Archive for October, 2009


It’s a Hard Knock Life

I love musicals. I don’t remember when I saw my first musical on stage, but I’m sure that long before that I loved movie musicals. My husband joined in to musical obsession after seeing Wicked on Broadway a few years ago. And now we have a son who loves music and dancing, and as we learned earlier this year, musicals. We took him to see High School Musical 3 and he loved it so much that we had to see it five times in the theater before it came out on video.

So, of course, I want to indulge this love of musicals. But I’m struggling with how to do that. Themes that never bothered me before now make me cringe.

I think he’d most like musicals about kids. But just about every kid musical has an orphan theme, some better done than others. Oliver was never a favorite of mine, but I loved Annie. Now I’m wondering, it is appropriate for my son to see? Sure, right now he probably won’t “get” lots of the message. But someday he will; what will it mean to him then?

And then there’s the racial themes and stereotypes. First, there aren’t many musicals that have minorities in them. Second, when minorities are represented it’s often only to fulfill a stereotype.

I have two friends who have highly recommend Miss Saigon; both said it was one of their favorite musicals. I haven’t seen it so one friend let me borrow her soundtrack. It was in the first song on the soundtrack that I became uncomfortable, and as the soundtrack played on that feeling only grew. Asian women existing only for pleasing men; Asian men cunningly only helping other if it advanced their cause.

So I did what I always do and began doing some research on the Internet. I came across a review of the Broadway version written when the musical was still playing on the Great White Way (it was posted in 2008). It points out all the stereotypes that are perputuated in the story line of Miss Saigon. And as so often happens, the first comment was from a dissenter who wondered if it would be a misrepresentation to portray the story with “political correctness” since it was set in the 1970s, which we all know wasn’t politically correct. The response was that it would have been misrepresentation only if you believe that there were no Asians in the 1970s who had any redeeming qualities and that there were no whites who could see past the bigotry.

And that’s my dilemma. So much of what’s out there in entertainment, especially in years past but to some extent still today, shows a skewed view of the world when it comes to race and adoption. It’s true that America’s past is traditionally very “white” but since the beginning we’ve had people of color here. People who have contributed much to our country, and people we largely never hear about. Yes, stereotypes exist, whether it be about race or adoptees or genders. Yes, some people believe those stereotypes are true and use them to form opinions. And yes, someday my son will need to know all of these things. And maybe, when he’s old enough to understand, movies and musicals will be great jumping-off points to start conversations about these themes.

But in the meantime, at the tender age of 3, would seeing these messages be detrimental? Would it affect his developing sense of self in a negative way? These are the questions I ask myself before viewing any movie or show. They are questions that many of my white friends with biological kids never ask about these “family-friendly” movies. These films have no bad language, no sex, and no violence–nothing in there that could harm a youngster, right?

For me it’s not that simple. I must look deeper and with a more critical eye than I did before. Not to completely shelter my son from reality, but to make sure the messages he’s getting are helping build him up as a minority in this country during these formative years.


Be Prepared–What to Do While You Wait

No matter how long your adoption process is, it’s a long wait. Ours was only six months, but it was without a doubt the longest six months of my life. Everyone has a different way to pass the time. Some enjoy their time as a family of X (whatever size family they are now), knowing it will never the same again; others try not to think about or count the days of waiting; still others use the time to prepare and educate.

I was the educate and prepare type, with a little of the enjoy our last moments as just a couple (at least until J goes to college). And I really do think it’s the best way to pass the time. I’ve said it before, but will say it again–parenting an adopted child IS NOT the same as parenting a biological child. That means, even if you’ve already had children, you need to educate yourself about parenting an adopted child. And more than likely, you’ll need to continue educating yourself over the years of bring up this child who came into your lives through adoption.

So reading is one great way to educate yourself  and pass the time while you’re waiting. Learn about attachment and try to understand the losses of adoption. I read many adoption and attachment books while we were waiting. My favorite then was Becoming a Family by Lark Eschleman. But now my favorite adoption book, the one I consider a must read, is Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen. This one will teach you about grieving, regression, attachment, and how children deal with trauma; give ideas to help your child; and will take you through your child’s teen years in understanding how adoption may continue to affect their lives.

