Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Dear every adoptive parents"

This comment to the posted video from Chinese Heritage Camp:

Dear every adoptive parents,

We are Chinese parents with kids born in the U.S. Thank you for your love in adopting helpless orphans and nurtur them to be happy kids of yours. I have viewed the video of the camp for adoptees. My suggestion to you is to try to seek out Chinese American families and let your kids befriend their kids. The reason? I think these Chinese American families are more normal in the sense that they are emotionally balanced. You can also learn from Chinese parents about their culture and they from you about American culture. It's a good way to help each other out. As a Chinese, I feel these camps for adoptees from China are weird. Real Chinese kids don't do dragon dance or kungfu. To us, the Chinese heritage is nothing more than Chinese food, the language, delayed gratification (with money and material things) and hard work. Be careful with your child's encounter of racism. Some kids don't even tell their parents but racist incidents will scare their life and affect their self esteem big time. Worst yet, they may affect your child't relationship with you. Racism is real and ugly and kids aren't old enough to handle them. Make sure you check on your child when s/he comes back from play time with other kids. I hope you can find some good American Chinese families around to befriend with. God bless you all.



Anne said...

I actually agree with most of the points raised here and have been pondering some of these issues for awhile due to transcultural adoption books I’ve been reading.

Re China camp being “weird”. As has already been discussed in various comments on this blog, I don’t think the learning about culture is the biggest benefit of the camp. Most of us agreed it is not indicative of current Chinese culture. Our children are a unique group and I think the best thing about camp is the fact that they have contact and interaction with other Chinese children like them.

I have been thinking a lot about how to have contact with “regular” Chinese families. We have the opportunity to attend Chinese school with more “traditional” Chinese families and this has been an absolute blessing. I feel shy/hesitant about trying to “infiltrate” and form relationships with these types of families, but would love to do so. I even brought up the idea of attending the church where the Chinese school is held. My husband, who is great about everything, looked at me like I was an idiot and said he wouldn’t go with me. Yes, I know I can go on my own, but I feel uncomfortable as well. I guess I worry about how “regular” Chinese families perceive us and if they even want to be friends.

The racism thing is dead on. I think we have just as much responsibility to be proactive and initiate discussions with our children about race, racial comments, how other people react to them, etc., as we do about their adoption, and to monitor and follow up. None of these discussions should be a one time thing. I think it’s very important to ensure that are children are not in an all white environment or even just one with moderate diversity. For example, we made a deliberate decision to put our child in a non-white majority school which is almost equal percentages black and hispanic, and white to a lesser degree. There are asian students as well. I considered the racial mix of the school to be at least, if not more, significant than the academic reputation of the school.

Anonymous said...

Yup, this is my mantra.

However, easy to say, harder to do. We live in Toronto and it's not difficult for us to encounter *real* Chinese and Asian families day in and day out. My trips to the US suggest this is harder in many of your communities. Still, you gotta take what you can get.

I understand that the camp experience goes beyond the activities and allows for the contact with other kids. That to me would be the greatest benefit as well.

Anonymous said...

"I even brought up the idea of attending the church where the Chinese school is held."

Anne, please don't! Chinese church in North America (both the U.S. and Canada) aren't the most friendly place for adoptive children. Chinese people feel very safe in their own environment like a Chinese church and they tend to say anything in their mind out loud. Their kids pick up what they say and can cause big emotional trauma to your adoptive kids. Plus, Chinese Christians are very, very judgemental. I am a Christian myself and Chinese by race. I am speaking from experience.

Maybe you can try to find some second generation Chinese American teenagers who are mature and responsible to babysit first. You can start from there.

travelmom and more said...

