Revisiting “And So It Begins…”

In April I wrote a post about our son wishing he’d never left Korea. He said it a couple of times and once put it this way, “If you wanted me to be happy all the time, you would have left me in Korea.” These comments are never easy to hear as an adoptive parent, even if you know where they are coming from. But over the last six weeks or so lots of things have changed and, as I’ve had more time to reflect more on his comments, I’ve come to some interesting conclusions.

First, those comments pushed us to make more contact with the local Korean American community, which is something we’ve known we needed to do but it’s hard and we hadn’t put in the effort we should have. So now J is taking taekwondo from a Korean American master and is getting to see other Korean Americans on a daily basis. J also attended the last four weeks of our local Korean American school’s spring semester as a trial to see if he’d like to attend full-time in the fall. We’ve had friends whose adopted children have had less-than-positive experiences at the school, but our son loved it and is excited to go full-time in the fall. The school is a mixture of full Korean American families, biracial families, and adoptive families. It’s great that J is getting to see the variety of Korean American families that are out there.

And since making these new connections, we haven’t had any more comments about wishing he’d never left Korea, although J’s continued to say he wants to visit Korea. The month before those comments had been a stressful one with the death of my father-in-law and an unplanned visit to Arkansas for the funeral. While the circumstances of that trip were stressful, I think being round the extended family also just emphasized to J how he’s different, which lead to comments that he needed to be where he “fit.”

Even if I “get” where the comments were coming from, I’m thankful that I believe now he’s feeling more like he belongs here–both in America and in our family. But I’ve also started to look at the comments he made from a different perspective. As I reflected on them one day, I realized that most transracially-adopted kids make similar comments at this age, only they often come from a little different perspective. Most, it seems, say things like, “I wish I looked like  you” or “I wish I had hair like you, Mom” or “I wish I’d grown in your tummy.” They aren’t saying they wished they’d never left their birth countries, but they are still commenting on the desire to fit in.

Our son’s comments about desiring to fit in just took a different direction. And I’ve decided I prefer his direction.  Not because I want him to think he doesn’t belong, but because I believe his take on it says that he’s comfortable being of Korean descent. He didn’t desire to look like my husband or I to fit in; no, he desired to go where he knew he’d look like everyone else as his solution to fitting in. And I think in some ways that has to be healthy. To me it says that he’s got a healthy self-esteem in being Korean, which if you read here much you know he’s really into.

Once he leaves the nest society at-large will see him first as Korean (Asian) American so we’ve always thought it’s important that he knows what that means and is comfortable with it. I’ve never wanted him to think he’s white or wish he were. And as I thought on it more, I think his comments said that thus far we’ve helped him build that foundation of positive self-esteem in his Koreaness, as much as they said that he felt he didn’t really fit in.

That’s not to say that we could just sit back and not address his feelings in some way. I think it said to us that we’ve done OK so far, but that now it’s time to take it to the next step. That we’ve laid a foundation but now we NEED others–those who are Korean American–to help us as Jcontinues to build his view of self.

Which is why I’m so, so thankful for the opportunities God has brought into our lives in the last few weeks at just the time we needed them. I know this job of parenting a transracial adoptee isn’t something my husband and I can do alone. And I’m so thankful to be making connections that will allow us, as a family, to become a part of our son’s ethnic community, and ultimately help him on his journey.

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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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