Saturday, June 6, 2009

Another "It's Not Fair!" Moment

Zoe has been intrigued by the fact that our blogger-friend Mei-Ling is in Taiwan meeting her birth family. She's reacted positively, very curious about the whole process. The other day, though, it was too much for her: "It's just not fair that some people can meet their birth parents and some people can't! Mei-Ling can, and P. can (a friend from Korea) but I CAN'T!"

We had lots of tears and cuddling after that, because she's right, of course -- it ISN'T fair, and there's no getting around it. I know that I can't fix it, that I can only commiserate, but I had to try. I reminded her about her desire at age 3 to call her birth mom, so she made a pretend phone call, leading up to suggesting she can always "talk" to her birth family in her head. Zoe was completely uninterested in that suggestion., as illustrated by significant eye-rolling! Maya asked me, "Did I do that, too make pretend phone calls?" No, I told her, she never was very interested in talking about or to her birth parents when she was 3 (or now, for that matter).

And then Zoe pulled out another "it's not fair" -- "Maya doesn't NEED to call her birth family. She has a FOSTER family in China," she declared. Hmm, I knew that sibling rivalry/jealousy was simmering, but Zoe hasn't said much about it. Maya's foster family is good about including Zoe when they send letters, cards, and gifts. But that's not quite the same as having her OWN foster family, a real live Chinese family who cared for you and loved you and who, unlike your unknown birth parents, you don't have to imagine, wonder about, pretend about.

We pulled out Zoe's life book and concentrated on the pages about the nannies at the orphanage, and Zoe especially wanted to hear about the one called Po Po (grandmother in Chinese). We're lucky to have pictures from the orphanage, with a nanny holding Zoe while feeding her a bottle, with another nanny playing with her, with Po Po holding her. It's not a foster family, but it shows real live people in China who cared for her and loved her.

And it's not what she really wants, to know who her birth family is, to meet them. The possibility of that happening is remote.

And that's not fair.


Mei-Ling said...

You've been telling Zoe about my blog - has she been reading it?

It's tough. A lot of the stuff goes right over my head and I have to rely a lot on body language and catching key words. I no longer have to overemphasize my tones as I can now tell by the reactions if I am understood. Yay!

I know what she means when she says "It's not fair" because Sang-Shil mentioned something about having a more concrete link to the past.

Zoe doesn't have her own foster family? That's a bit strange.

When people tell adoptees that they can pray and think about their original parents, it's a nice placating thing, but it's not quite the same as being there and living it, knowing that you can look into their eyes. I don't say this to be cruel, but before I got onto the plane, I can remember how frustrating it was.

"I know they are alive and living but I wish I could actually talk to them. I wish I knew that my prayers were actually being heard."

Of course a child/young adult can pray and send warm thoughts, but it's difficult to come to the realization that those prayers aren't actually going anywhere.

Sorry, Zoe. I wish I could give you some comforting words, but I know they're just words. Take comfort in knowing that there are other people who don't have concrete links to their pasts either - they will understand how it feels. :)

Maybe one day a China DNA database will be created...

malinda said...


I can't believe you "popped over" from Taiwan!

No, Zoe hasn't read your blog. She's seen me read it, and she asked about it, and explained things to her about your trip to Taiwan, and she was really excited to "know" someone who was meeting her birth parents. And she is still excited for you, despite her frustration about not knowing her birth family.

I'm glad your language study is paying off!

Some orphanages in China have foster care programs and some do not -- Zoe's didn't at the time she was there, though they do now.

Zoe and I talked a long time about what "fair" means -- "fair" as "equal" as opposed to "fair" as "just." Would it be more fair if neither she nor Maya had a foster family? Would it be more fair if neither she nor Mei-Ling got to meet birth parents?

She gets the idea that she doesn't gain from someone else's loss, and that the unfairness she means is "not just and right." (Something I thought was important to discuss in light of her jealousy of Maya not only on this front but on some others, too!).

You know, I knew as I was doing it that the "pretend phone call" thing would be a bust. That pesky desire to FIX things that are unfixable reared its ugly head . . . .

I'm glad you're having the chance to go beyond wishing and imagining, Mei-Ling!

Mei-Ling said...

Yeah, of course. Elder brother set up a [borrowed?] computer in my room so that I can use it to try and translate later on in the month.

I can also chat with family back in Canada and keep people up-to-date. So I will mostly likely be blogging and catching up on things during the morning hours (Canada's night-time).

There are some other posts that I would like to write about - particularly the condition of their house, the commute, class privilege in comparison to the privileged life of an adoptee, etc.

(P.S. I still don't believe Fate had anything to do with it!)

I try not to stay on when they're here though (right now they're working) because it's too difficult to keep up. I was able to provide a very simple exchange between Jianada Mama and Taiwan Mama earlier, but for the most part, it's hard to separate languages constantly like that.

Note For APs: talking to oneself in Mandarin does come in handy because it prepares your brain for immersion.

Diane said...

Malinda- Do you have my house bugged? I swear you are stealing my household conversations for your blogging pleasure ;) Yup, it is so not fair and tonight my oldest, who WAS in foster care, is in tears over having to wait 8 years for a 'real' family. So heartbreaking and yes- so HARD not to try to spin a positive.

malinda said...

Diane, if only I had the technology! It's hard to feel their pain, isn't it?

A kind reader emailed me with a compliment for the blog and added, "We talk about this stuff all the time in our home/car/wherever, too. Your family makes me feel like my family isn't weird!"

Hah! I had to say that using us as an example of non-weirdness is perhaps not the smartest approach! But it does help ME to hear that others are having these same conversations.

I wish there was a way to get all these talking girls together to get that same non-weird yardstick . . .

joy said...

I hope things are different for your daughters when they are older.

I hope things change for them. Knowing where we come from is so important to many of us. I can't imagine it not being important to someone.

I am glad you are so empathetic to their situations.