble you physically. And in many cases, a society where the majority of people do not resemble you physically. I understand that this can contribute to feelings of loneliness and frustration.  

That being said, I do not believe that you belong to a culture based on birth and genetics. You may belong to a race based on genes, but you belong to a culture based on life experience. 

Most of us are interested in our heritage. As matter of fact, Americans seem to fanatically keep track of where all of their ancestors hailed from (1/16 Russian, 1/8 Eskimo, 1/32 Viking, 1/3064 caveman, anyone?). I am not denying in any way the importance of knowing one's roots and the culture of one's ancestors. However, I do not think that one cannot live in a culture that one wasn't born into. We want our child to know as much about Korean culture as possible. At the same time, our child will grow up American. That is the culture it will be exposed to on a daily basis, and I do not understand why anyone's genetics should hinder them from being a part of the culture of the country they live in. I can simply not recreate an authentic Korean environment in the USA for my child to grow up in. 

I will play the immigrant card once again. I did not grow up in American society, and my values are largely based on those of the cultures I grew up in. They are not my values because I genetically inherited them! Actually, by the time I was four years old, I lived in two countries that I genetically did not belong to. And as I am exposed to American culture after moving here as an adult, my way of looking at the world is changing. There were, and are, many times when I felt I simply did not fit in with the people around me, since we did not share the same experiences growing up, or the way we look at life. It has nothing to do with genetics! My child's life would be completely different if it was able to stay and grow up in Korean culture, but it is not genetically bound to be unhappy if it grows up in a society with a different way of life and values than the culture its first parents grew up in.  There are many traits that are aquired genetically, belonging to a culture isn't one of them.

Again, I think it is important that our child knows Korean culture (and other cultures), but even a second generation Korean American would not be able to grow up in a pure and "authentic" Korean culture.

1 comment:

  1. Very good point. I am a 2nd gen. KA who did not grow up in Korea and not completely here, lived in two other countries before coming to the U.S. and I am the more blessed by this multicultural exposure. A friend told me, whatever race they would adopt or give birth to, they would make sure their child was a multicultural person, because that was what their value was.