Here are a couple of more titles to add to your reading list, if you’re so inclined. I’ve only recently discovered Patricia Irwin Johnston. She has several books that she’s written over the years. A couple of them have been combined recently into a new title, Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families. It’s very comprehensive in helping you prepare to bring home a child. (She’s also written Adoption is a Family Affair: What Relatives and Friends Must Know. I haven’t read this one yet but I’m intrigued by the title.) Some other titles are listed on the page linked at the top of this blog.

Learn about your child’s birth culture. This is a great, interesting way to pass the time because if you’re like us, you don’t know much about a different culture. We’ve truly fallen in love with Korea and now would love to live there. Take language lessons. At the very least, learn some key phrases and/or songs. Check out YouTube. There you’ll may find clips that will help you learn, especially songs. If you’re adopting from Korea, check out one of my previous posts. It links to several Korean songs on YouTube. Search your local library for a program like the Rosetta Stone or see if there are language lessons given in your area.

Make connections with local community that represents your child’s birth culture. Culture is so much more than just traditional festivals and food. Probably the most important thing you can do for your child is have people in your life who look like your child will look. These are the friends and mentors who will help your child navigate being an ethnic minority in America. I must admit that this is one area where we’re really lacking. It’s hard to make connections. If you’re religious, finding a diverse church can help. See if your community has a culture center where you can make connections.

And, of course, you’ll be doing all of the normal new baby preparations, like buying diapers and preparing the nursery. Ask any family who has waited for an adopted and they’ll tell you that no matter what you do to pass the time, it will still seem to go slowly. But if you do the things on this list, you’ll be so much better prepared to parent your child once he’s home–once the time for reading and learning is curtailed for a time. And you’ll be so glad you did.


What’s for Dinner?

Tonight we’re chanting, “Hurry, mama, hurry, got to chop, chop, chop; hungry, hungry, hungry for some bi bim bap.” (That’s from Linda Sue Park’s adorable picture book Bi Bim Bap, for those who don’t recognize it.)

In the last few months, I’ve gotten much more willing to try new Korean recipes. Basically that happened because I was craving bi bim bap and couldn’t afford to out to dinner that night. So I searched the Internet and found a recipe that tastes almost identical to the bi bim bap at my favorite Korean restaurant.

For a girl who wasn’t a very adventureous eater growing up, it’s impressive. I didn’t even eat Chinese food until I was in college. Once I tried making bi bim bap and it was really good, I became more confident and willing to try other recipes. Next up, I want to try kimbap.

Food is a great way to incorporate birth culture. While it may not be exactly the same, if you use authentic recipes from cooks from the birth country, you’ll probably be pretty close. We’re thankful that our son loves Korean food–it will make traveling to Korea someday easier, at least in respect to eating.

I’ve checked out all of the Korean cookbooks our library has, and have developed a couple of favorites. But honestly, I get most of my recipes from the Internet. It’s so simple to do a search for a certain food, and find numerous recipes to choose from. If you’re looking for Korean recipes, I’ve included links to my favorite sites.

In the meantime, we’ll be mixing like crazy and enjoying bi bim bap and mandu. 잘먹겠습니다! (Jal-meok-kket-sseum-ni-da, which is bon appetit in Korean and said before you eat. If you’d like many options for saying the food was good in Korean, check this out.)

Maangchi is a great site. She provides videos of her making the recipes and photos of ingredients so you know what you’re looking for at the Korean market.

Aeri’s Kitchen (Aeri is in South Korea. I’ve just found her site recently so I haven’t used any of her recipes yet, but they look yummy.)

My Korean Kitchen is an older blog. No new recipes have been added since 2007, but there is still a wealth of information on this one.

Eat Your Bap (this one is fairly new so it only has a few recipes)

Korean Cuisine is a blog written by a Korean-American woman who loves to cook.

MiGi’s Kitchen: A Delicious Guide to Korean Homecooking is a site done by a Korean-American couple in California. This is a new find and I can’t wait to try her recipes.


First Families

First families. It can be a polarizing topic within the adoption community. Just in my little world I know family with an open international adoption and another family that is completely uncomfortable with the thought of first parents. As the experts will tell you, whether or not you as adoptive parents want to acknowledge the existence of first parents, they are still very present in the minds of most adoptees.

I’ve always thought of us as partners with our son’s first parents. They did what they could, and we picked up when they couldn’t do anymore. We’ve never felt threatened by our son’s first family. We’ve talked to him about them since he came home. At first it was a little awkward–you the mom talking about another mom–but now it’s easy and comfortable to mention them.

