This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the KAAN (Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network) in Albany, NY. I traveled with a wonderful group of friends who I have gotten to know through our local adoption support group.
It was a weekend filled with thought provoking discussion on what it means to be "Korean," a "Korean adoptee," and a parent through adoption. Many sessions focused on issues related to discrimination and racism. It was eye-opening and made me think hard about my children's future.
Although the discussion were stirring a lot of feelings and thoughts for me, for some reason, in the back of my mind, I felt somehow removed from it. My children are young, and are rarely separated from me. Although we have had our share of "ridiculous adoption related questions" (you know the type), to my knowledge my children have never been addressed directly about their adoption or ethnicity.
My son is currently attending a day camp that celebrates diversity and differences. The goal of the camp is to promote "peace" and understanding of the differences among people. So far he is really enjoying it. Each day they talk about a different country and the culture of that country. Overall, it seems to be an excellent program and he is enjoying it.
In the car after I picked him up at camp, BG and BB were having one of "those" sibling interactions. I believe BG was singing loudly, and BB was yelling for her to be quiet. All of the sudden I hear BB yell, "You weren't born here!"
I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. I asked him where he had heard such a thing. He said that a "mean boy" at camp had said that to him.
How naive I was to think that I had time before my children would experience [negative] comments about their differences. I don't know if the other child knew my son was adopted, or he was making an assumption about his place of birth based on his appearance. As suggested by the context in which my son repeated it, the statement was not meant positively and was not question. This statement was directed towards him in a negative manner (and apparently had the intended impact on him). Although so young, he knew that it was not said nicely and that it was not (in the other child's mind) a good thing. What a message for such a young child to receive.
We had a conversation about how such comments are not nice, and that families come together in many different ways. He had some follow up questions about Eastern Babies Home (EBH) and where his sister was born. He told me he told an adult, but I can't really be sure he did. One thing I learned this weekend, is that many adoptees deal with these types of comments in silence and by themselves. Although he did not tell me directly, I am glad it came out in a way that we can deal with it.
Let the advocacy begin.