I created the poll from 14 Ways to Focus on Culture, and wow, we seem to focus on culture! I've sprinkled some comments below, most of them China-centric, with apologies to children from other cultures. I'm including lots of links; if your child is from another country, please share your links in the comments!
1. Have a special meal from your child's culture once a month 10 (66%)
Several mentioned in the comments that they make Chinese food a more regular part of their family's life, and don't really focus on a "special" meal. That's what we do, though I am very admiring of Lesley who makes her own dumplings! The best I can do is find frozen ones at the Asian grocery store. If you're feeling adventurous, here's a list of Chinese recipes I've had bookmarked for a while!
I wonder, though, if we should add a once-a-month special meal from China. There might be some value in specialness, in terms of respecting Chinese culture and teaching about China. Maybe I'll get adventurous and try out some of those recipes . . . .
2. Celebrate holidays for your child's birth country 14 (93%)
Yes, we almost all do it -- mostly Chinese New Year and Autumn Moon Festival., I suspect And those are the most important holidays in China., so it is appropriate to focus on these. But there are others that are fun, too, like the Lantern Festival and Tomb Sweeping Day and Dragon Boat Festival.
3. Learn the language of your child's home country 12 (80%)
Wow! Eighty percent! That's great. I've learned a few words, but I don't think I'll ever be fluent. We had to get a tutor for Zoe since she's moved far beyond what I can help her with in Chinese School. In fact, while I'm typing I can hear Zoe and Daphne practicing in the dining room!
4. Display maps/flags/artwork from your child's culture 14 (93%)
Another thing we (almost) all do. I think we've got something Chinese hanging on the wall in every room in our house. It helps that I've been collecting Chinese stuff since my first visit in 1991. I think it's important to make sure it's in all parts of the house, not just in the child's room. After all, we display art from China in part to show that we like and respect Chinese culture, too.
5. Visit cultural websites to learn more about the home country 7 (46%)
Please share your favorite websites in the comments! TIME for Kids has a great China section, and China Daily has a "classroom" section for kids.
6. Play games from your child's culture 3 (20%)
Hmm, this one is pretty low -- why? I bet it's because we don't know many games from China. Here's a quick one -- everyone knows Rock, Paper, Scissors, right? Some say it was invented in China (at least, we couldn't play it without the Chinese since they invented scissors!). Anyway, in Chinese, you say "jen dow, shurr toe, bu." Pound your fist in the other hand 4 times -- jen dow shurr toe, and then reveal your rock/paper/scissors on "bu!" (That's my phonetic spelling, not pinyin!). Zoe learned this in China, and it really tickled me to see how universal Rock, Paper, Scissors is.
This link lists tons of traditional Chinese games.
7. Create crafts symbolic of your child's home country 10 (66%)
Another big group -- two-thirds of us do this. One of Zoe's favorite things is to make lanterns out of lucky red envelopes. Here are some links: Enchanged Learning, Artists Helping Children,
8. Read folk tales from the homeland 11 (73%)
There are so many GREAT stories from China! If I started listing what we have/read, I'd never finish this post! I'll content myself with two collections that may not be as familiar as others: Why Snails Have Shells and Tales From Within the Clouds. I like these because they include tales from the various minority groups in China. The Clouds book are all tales of the Nakhi minority group -- a group that is matriarchal, whose members do not marry, and which has no word for father! Hmmm, I wonder why that appeals?! OK, one more -- a modern folk tale from Kathy Tucker and Grace Lin (our favorite author/illustrator), The Seven Chinese Sisters.
9. Sing songs from your child's home country 11 (73%)
My girls have learned quite a few songs between Chinese School in the U.S., kindergarten in Xiamen, and TV in Xiamen. But sometimes I wonder about the authenticity. I remember watching someone's adoption trip video before I got Zoe; the guides said in English that they were going to sing an ancient Chinese folk song about two tigers. They start singing in Chinese, and it's obviously the tune to Frere Jacques! I had to laugh -- it reminded me of my French grandfather who heard "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and declared that it was a French song! If we stole Yankee Doodle Dandy from the French, I suppose the French could have stolen Frere Jacques from the Chinese! And sure enough, my kids have learned this song at Chinese School.
10. Learn about animals indiginous to your child's homeland 7 (46%)
One word -- Pandas!!! You can watch a live panda cam from Wolong Panda Preserve in Sichuan Province, and go to our Xiamen Adventure website to see our panda pictures!
11. Make a book about the country of your child's birth 4 (26%)
I'd love to hear from the 4 of you who've done this. I've been planning to do a China-themed ABC scrapbook for years and haven't done a thing but think of words: abacus, bamboo, chopsticks, dan dan noodles, eggrolls, fireworks, Guangxi Province . . . .
We did make a scrapbook of our panda photos -- does that count?
12. Join a group of families who have adopted from the same country 13 (86%)
I think we all see the value of doing this, though there are some limitations in terms of culture. Yes, collectively adoptive parents might be able to marshall more resources than any one of us alone, but we tend not to know that much about our child's culture, do we?
Click here for the National Families With Children From China website, where you can find info about local chapters.
13. Visit museum exhibits relevant to your child's culture 8 (53%)
We're lucky to have an Asian arts museum nearby, the Crow Museum in Dallas, which the girls love to visit. I find their gift shop just too dangerous! They do special camps in summer, but it hasn't yet fit our schedule -- maybe next summer. Their website includes great tips for visiting museums with young children.
14. Go on a homeland tour 5 (33%)
Less than a third have done this yet, but I bet a lot of you are thinking about doing it when your children are older. There's some great info in this article, Returning to China With Your Adopted Child, by Dr. Jane Liedtke, if you're considering it.
I hope these links are helpful; I certainly think it is important to teach our children about their birth culture. It is, of course, no substitute for the very real loss of culture that international adoption usually causes. What I aim for is a basic level of cultural competence so that my kids won't feel out of place in a group of Chinese-Americans. I hope I can achieve at least that minimal standard.
The Angrier Adoptee, part 1
1 week ago