The Enthusiasm of a 4-year-old

We have family stationed in Japan with the military, and they’ve just asked us if we’d like to meet in Korea for a vacation together. Our son heard us talking about it over dinner and his response, “Yes! I want to go to Korea. Let’s go now!”

I love his enthusiasm. He’s like his mom–passionate about the things he’s interested in. So now we’re looking at a trip to Korea sometime in the next 18 months or so. Since bringing our son home, we’d planned on returning to Korea several times throughout his childhood. We can hardly wait to show J the country that is his by birth. But it will also be fun to share the country with our relatives.

We tried to explain to J that the trip wouldn’t happen anytime soon; that these trips take planning and saving. But those concepts are hard to grasp as a 4-year-old. His response to our “later” speech was: “OK, I’ll go to sleep ad when I wake up we can go.” Boy, don’t we wish it were that easy.

J is passionate about Korean things. He knows he’s Korean and recently explained to us that he’s the only Korean in our family, emphasizing that Dad and I aren’t Korean. There was no sadness connected to the thought (although I know there might be in the future); it was just a matter of fact. He loves Korean food (his favorite restaurants are “the Korean restaurant and Chick-fil-A”) and is very excited about the Korean dining table we recently found at a thrift store. J wants to learn to say more things in Korean and someday wants to “break boards” (tae kwon do).

I love his pride in his Koreaness. I hear so many stories about adopted kids this age who just aren’t interested in Korea or Korean things. And I wonder what makes J different. Is it just his nature? Is it how we’ve chosen to parent him (including Korean things in our daily lives)? Is it a little bit of both?

We’ve never thought the parenting strategy of “we’ll do Korean things someday, if my kids are interested” would be in our son’s best interest. After all, if we as parents don’t introduce things into our children’s lives, how will they ever become interested? I don’t believe my son would love basketball the way he does, if we’d never given him a basketball to play with or took to watch a game. Likewise, I believe at least part of his Korean pride comes from the fact that Korea has been presented to him almost daily in a positive light.

But on the flip side, I realize that just giving a kid a basketball doesn’t guarantee that he’ll love the game. That’s where I think J’s enthusiasm for Korean things is partly just who he is. But the fact is when he came home as an infant, we had no idea if he’d be interested in Korean things or not. We just decide to parent him in what we felt was the best way when it came to his birth country and culture.

Does talk about Korea and Korean things fill our day? No. Our days are filled with learning the English alphabet, playing basketball, cooking, and so much more. But we include mentions of Korean things often in our regular conversations. And as a result, I feel that we’ve been laying a foundation that will help him as he begins the hard work of developing his own identity in a few years.

I hope is that J is always this passionate about his Koreaness. But realistically I know that his feelings about Korea and his ethnicity will probably ebb and flow throughout his childhood. And someday, when he’s older, we’ll know whether our choices were the right ones. In the meantime, we’ll plug along doing what we believe is best for our son.

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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: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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Please Teach Me English
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2009 Lost Memories

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