Posts Tagged 'adoption'

Blood Ties

Just looking at pictures of my niece fills me with a fierce, protective love. Over my dead body will anything hurt her when I am around.  I have not held her, I have not heard her cries, but still, I would kill or be killed for her. Funny how that human instinct works, huh?

My sister and I have had a strange relationship over the years.  I have nursed her through many episodes of mental illness. I have fended off her attacks on my brother and mother during her bad times. For a long, long time I was her only confidante.  She has betrayed me time and time again, yet I would still take her in (even though it would cause huge fights with my husband). I understand her mental illness. She had a horribly traumatic life. Her mother abandoned her in a train station when she was 4. She remembers her mother telling her to wait, and then never coming back. Her orphanage was a dismal, crowded place that later investigations revealed had been used as a brothel.

She came to the U.S.A when she was seven, knowing exactly two English words: cartoon and chocolate. Nobody could speak to her. My parents did not hire a translator.  Snow was on the ground. I remember her being terrified. I was the one who interacted with her. I taught her how to ride a bike. I was the first to understand what she meant in her garbled English. Still, she says things that only I can understand.

I love my sister. She’s difficult to love, but so am I.  She’s had more horrible things happen to her than anyone imagines.

I shit on anyone who says blood ties are the strongest. I cannot imagine having a stronger tie to siblings other than the ones I have.

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Genetically Catholic

I’ve been holding off in writing about my meeting with my biological aunt. It was a lot to process.

Here are some interesting things:

1. I am genetically Catholic. That is, my bio-family is all Catholic. This is funny, because as a child I desperately wanted to be a martyred saint. I had a book of saints, and I would make lists pertaining to my obsession, i.e., preferred ways to die (pecked apart by birds), crest (fist with a pen in it), special animal friend (tiger). My biological aunt also had the desire to be a martyr as a child. I actually have a relative who is the process of being canonized. Wooo! There is still hope for me!

2. My family is a bunch of “contrarians,” as my uncle Dan said. We argue, argue, and then argue some more, just for the thrill of it. That sounds familiar…

3. My family lovvves to get on stage. That is definitely true with me. The bigger the crowd, the more I love it. I really, really enjoy public speaking.

4. Oops, we get diabetes from liking sweets too much. An allergy to chocolate is also common, as is ignoring the allergy and suffering the consequences later.

Pissed

I have a meeting scheduled with someone I believe is my biological aunt.

I’m excited and nervous, even though it isn’t for another 2 weeks. A little part of me is pissed.

Okay, that’s a lie. A HUGE part of me is pissed. I don’t want to meet my AUNT, I want to meet my MOM.

My aunt has given me this little nugget: “I just want you to know my sister loved you when she was pregnant, and loved you after you were born.”

Thanks, I mean, that’s great and all, but I would really like to hear those words out of her mouth. People have been telling me that she loved me my whole life, but I don’t believe them.

Want to know the real reason I’m pissed?

I got discarded. Thrown away like a piece of trash. Because of that, I have a hard time forming relationships with people. Real, honest relationships. I tend to throw myself at people, to become whatever they want me to be, just to get a little affection, a little affirmation that I am a worthwhile person, that I’m not the garbage I am convinced I am.

Oh, I was too young to remember, right?

Funny how research now shows that babies need affection and attention right after birth. I was an incubator baby before they knew to touch incubator babies. As an incubator adult, I don’t know how to hug people. I stiffen and pull away. I don’t always know how to approach people. It’s not that I’m shy, exactly. I’ve gotten over the crippling shyness of my childhood. It’s more that I really can’t interpret people’s intentions toward me. I constantly question the state of my friendships, worrying that they really think I’m some sort of stinky weirdo. Well, stinky I can handle. Weirdo? Please, please, anything but that.

I’ve clung too long to relationships that are toxic, just because I can’t stand for people to leave. I cried until I was sick when each of my cats died.

I worry about my dog’s emotional health.

Do you see why I’m pissed? Irate? FUCKING MAD!

Part of me wants to totally fuck up the meeting, to go in there the bitter, angry adoptee I am. To say right out what everyone knows, but no ones says.

“If she loved me so much, why did she throw me away. If she couldn’t take care of me, what was wrong with YOU?! Now it’s convenient to let me back into the family. NOW I’m a smart, humourous, successful college student, not a premature baby with club feet.”

I won’t, though. I should be GRATEFUL, after all. That’s my natural state as an adoptee. I already feel the guilt coming on.

My Heart Is Broken

It’s been a month and a half, and I still miss my toddlers.

I worry about them, feel guilty for leaving them.

My poor babies.

