Saturday, September 26, 2009

Who do you look like?

Chinese School has started up again, and Thursday the girls met with a new tutor to help with their homework (to make it especially fun, two other girls from Chinese School are tutored at the same time!).

One of the homework exercises Zoe was working on involved writing the characters for family members. One question was, "Who do you look like, your mother or your father?" I overheard Zoe talking to the tutor about it. . . .

Zoe: "Well, I don't look like my mom."

Maya: "She looks like me!"

Tutor: (glancing over at me) "Just write 'Dad.'"

Zoe: "But I don't have a dad."

Tutor: "That's OK, just write the character for 'Dad.'"

Zoe shrugged and wrote.

Later, she told me that she wrote the character for mom, but she was thinking, "birth mom." She wrote mom instead of dad, because she figures she looks more like her birth mom than her birth dad because she's a girl. She also told me that the exercise made her feel "left out." Because she's sure everyone else in her class will know the answer since none of them are adopted.

You never know where it's going to come from, this reminder that you're adopted and your adoption is as closed as closed can be.

I look like my dad -- same blue eyes, same body style that translates for me into "Mississippi farm woman," perfectly built to pull a plow without the benefit of oxen. I went prematurely gray, just like he did. I bruise easily just like he does. I did not, however, inherit his mechanical ability, I'm sorry to say.

Zoe and Maya don't know. How must that feel, YOUR WHOLE LIFE, not knowing? I can't even imagine it. They live it every day, just waiting for that reminder.


Anonymous said...

How ironic and sad that would happen in a very setting that we put our kids in to help them feel like the DO fit in. But of course, that is the crux of the problem, not really feeling like they truly fit in anywhere (except maybe a gathering of Chinese adoptees).

I've always been told that I resemble my mom's side of the family... we have the same color eyes, but when I look at the photos of my dad's relatives, I think maybe what I've been told my whole life is wrong. In many ways, I look more like them!

Sometimes I wonder why it seems to matter so much to people who they look like!

Sue (aka anonymous)

Wendy said...

Thanks for the laugh today--of course, not relating to Zoe, but to your description. I totally know it for me as well, gotta love the dad's body shape.

It seemed like all of the last year was this way for M in relation to her limb difference--they use the number ten and hands all of the time in early math. It really hurt her each time, this year she has a better feeling about being different so it is better, but still there.

It was so hard for her in the not knowing, I know it means a lot to her now, she points out who in her family she looks like A LOT. I can tell just how heavy that weighed on her. I hope Zoe will find those answers in her future.

holly said...

Being an adoptee - I was a redhead. My parents where brunette. I remember staring & following women in stores, that also had my coloring. I was constantly searching faces for resemblance to my own.

I know that our planned move to an area w/a larger Asian population will not erase that for our daughter, but at least she will not be the only Asian face she sees.

Our girls will always come up on these situations, but just that they can safely talk to us about their feelings is huge! I can't imagine what it would of felt like had someone addressed those types of things with me as a child. I would of had a big head start on working through my "stuff"!!!

Joanne said...

My husband and his sister are both adopted (they are not biologically related though) and his sister had such identity issues and longed to know who her birth parents where (she actually found her birth mother while in her 30's!). My husband on the other hand, never showed interest in meeting his birth parents, he only wanted to know what nationality he was! I wonder how this will affect Mia; especially having 2 brothers who are biological to their parents... Oh boy, I'm sure I'm going to have many of these "who do you look like" moments ahead...

Lisa said...

Joanne, I think it's very interesting that you have a husband and aunt who are adopted, as well as a child who is adopted. Who better to understand what an adoptee feels like, since they are in the same category. I am sure you have thought of this, but I found it very intriguing. My sister spoke of adopting for quite some time, and then didn't follow through. I was so disappointed, I wanted my daughter to have an adopted cousin she could relate to. Fortunately, she has friends who are adopted (Zoe!), who she connects with quite well.

I wonder, Joanne, if your husband will eventually want to search, or if the issue of nationality is as far as he'll ever want to go.

Malinda, do you know if there's any gender related studies on "searching for birth parents"? I just get a "feel" that searching may be more female dominant.

Not to disrespect the guys, I know males search. However, because our society literally forces them to stuff down their emotions, would there be less male searchers than females? Just pondering that thought...