Why Wait?

The process of international adoption seems to just get longer. And during the process, the wait is excruciating. But you know, the wait provides some wonderful opportunities too–opportunities to begin learning about and embracing your child’s birth culture.

While you have to wait until you’re matched with your child to begin lifebooks and nursery decorating, birth culture education can start as soon as you’ve identified the country that you’ll be adopting from. And the sooner the better, I think.

Our birth culture education began about three weeks into our process. An emphasis was put on embracing and honoring our child’s birth culture during our parents-in-process class, and we took the message to heart. Within a couple of weeks, we’d located and eaten at a Korean restaurant and started calling around looking for Korean language classes in our area. About a month after our class ended, we’d found someone to begin teaching us Korean.

And while we didn’t waste any time learning about Korea and it’s language, I still wish we’d done more. realistically I tell myself that we probably did just about all we could during our embarassingly-short wait (six months from seeing our son’s photo and starting our homestudy to bringing him home). But I wish I’d known more Korean–songs and phrases that might have been comforting to our son. I wish I’d know about jook, the porridge-like soup that babies eat in Korea. I wish we’d made more connections with our local Korean community.

Many families today have two- to five-year processes to adopt internationally. It seems like the perfect time to begin learning about the birth culture; just think of how much a person can learn in that time period. During the wait you want something to occupy your time. Not to mention once you have an adjusting baby or toddler at home, your time to learn new things will be limited for a while.  

But if you’re diligent about embracing the birth culture from the start, the birth culture can already be a part of your family by the time the child comes home. Cooking food from that culture could be second nature; just a regular part of your family’s menu. Family members could be regularly using words and phrases from the birth culture’s language. You could be well-versed in the birth culture’s etiquette, history, and pop culture (if the country is more modern), giving your family and especially the child you’re bringing home a wonderful foundation in the birth culture. And you already have friends and connections within the ethnic community that your child will be a part of.

So with the majority of the adoptive parenting advice these days noting the importance of embracing the birth culture, why aren’t more families taking advantage of the time they have before their child comes home to delve in? My thought is that most families don’t because they still see the birth culture as something for the adopted child to embrace, but not something that should be of interest to the whole family.

Adoption parenting is complex (yes, I know all parenting is complex, but adoption parenting has extra layers), and embracing the birth culture is an important part of that complexity. When we bring an international adoptee into our families, the family unit becomes multicultural and transracial. I think showing that we love our children’s birth cultures (even if it means working to learn to the love it) and making those cultures part of our everyday family life helps give our children a much-needed foundation that they’ll be able to build on as they grow.

After all, even as Americans, our children’s ethnicity and birth culture will continue to be part of who they are.  So we, as parents, should be leading by example and making it OK for our kids to embrace that part of themselves. And in the process, we can have a lot of fun learning about a new culture.

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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.

Favorite Korean Movies-TV Shows

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

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2worlds1familyblog at gmail dot com

It’s a Small World After All

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