To make things worse, I am looking through listings of kids who are waiting to be adopted. I want them all. I want to help them lose that sad, empty look in their eyes.

“Color-Blindness” In Adoption

I cannot count the number of times I have heard from adoptive parents the phrases, “I don’t see color,” or “I’m color-blind.”

Let me just say that neither of those traits are good things. In my experience, I have seen those phrases mean that the white parents of children of color do not acknowledge their children’s ethnic backgrounds.  The children grow up without connection to their heritage, and in fact, learn to adamantly deny that they care about their heritage.

In my case, it was easy enough. My phenotype is very light. Why acknowledge any other background I might have? It would just bring up messy questions.

In my siblings’ case,  it was a little harder to pretend they were not something other than white. My parents tried valiantly, though.  I never tasted real rice until I moved out of my parents’ house at 18. My sister was forbidden from wearing her sari. We never met other Indians.  My parents never even tried to make Indian food, or educate us about India whatsoever.

I remember a couple half-assed attempts at “cultural food”. It consisted of “chop-suey” mix from a can dumped over Minute Rice.

Blech. No wonder my brother hates rice!

My brother and sister were often told that they were “practically white,” as if that was something to reach for! Me? My parents laughed in my face when I found out about my Native heritage. “Look at you! You’re no Indian! Ahahahaha”

Hmm. For someone who is supposedly color-blind, that is certainly a color-based judgement.

It is not all my parents’ fault, this idea they have of color-blindness.  Trans-national and trans-racial adoptive parents in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s were often told to raise their children “like you would if they were white.” It was considered harmful to the child to be “too focused” on their heritage. Hmm. That sounds familiar! I have been criticized for being “too sensitive” and “too focused” about my own heritage. Hell will no doubt break loose when my brother starts questioning his own identity.

Generations of adoptees are just now reclaiming their heritages. They are reclaiming the colors of their skins!

My parents will be the confused adoptive parents commenting about how their children “have changed,” how they “never used to care about that stuff.”

Now for a little entertainment to lighten up this post.

To the right is a photo of a figurine my parents gave to my sister and her husband for their wedding, and a photo of my sister. Do you notice anything…funny about the color of the figurine woman’s skin and hair? (Those of you who are not color-blind, of course!

The same thing happened around my wedding. I got a figurine for my cake that portrayed two white, blond people. I complained about it, and made loud comments about how I was going to have to repaint the groom to resemble my husband. My mom eventually got me a different cake topper :).

Rural Girl

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. 2,500 people live there.

About 2,470 of those people are white.

My brother, sister, and two Korean adoptees were the only minorities in my high school.

Me? I didn’t even know I was anything other than white until I turned sixteen. I look very, very  white. My skin is so pale I burn after ten minutes in the sun. My eyes are light, and my natural hair colour is a dark reddish blonde. I had no idea that I had Cherokee ancestry.

It wasn’t so easy for my brother, sister, and those two Korean adoptees to forget about their heritages. They were marked with it. My brother and sister had an easier time of it than the KAD’s, I think. My small town is so small that during the time I was in middle and high school, most people in my high school had never even seen a black person. Truly. They thought my little brother was black! Ahahahahahaha. As you can clearly see in the picture, he is most definitely Indian. Because of the near godlike status of hip-hop culture, and thus, black people, my siblings were considered “cool.”

This didn’t shield them from racists, though. They still got hissed at in town. Especially after 9/11, the words “terrorist,” and “sand-nigger” were frequently heard.

I didn’t mean for this to be a blog about the issues surrounding trans-racial adoption, however. That is an upcoming post, and I’m kind of jumping the gun early here.

What I meant to post about is the fact that I was raised in a very isolated, racist, homophobic, and sexist part of the United States.

I mean, they still prayed at my public school! Teachers were openly homophobic and sexist.  I was often shoved in hallways, with words like “Dyke” and “Fag” hissed in my direction.

I was raised in the most conservative of Lutheran sects, the Missouri Synod. This sect is so backwards that women are not allowed any positions of authority in the church, especially not as clergy. Sunday school teacher is about the most a woman can aspire to within the church. This church was particularly repressive due to the minister. The minister was asked to give a prayer at my school’s multi-faith program (a joke, I think…”multi-faith” means Lutheran, Catholic, and Methodist). Instead, he gave a tirade about how gays had brought AIDs into the world! What a disgrace. The worst part is, no one booed! People were nodding their heads in agreement!

I was raised to automatically sneer and say, “Eww” whenever homosexuality was brought up.

I was raised to believe that women belong at home, at their husband’s beck and call. My father often proudly boasted about being “head of the household”. He forced my mom to give up a very part time job at a grocery store because he thought she wasn’t home enough.  My behaviour as an outspoken, ambitious girl often infuriated him.

