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Importance of Racial Socialization

In catching up on some reading, I ran across this article.

It talks about a study done by the Evan B. Donaldson Institute on the importance of helping your transracially adopted child build a healthy racial identity. And how, in reality, doing so probably the most important thing you can do as a parent, even more important than cultural knowledge and language.

Anyone who has read this blog for long knows how much we love embracing J’s birth culture and learning the language. But I have to agree that the most important thing we’ve done in our five-year adoption journey is make connections with our local Korean American community. Our lives were racially diverse before making those connections, but weren’t rich with Korean Americans, or even Asian Americans. And that general diversity wasn’t enough.

Without those racial/ethnic connections our son felt alone, like he didn’t fit. He had friends, a loving family, a “good” life, but something was obviously missing. And even at 5 years old, J felt that missing part profoundly.

Since starting taekwondo in April with a wonderful Korean American master and many Korean American students, J has found he does fit. Several times a week he’s with others who look like him. Deepening friendships with other Korean adoptive families have shown in him that our family fits. And Korean school allows us to make more connections within our local community while learning culture nuisances that will help J in the future.

The cutlural stuff is fun. Holidays are a blast to celebrate. The food is yummy. And we love the challenge of a new language. And while all of those things have a place of importance in J’s life, ultimately they weren’t enough. The relationships; the mentors; seeing Mom and Dad being the ethnic minority–those are what’s had the most positive impact in J’s sense of self.



New Culture Blog

When I began this blog almost two years ago, I thought it would be mostly about how adoptive families can incorporate their child’s birth culture into their everyday lives. But it’s evolved into something more.

So, I’ve decided to start another blog that will be only on Korean culture and provide resources for adoptive families. My plan is to have a short post every day for the next year. Each day of the week will have a dedicated theme that will only be interrupted if a Korean holiday falls on that day. Then I’ll post about the holiday. Here’s what the schedule will look like.

Sunday-Food (recipes and food web sites)
Monday-Places to See (travel tips)
Tuesday-Language (Web sites and other language tools)
Wednesday-Books (for both parents and children)
Friday- Television and Movies (again for both parents and children)
Saturday- Whatever Comes Up (educational resources, for example)

This blog will continue to be what it’s become–a recording of our adoption journey, my thoughts on international/transracial adoption, and cultural resources that I want to share. But since this blog has become more about our journey and my opinions, I thought it would be fun to do a site dedicated only to Korean culture.

You can find this new culture blog at It will start today, March 13, which is the anniversary date of our adoption journey. I would love to hear about and pass on any Korean resources you’ve found. So if you have something to share, you can e-mail me at the address in the right-hand column.


Happy Holidays

For those who check the blog regularly, I must apologize for being absent. While November and December are busy for most people, these months are kind of insane at our house considering that in addition to the holidays we have some birthdays and a wedding anniversary thrown in.

Many themes have caught my attention lately so I have lots I’d like to be writing about. But it’s going to have to wait until after the holidays. I’m truly thankful that this blog has received some attention this year and hope that our journey is helping other adoptive families as travel down similar roads.

So happy holidays to all of my readers. I hope that the new year brings you much joy.


Joy and Sadness–The Irony of Adoption

I’ve been struggling lately. Our son is just a couple of months away from turning 4 and as of last week has been home for three years. He’s a joy (most of the time). But parenting has been harder than I ever imagined. (And I wasn’t one of those people who idealized parenthood by any means.)

The preschool years are filled with lots of behavior issues. Children at these ages are testing their limits, experiencing new-found freedom as they’ve learned to walk/run, and voicing their opinions. All children do these things at these ages. But as an adoptive parent who’s educated about the effects of adoption, I’m always left wondering if some behavior issues or struggles are adoption related. And sadly, I figure I’ll be wondering this for the rest of my son’s growing up years.

