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.
Tags: adoption, adoptive parents, Chinese adoption, Chinese friends