I was raised to believe everyone from Mexico is dirty and uneducated. Everyone from Asia is either a nice Korean adoptee or one of those dog-eating Hmongs.

I was raised to hate everything different from white, Christian, Midwestern, and rural values. In doing so, I learned to hate myself.

I began to question my family’s beliefs around middle school. It started with finding a book on evolution in my school’s library. Before that, I had honestly believed that the earth was only about 10,000 years old. I believed that dinosaurs and people co-existed. I have books from that era that tell me that, that show pictures of people and dinosaurs together! Pseudo-science bullshit was pounded into me unrelentlessly. I have relatives today who believe global warming doesn’t exist, who believe the theory of evolution is sending people to Hell.

I grew up terrified that God was going to strike me down. I was a bad girl who wanted to learn about science, who read too many books (“books will suffocate you slowly” my father used to say), who was not content to grow up and become a housewife. Stay-at-hom mom wasn’t enough, you know. I was expected to stay home at all times, even before I had children. My future husband was supposed to be my keeper, because as a woman, I was obviously unable to make decisions on my own.

My parents still call Asians “Orientals,” even in front of my Asian husband. I correct them, but I’m nothing but a stupid woman! Who cares what I say! My aunt still calls black people “Negros.”

My other relatives have even more ignorant names to call minorities. I truly believe that a lot of them didn’t come to my wedding because they were horrified I married an Asian man. It seemed to comfort my parents greatly that my husband’s mother is white. I don’t think they would have accepted us at all had all my in-law’s been Asian.

It has taken years of reading, years of learning to get where I am today. I strive to be anti-racist. I struggle with those years of brain-washing.

That is why I wanted to put this out there. If I offend any of you inadvertedly by being un-PC, I am sorry. Please, please correct me. I honestly don’t know any better. I am only 21, and was raised in a very conservative, white-bread family. I am trying to break out of any ignorance.  I worry that I say the wrong things.

WTF Dude works perfectly, as does “Shut the hell up!” and “Ummm…. it’s something other than that”.

Which of These is Not Like the Other?

A friend, Mama Nabi, (http://mamanabi.wordpress.com), recently wrote about not  feeling like she ever had a home.

Sister, I hear you.

I’ve felt that same way since the first time I remember knowing I was adopted. It was pounded into me again and again that no, I’m not my parents’ “real” child.  Family tree assignments were the worst. “What traits do you share with your family?”

Uh…

My brother and sister at least shared the same dark brown eyes that both my parents have. They share a common skin color, a common country of birth.

Me? In some ways, I’m more obviously the one adopted. My parents both lean toward the dark side of “white”. I lean toward the snowflake side. I remember standing with my siblings, waiting in line to hit a pinata at one of those godawful international adoption picnics, and someone cruel singing “Which of these is not like the other? Which of these does not belong?”

They were talking about me, of course, the only white kid at the picnic.

I know, boohoo poor little white girl  with all the white privilege that goes along with that.

Well, just for now, you can take that and shove it. I can talk at length about all the times I have been given opportunities that people of color would never have been given, but now is not the time. Right now, I’m talking about how it feels to be an alienated adoptee.

How it feels to have a father say “I wish I never adopted you. We should have stuck with our plan to adopt from Korea.”

How it feels to meet and marry my dream man, only to hear “Well, with your family obviously you could only feel comfortable with someone darker.” or “You’ve always had an Asian fetish. Remember those picnics? You were always chasing the Korean adoptees.”

Being an adoptee means that your feelings, your deep down secret hopes, can never be expressed. It means always smiling, always pretending that the weeping, raw wound that is from being abandoned by your mother, your father, your family, doesn’t hurt anymore.

It means pretending that abandonment is okay, that she must have had some higher purpose in mind, that you are “better off”.

You can’t scream your rage to the heavens. You can’t crumple into a heap and sob because sometimes the sorrow, the inadequacy you feel is too much. You can’t even sneer when people tell you how “lucky” you are.

Why not?

You don’t want to be abandoned again. You cling to the people who have gained your trust. You become the person who desperately needs affirmation that yes, you do deserve to live a happy life.

My mom says that every day when she dropped me off at preschool, I would scream and howl. I would sob for her not to leave me. She called it “shy”. I call it “scared to death”.

Everyone says, “oh, they love you the same as any biological children. It’s the same.”

Why, then, were my siblings and I the second choice?

Why, then, does my mom’s side of the family treat us as outsiders?

Why, then, do people refer to us as my parents’ “adopted children”?

Why, then, is this pain still here?