And J’s now talking about them pretty often, which is nice to see. We want him to be able to talk with us about his feelings and be open about his thoughts, knowing he isn’t hurting us by thinking about them.

I wish we’d known that open international adoptions were possible. We would have pursued it from the beginning. But we didn’t know. Our son’s family history is complex, so while we were in Korea we began adovating for more than is normally allowed, yet I wish we’d done more.

For the last year, I’ve been writing letters to agencies and the family (through the agencies) in hopes of establishing open communication. So far I haven’t had any luck. It’s frustrating not knowing if my letters are even arriving in Korea, and if they are, is the agency editing things out? Does the family understand that we want to communicate with them, to share our son’s life with them, and to share their lives with him? We have some information from the agency indicating that the family is interested in communicating. Yet, so far the communication has been one sided.

I hate that something I feel is so important for my son is completely at the mercy of others. Others who I have no way of communicating with face to face (our U.S. agency is in another state).

I know that my pursuing this in itself is a somewhat controversial. Some adult adoptees believe the search should be left for the adoptee to do. I defend our decision with the argument that very few people know our whole story, and those who do understand why we feel making the connections now is so important.

Interestingly, as I work on this for our family, I came across a blog recently that encouraged adoptive parents to search for first families for their children. Harlow’s Monkey quoted another blogger in this post answering a question posted by a prospective adoptive parent. (The links on Harlow’s Monkey’s blog can lead you through the blog trail of this one.) For international adoption, Atlasien said one thing adoptive parents can do is “work to establish contact with your child’s biological family.”

Some readers questioned this stance in the comments section for this post on Harlow’s Monkey. So in the comments section Atlasien went on to explain, “searching in international adoption is so hard, if you wait, you are just increasing that chances that people will move away, get sick and die, lose paperwork, and so on. By waiting, you are passively removing choice from your child. But you are not removing a choice if you search for your child when they are younger… the adoptee always has the choice, when they become an adult, to STOP contact. And stopping contact is a lot easier than starting it.” If you read all of the comments you’ll see that Jae Ran of Harlow’s Monkey agreed, noting of course that many adoptees feel the search should be theirs.

I’ve read so many stories from adult adoptees about missing the opportunities to make those connections by a year or a few months because the person holding the information had died or moved. That’s why we feel it’s important for us to start the process. I wish more agencies understood the importance and made it easier to connect birth families and adoptive families who are open to communication.


5 Wonderful Things Adoption Has Brought Into My Life

Things have been heavy around this blog lately. And while I’m still aware of the loss and issues adoption brings, it has brought some wonderful things into my life as well.

1. The sweetest smile of the most charming boy I’ve ever met. I feel so honored to be this little guy’s mom. I hate all of the loss that he has had to endure to bring him here, but he is a wonderful addition to our family. My hope is that we can do our best to help him develop into the man he was meant to be.

2. Connection to another culture. Americans, by and large, are very insulated. Now I have a link to another culture. For me it’s fun to learn about the history of another country, challenging to work on learning a language that’s completely different, and intriguing to learn about the customs and practices that vary so greatly from the ones I’ve known growing up.

3. New friends. Both far and near I’ve met some amazing women (and men, too) who have become my supporters and encouragers, as I have theirs (I hope). After a couple of years struggling to find other adoptive parents who share my views, I’ve now found my niche.

4. More awareness of racial issues. Now that my eyes are open to the racial issues in our country, I honestly don’t know how I missed it before. It’s not an easy knowledge to have when so many deny the existence of racial problems, but I know I’m a better person now that I have this intellectual understanding of something I’ve never experienced.

5. More compassion and a better understanding of who I am. Maybe it’s just approaching 40 or maybe it’s becoming a mom or maybe it’s a combination of the two. But in the three years since our son came home, I’ve gotten to know myself better–the good, the bad and the ugly. Introspection is a difficult road, but I believe it’s necessary for me to become the mom I’m supposed to be.

My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

Favorite Korean Movies-TV Shows

Be Strong, Geum-Soon
Please Teach Me English
Spy Girl
Tae Gu Ki
2009 Lost Memories

Contact Me

2worlds1familyblog at gmail dot com

It’s a Small World After All