Interesting letter, thanks for sharing. My large China only adoption agency has a culture school for adopted children where they offer ongoing language, dance and culture classes. Although we have never attended I have always felt that these classes would benefit my daughter in creating a community of children who have a shared adoption experience more than any cultural bond. We have recently enrolled our daughter at a bilingual school where they offer classes in Spanish, French or Chinese and we are putting her in Chinese. Although this school has some adopted children, it has many other types of families as well. I hope we can make a few more Chinese American friends to help "mentor" us. A friend of mine, who is African American worked with families who adopted black children to teach them about black hair and to teach them how to talk about race and other isses. I think she was partnered with families through some kind of state program, I would love someone to help me find a partner family. There are some universities near our house and I have been thinking about contacting their multiculural office to see if they need weekend host families for some of their international students. I would love to be a home away from home for a Chinese college student.

Chinazhoumom said...

You know that I why I love your blog - you hear/read about so many great points !!! Thanks for taking the time to share!!
C & k in FL

Donna W. said...


I'm delurking because I feel compelled to talk about this letter. I do love this blog, just haven't added my 2 cents -- until now.

I also agree with many of these points, but I have to disagree about the camp thing. Yes, it may be weird, but isn't any American camp (I mean, did Native Americans make s'mores around a camp fire?) I think the real benefit from China heritage camps and other FCC-type events (with Caucasian parents and Chinese kids) is the ability to see other families that are like ours and for our kids to make friends with other Chinese adoptees. Our kids will always be different from the Chinese kids -- whether they were born in China or the U.S. -- mainly because Chinese kids have Chinese parents and our kids have Caucasian parents. We LOOK different to everyone -- so we ARE different. Our kids need friends who understand their situation as adoptees as much, if not more, than friends who are Chinese.

I do strongly agree about the racism issue. As white parents,we are often blind to that problem and actually may not understand a racist issue as a result. We also have to remember that our kids are probably NOT telling us about these things because they're afraid of upsetting us. We must try to (1) create a home that is open to communication about this issue and (2) try to model behaviors that are conducive to talking about racism. Yes, easier said than done.

Donna W.
Mom to Emilee from Nanning, who is now 14

a Tonggu Momma said...

We commute to a Chinese church about once a month and have found the congregation to be quite welcoming. There are some barriers there (including the long distance commute), but that is why - after about eight months - we started going only once a month instead of all the time. Overall it's been a positive experience for us.

As for culture camp, I find that to be more about bonding with other adoptees rather than learning about Chinese culture.

As for this person's thoughts on racism - I found this to be oh, so true. Every single word. We've connected with several Chinese-American families - they've blessed our lives immensely in many ways, including helping us to learn more about racism.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the comments so far. Maybe the thing that bothered the person whose post is quoted in the intro is that the heritage camp creates kind of "false sense" or "inaccurate impression" of Chinese (or Chinese-American) culture. I agree with that. I think it is far better for them to learn Chinese culture in authentic settings. Authentic settings would be those in which the majority of people, artifacts, etc. are Chinese. However, I still think the camp is fun for our kids and that it is great for them to see that there are so many other kids like them.
Sue (aka anonymous)

mama d said...

Ditto just about everything that's been said.

Perhaps the original commenter could be encouraged to attend their local FCC events. When I read Third Mom talk about the Korean community's involvement in local KAD events I am blatantly jealous.

It's also interesting that the original commenter would choose to use the phrase "emotionally balanced." Because there are times that I feel decidedly unbalanced when I delve into what it means to be a Caucasian parent of an Asian child.

And, do you think we can assume that some Chinese children won't tell their Chinese parents about racist events in their lives? Am I reading the commenter correctly? I'd been somehow led to believe, or chose to believe, that kids are silent about racism at home when they know their parents couldn't possibly understand ... because we aren't Asian. Maybe (some) kids are just silent about racism.

ralph said...

Oh, I'm not so sure about some of the points the writer made! Specifically - the emotionally balanced, as this varies enormously from family to family. An adoptive family has emotional upheavals that a run of the mill family does, so to do single parent families, so to do immigrant families, so to do we all. The stresses are different.

Also - "real Chinese kids don't do dragon dance"? What makes a kid a "real" Chinese kid? Are adopted Chinese children not "real" Chinese? I'd want to be very cautious having these things said around adopted Chinese children, eg: if it's a one child says well my mum says you're not a real Chinese..

