"I wish I was Chinese." This has been Zoe's frequent lament lately. The first time she said it, I replied, " Well, since you were born in China and since your birthparents are Chinese, you are Chinese -- and American, too." But when she said again today, "I wish I was Chinese," this time I was smart enough to ask, "Well, what makes someone Chinese?"
Zoe's answer, "You have to speak Chinese."
"So would I be Chinese," I queried, " if I could speak Chinese?"
Zoe said, "Yes, you would."
So there you have it -- we can ALL be Chinese!
But on a serious note, Zoe's a pretty smart cookie to have figured this out. Maybe ethnicity and birthplace are not not enough to make one Chinese. Here, without language and culture, she is American. And in America, because of her appearance, she is seen as Chinese and perpetually foreign . . . .
Our children adopted from China are really betwixt and between, aren't they? Not fully Chinese to some, not fully American to others. That's really why we're here, to give Zoe and Maya a chance to feel Chinese. I suppose I'll know that the effort has paid off when THEY feel fully Chinese and fully American, no matter how others might choose to label them.
Even at age 6, Zoe understood the centrality of language to culture and identity. And the loss of language is another adoption loss.