Sometimes I wish I were an adoptive parent who had remained blissfully ignorant of adoptions issues. One who could still only see the joy in this child joining our family. Who refused to believe that my child is struggling or will struggle. One who feels it’s God’s will for this child to be part of our family; that he was meant just for us.

But I’m not that AP. I don’t feel guilt over adopting my son. I know his story and believe that given the circumstances his first mom made the decision she thought was best for him. But I do feel sadness. Sadness over what he has lost. Saddness over the ways that those early losses continue to affect him.

My son constantly asks if I’m protecting him, like when he’s in one room and I’m in another. And he’s still unable to sleep by himself through the night. I’m sure some bio kids have these issues too. But I feel without a doubt that these are results of my son’s early losses.

And given my feelings about adoption, I at times feel very alone. After two years, I finally found an online community of similar-minded APs. They have been a support and encouragement. But those parents who live near me, those who could be lean-on in hard times friends, don’t share my feelings of ambiguity about adoption. Some do share some of my feelings; others remain completely joyful about the process of adoption.

I recently saw one AP wearing a shirt that said “Adoption Rocks.” I cringed. I know too much these days about corruption, supply and demand, coercion, and societal pressures to believe that adoption always rocks. It’s the irony I live with daily–the joy of raising my son and the saddness about what being adopted really means for him.


Only Shades of Gray

I’ve recently returned to reading blogs of adult Korean adoptees. I’d laid off for awhile because so often the thoughts depressed me and made me question whether adopting our son was the right thing for him. Some recents posts have me a funk again, which is part of the reason my posts have been sporadic lately. Maybe it’s time for another hiatus.

Why do I torture myself, you ask? Because I feel it’s important to acknowledge and understand (to the best of my ability) the feelings of all transracial adoptees. It’s easy to stick with the ones who say they’re fine with their adoption, that race hasn’t been an issue for them, and that assimiliation worked out just fine (since most adult adoptees were raised under the advice to assimilate them and make them American). It’s much harder to listen to the adoptees who are no longer speaking to their adoptive parents, who are outspoken about the injustices of transracial and intercountry adoption, and who would prefer the practice of international adoption to end.

Of course, both prespectives are valid because we’re all unique individuals. Two people can go through the exact same experience and come away from it with vastly different opinions. Our prespectives are colored by everything that has gone on in our lives up to that point. And no two people have exactly the same experiences.

And, of course, each person is looking at the bigger picture through the filter that is their experience. That’s why I think many of the issues I’m reading about aren’t black and white, but really shades of gray.

Many adult adoptees feel that if there were more of a social system to support single mothers (especially in Korea) that more first moms would choose to parent their children. Is that true? Probably for some; but I doubt it would be true for all. Because it were true for all, the U.S. shouldn’t have any children placed for adoption at birth. We have the social system in place to support them, and the social stigma of being a single mom doesn’t really come into play anymore (generally speaking). Yet the U.S. still has first moms choosing adoption.

The next shade of gray comes when the social system is in place and young mothers do choose to parent their children. Is that always the best option? I know that adoption comes with issues. But so does being raised in poverty. One statistics I found stated that 80 percent of teenage mothers end up in poverty and reliant on welfare. (Maynard, Kids Having Kids).

So the U.S. system–while providing support and lack of social stigma–has it’s issues too. And with so many kids ending up in foster care in the U.S., I wonder if earlier adoption wouldn’t have been a better option. Maybe it would have been better if those children had been adopted at birth instead bounced from foster home to foster home?

I agree that international adoption has it’s problems, ranging from adoptee issues to corruption. It’s not an ideal solution. In a perfect world, every child would be born into a family who could love and support him in every emotional and financial way needed. In a slightly-less-than-perfect world, every child would be raised in the country where she was born by loving adoptive families who are able to provide for her needs.

But in this far from perfect world, I still think being adopted internationally by a family who loves and cherishes you is better than being raised in an orphanage. Yes, I realize that not everyone gets a loving family. And it pains me to think of the adoptees who end up with parents who abuse them. I admitted already that the system is flawed.

