Moving and Identity

August 13, 2006

It hit me today that our upcoming move to the States feels like a return to home for me but for Noah it feels like we are moving to a foreign country. He asked me today "Do they have popsicles in America?". A few days ago he wanted to know if there were trains in the States. He is worried about not having indoor parks.

Japan has been his home since he was five months old. He has grown up eating onigiri (rice balls stuffed with fish and wrapped in seaweed), tempura, and Japanese curry. Instead of seeing farm animals, he can rattle off the names of exotic sea life and tropical creatures like fruit bats and habu pit vipers. Instead of making drawings of cows or horses, he loves to draw sea snakes and jellyfish. He bows and takes his shoes off when he enters homes.

During the waiting period of our adoption, I read a lot of books about adoption, attachment, and raising children in a multi-racial families. I read in preparation for our new daughter's arrival/referral. I imagined scenarios and conversations about why she looks different than her brother, how families can look many different ways, etc. But I did not anticipate Noah's comment in Taiwan when we picked her up from the orphange "why don't I have black hair? Why don't I look like Camille and everyone else?" His blonde hair and blue eyes have always attracted attention in Japan, but until he got older and until Camille's arrival I don't think he had really internalized the fact that he does not look Asian. I guess I should have anticipated this "issue" but it really caught me off guard. I always think of myself and my family as American and assume it is not only obvious to those around us, but also clear to my children. In many ways, I think of us as the epitomy of an American family...a mixture of different religions, cultures, and races. But I guess in some ways Noah's recogition that he is "different" from the majority of people around him right now will be Camille's experience in a few years. And also a good reminder that identity is a complex issue.
Morena, Andy, Dominic & Christian said...

It is so interesting to see this through our children's eyes. Dominic suffered quite a bit from culture shock when we left Okinawa...the only home he'd ever known. It took some time, but he was quickly won over by all the indoor play areas at the malls, children's museums, and parks. He still loves Japanese food and takes his shoes off when entering a home, though!

amazing grace said...

such an interesting post! i love how he asked if 'there are popsicles in America?' very cute! I do hope that your move and transition to the states goes well for your whole family.

mom to Gracen

Ann said...

Noah is so lucky, to have experienced a different country. Hopefully he will take much of the Japanese culture with him as he grows. The good think about Jax is that there is so much ethnic diversity here due to the military. I'm sure you will meet someone that will bring a taste of Okinowa back to your family.

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