Adopted Friends

Posted on: August 3rd, 2018 by

Ari and Me

Ari and Me

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, you know that my daughter is a Chinese adoptee. When she became school-aged, she ran into problems: she felt isolated because she was one of the few Asians in her school, let alone one who had a white parent.

Understandably, she had identity problems and kept asking me, “Am I the only Asian in the world?”

I tried to explain how populous China is, and the fact that many Chinese Americans inhabit the Chicago area. But she wouldn’t listen, and she cried often, wanting her center, wanting a state of belongingness. So we did what was necessary: we moved to a more diverse area — and school system — that had a much greater Asian population.

Still, there was the issue of her being Chinese with a white parent, and the fact that Ari does not make friends easily. She’s such a sweet, easy-to-get-along-with kid, it seems she should draw friends of all backgrounds like a magnet. But she is shy, and it just wasn’t happening for her. We had a long way to go if she were going to become friends with other Chinese adoptees.

I am a shy introvert by nature. My students don’t believe this, as I’m extroverted in the classroom. Still, I’ve gradually developed a strong network of friends for myself, but didn’t know how to go about creating a foundation of solid friendships for Ari.

In particular, I wanted to normalize the Chinese adoption experience for her, so she would see many conspicuous families like ours: Chinese adoptees and their adoptive parents, often of another race. This would lay the foundation of her being secure with her identity.

I was an acquaintance of the people in my travel group, the group of we, the eight families who went to China to get our girls. But I was shy and a bit scared of new friendships, so I shied away more than I should have.

As a parent, I wanted to get Ari a bunch of friends who had a common thread. To do this, I had to come out of my shell. Like many people, I would do anything in my daughter’s best interest, so I started connecting with adoptive parents and setting up playdates. I had to overcome my aversion to introducing myself to new people.

And, remarkably, this process has led me to make friends — with the kids’ parents! At her new school, we met a Chinese girl who was adopted. I didn’t know her mom, but I bought a Hallmark card and wrote, “It appears our daughters have something in common. Maybe we can have a playdate? Here’s my cell number.” The mom texted me back, and we have since had playdates. Recently, during Chinese culture camp, I observed Ari and a girl becoming quite close. So I went way out of my comfort zone and approached the mother with an idea for a playdate. We exchanged contact information. I am so looking forward to having a new friend for Ari, and hopefully the girl’s mom and I will also hit it off.

And I’m especially close to some of the people in my travel group, thanks to more playdates. One parent in particular and I set up many playdates. I consider her a dear friend. Luckily for me, she is an extrovert, and she knows many people in the adoption community. And she introduced me to her friends with Chinese adoptees. And now I am fortunate enough to consider them my friends, as well.

It’s amazing that I’ve formed such good friendships with people whose paths I would’ve never had crossed — had it not been for adoption.

Some people have criticized me, saying that all I’m doing is creating a wall between Ari and other potential non-Chinese friends. But nothing is further from the truth. I’m not creating a wall; I’m building a foundation. At this crucial point in Ari’s life she needs to know she’s not alone: she is one in a huge community of Chinese adoptees. And, in fact, she has non-Chinese friends. This kid knows a lot about diversity.

With solid friendships built, Ari’s feelings of isolation dissipated, and she is much happier and better adjusted. And so am I. To learn about when I first adopted Ari, click here.

Friendships linked through adoption

Friendships linked through adoption

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6 Responses to Adopted Friends

  1. Elizabeth MacKenzie had this to say about that:

    Good for you, Beth! It is so hard to parent especially when what our kids need is out of our comfort zone.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Elizabeth. As we know, parenting is the toughest job in the world, and it often challenges us to go out of our comfort zones. :)

  2. Scott Johnson had this to say about that:

    Not sure if Ari is interested in teenage magazines though I think this article is pretty cool:
    Constance Wu Speaks Out About “Crazy Rich Asians” and Representation in Hollywood
    “I hope Asian American kids can watch CRA and realize that they can be the heroes of their own stories.”
    Allie Gemmill AUG 1, 2018 2:03PM

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Scott,

      I will check this link out. Thank you for your comment. The quote you cited is powerful and very fitting. Ari isn’t into teen magazines yet, although she is acting more like a teenager every day!

  3. Nancy Stordahl had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    Oh, the things we do for our kids! It’s not easy to step out of our comfort zones. Believe me, I get that. And yet you did – more than once, and you likely will again. I’m glad you and Ari both have made some new friends. I like how you put it, you’re building a foundation, not a wall. Indeed. You’re a good mom, Beth. Enjoy the rest of summer with your sweet girl.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thanks, Nancy. Yes, we parents often go to all ends of the Earth for our children, don’t we? I honestly don’t mind, as my life is richer for doing all this.

      Thank you for saying such a nice thing about my mom skills. I’m trying my best. :)

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