So it all comes down to prespective. And if we’re all honest with ourselves, there probably isnt’ much cut-and-dry about the issues of international adoption. It’s all shades of gray.


Korean Independence Day–광복절 (Gwangbokjeol)

Well, my plan had been to remind everyone a week or so ago that August 15 is Korean Independence Day. Sorry to say, that didn’t happen. But I thought I’d share some thoughts about the day, even if it’s too late to encourage you to celebrate.

On this date in 1945 Japan surrendered to the Allied forces during World War II, thus ending the Japanese occupation of Korea. Then on this day three years later in 1948, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) was officially established.

Our family spent the day at an event hosted by our local Korean association. The day was beautiful and sunny–the perfect setting for a celebration. (Unlike last year when it poured rain and many of the festivities had to be cancelled because they were outdoor-only activities, like a volleyball tournament.) We enjoyed lots of Korean food, heard the Korean national anthem and a celebratory song about the day, did three cheers of “Mansei,” which is like the English hurrah, saw a performance of Korean drummers (drumming is one of J’s fascinations so he loved this), and visited with Korean-Americans from our area.

But for me, it’s also a day to reflect on our son’s first family. Having read several histories about the Japanese occupation of Korea and Korea’s liberation, I wonder about his family’s experience. Were they originally living in what is now North Korea? Were they separated from family members during the Korean War? Did they lose sons, uncles, grandfathers during the fighting?

And I wonder if these are questions J will ask when he’s older. Will he wonder about his family’s experiences? They are questions that may never be answered. But I know that may not stop him from wondering. It doesn’t stop me.

Every year the Korean association invites our local Korean War veterans to the Independence Day celebration. Because, as everyone knows, the fight for the Korean penisula didn’t end with the establishment of an official government in South Korea. In 1950 North Korea invaded the South and a three-year battle ensued with each side at one time or another taking almost the entire penisula for themselves, before things settled back with a division at the 38th parallel and cease fire between the two countries.

A few years ago I met a Korean War vet and thanked him for his service. He then thanked me because he said most people don’t think much about the service these men gave or appreciate it. So it’s wonderful to see these men recognized each year at our local celebration. It is easily to see that the two communities–Korean American and the veterans–have such an affection for each other.

So today, I’m thankful for Korea’s independence and thankful to all who helped bring it about. I pray that someday the people in North Korea will experience the same freedoms that those in South Korea now have. And that the country will be one again.


Myth No. 2 (about International Adoption)

2. Our child is just American. It’s true that children who are raised in America will be American. But in America, at this present time, any person of color isn’t just an American.

A family member recently posed that question to me when I said it’s nice to have a president who is a person of color. He said, “Why can’t we just be Americans? Why do we have to be African Americans and Asian Americans?” My response was that as long as there are people in America who treat people of color differently, there will be a need for people of color to define themselves in a postive light. (At least it’s my view that our current labels for various ethnic groups came about because others chose to use derogatory terms to describe them.)

And that’s one reason our transnationally adopted kids aren’t just Americans. While they live our communities, maybe they can just be Jim and Jane. But once they leave that insulated community, they’ll first be seen as Asian Americans or Latino Americans. Certain stereotypes will be assigned to them. I’ve heard so many adult adoptees talk about how many times they’re told they have such good English.

Another reason that aren’t just Americans is that biologically they are 100 percent something else. I know this gets into the whole nature v. nurture discussion, but I believe there are somethings that are going to be inherent in our son just because he’s biologically Korean (his height, for example). And if our kids return to their birth countries, people there will have certain expectations too. They look Korean, so why can’t they speak the language?

That’s why our kids need to know about race in America, need mentors who can help them understand what it means to be Asian/Latino/Black in America, need to have some knowledge of their birth countries, speak their birth language. Yes, they are American, but they’re so much more.

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