Lastly, one family's list of what constitutes Chinese culture is fine - but it's not necessarily exclusive or correct. Culture is a fluid construct; it changes with time and context. I do think language is a huge carrier of culture.

Re the racism comments - absolouotly. And here I think is where the writer has a good care - interactions with other asian children are going to provide means for discussion esp as children grow.

This is something that I've been wondering about since I started reading: have you ever thought about moving to China for a year or two for the cultural immersion? For you to have the experience of China; for your girls to; to get the language skills; to have a construct of China *together* that you can then use to define yourselves : not an immigrant families sense of Chinese culture; not a camp construct. A solid base for creating this third culture - not American, not Chinese, but yours - drawing on both but transcending both.

I'm not saying that you should - oh heavens no!!! we all make our own decisions for our own reasons based on our own values; I do not in anyone think that this would be the correct, or even necessarily a good thing to do - but I'm just wondering if you had considered it, and what your thoughts are about such an idea.

best, c

malinda said...


About moving to China to give the girls that experience of culture -- I am so much in agreement that that is a good idea that we did that in 2007! You can read about it here:

We were only able to stay 5 months, but I'm working on a year-long visit for the next few years.

I agree, it might not be the right choice for everyone, and not everyone can manage it, given jobs and health and other family responsibilities, but it was really great for us.

malinda said...

I love all the thoughtful comments! One point I wanted to make -- which has probably already been said better than I'll be able to! -- is that it really isn't just one "authentic" Chinese culture. And frankly, we as adoptive families are not imparting "lived" Chinese culture. What I'm trying to do is give the girls and idea of their HERITAGE, which is different from culture. Giving them that base in knowing their heritage gives them the ability to create their own lived culture -- Chinese or otherwise -- as adults.

ralph said...

Malinda - great distinction between culture and heritage; I think that's a very important one. Also - the trip looks fantastic! (my aunt had the same brain surgery not so long ago; those scars are impressive!) I hope you get your trip back - East Asia is a wonderful place; to shake up everything you know about yourself and your understandings of how people interact. I think it's a great place to spend a year or two, with or without Chinese adoptees!

Also - the blog is great; I really enjoy it. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

When my daughter was younger, she had a series of Chinese babysitters who were international students at the college where I teach. One thing I learned from them is that the culture in China can vary greatly from one part of the country to another. Some of them have never seen a dragon or lion dance during Chinese New Year. I guess it isn't something done all over China, just in some parts. That is just one example. China is such a huge place that what one Chinese person considers authentic culture may not be the same as another Chinese person's view of their culture. Similarly, there are regional differences between various parts of the US. However, historically there hasn't been as much communication and travel between different parts of China, so the regional differences may have remained more distinct.
Sue (aka anonymous)

ralph said...

more on Sue's point - I'm assuming here when the phrase "Chinese culture" is used, it's referring to Han culture: it's not just regional but ethnic differences. China is a nation; Han is an ethnicity; Chinese is a national identity.

Assuming everyones daughters all Han, there is some ban on minority adoptions, no?

Anonymous said...

No, not all adoptions are Han. My daughter (and Malinda's 2 daughters) are from a region that contains several ethnic minorities. We can't know for sure whether our kids are part of those minority groups, but some have facial features that suggest they could be. Maybe you are thinking about the one child policy. If I recall correctly, the one child policy does not apply to some minority groups.

Anyway, I think that the point is that it's hard to accurately generalize about "Chinese culture" because it really varies from region to region (and probably by a lot of other factors, including ethnicity). But as I think Malinda posted, we can teach our kids their heritage, in general, which is not quite the same thing.

Sue (aka anonymous)

Sue (aka anonymous)

ralph said...

actually; I'm think I'm juxtoposing Viet Nam - they don't allow minority children to be adopted. I guess I'm saying ethnicity is part of heritage; perhaps more so than culture.

Sorry, I don't mean to come across as rude or the like, and I'm sincerely sorry if I do. I did development work in VN, and ended up doing a chunk related to intercountry adoption (inc. trafficking prevention, amongst other things). I find it fascinating to hear what happens at the new home end.