Family Issues

December 1, 2007

Last night we attended a talk by Jane Brown, MSW. She is one of the most recognized names in the adoption world. As an adoptive mother and social worker, she has written extensively about adoption, especially international adoption. She was here for a playshop weekend, where she works with adopted children and their families...using play therapy techniques and opportunities for children (bio and adopted siblings) to talk about issues related to adoption, identity, race. Our kids are too young to participate in the actual "playshop" so we attended the parent session. It was an interesting evening although I have to admit I left the building feeling overwhelmed. She addressed issues we have read or thought about, but hearing other parents share stories about their older children's struggles with bullying, racism, and grief made it feel much more real and made me wish I could just freeze our little family in time.....away from the social judgements, the emotional pain of grief and anger that comes with development and increased awareness, etc. But we can't.

The reality is that our family is a transcultural, transracial one and that will bring joy but also loss (of original family, original culture, original language, etc). She kept emphasizing the importance of surrounding our family with diversity. Living in a culturally and racially mixed area, schools where there are other children of color not just an occasional "representative" or "token", and the importance of friends (for both parents and children) who are not all white. In general we do enjoy having a broad mix of friends, but I couldn't help myself from feeling it isn't enough. That perhaps we need to create a personal ad: "Family seeking friends. All cultures and races welcome. We've reached our "white" quota. In search of more friends of color. Please help". I can understand the importance of surrounding ourselves with more than white, but it also feels awkward to purposely seek out those relationships. But then I start to place it in the context of our Jewish identity as a family. We do try to seek out Jewish friends (not always easy thanks to the Navy) because we feel it is important for our children to have pride and a connection to others who share the same beliefs and history. To know that it is ok to be different. To look forward to Shabbat each week because it is a joyful celebration and not some weird thing that only our family does. And we need to continue to do the same as a transracial/cultural family.

I could keep rambling on because my head is still full of the many issues raised in last night's lecture/discussion. But I will stop here. I know there will be situations in the near future. Uncomfortable talks. Joyful celebrations. Painful confrontations. This is part of parenting, but with some added issues in the mix. I know that we won't do it all perfectly. I know that we won't be able to protect our children from everything. That we will make some decisions or comments we will regret. But I hope our children will always know we love them dearly. We are trying our hardest. And we are proud of our little Jewish, Cajun, Taiwanese, American family.

And finally, if you are an adoptive family or work with adoptive families here is a link with articles written by Jane Brown. If you have the chance to participate in one of her playshop weekends, I would highly recommend it.
Corinne said...

That's a really thoughtful post. I love how you embrace your family's identity and uniqueness.

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