Starting

February 7, 2009


Another chunk of time and another letter. Hard to believe that this Valentine's Day will mark three years since Camille joined our family. A lot has happened since our last update. Yes, she has physically grown and become more adept at counting, singing, and jumping...those traditional milestones that I will share in our letter to her birthfamily. Those are the ones that are easy to share with the photos to document them. And then there are some new developments that may be more difficult to translate because they aren't on the typical developmental checklist.

Camille has recently become very interested in babies, especially the concept of pregnancy and birth. She is drawn to pregnant women and fascinated by the idea that babies grow inside their mamas. When this interest started, she talked about growing in my tummy. Noah quickly corrected her and abruptly informed her that only he had grown inside my tummy. And in an instant her face became confused and sad. I jumped in and reminded her that she had grown inside her Taiwan mama's tummy. We have told her this story many times, but for the first time she started asking questions. She wanted to know if I was there to "catch her" (we often talk about the fact that Daddy "catches" babies when he is working...note to self come up with a better way to describe the birth experience!). I gently told her I wasn't there but that we came a few months later. We talked about how much her Taiwan family loves her and we looked at photographs of them. It felt momentous to see her starting to comprehend, starting to absorb and form her story.

In addition to her interest in babies, Camille has also become very aware of physical traits. While reading books, she will point to other Asian children and say "she looks like me". I was kind of surprised to see her doing this on a regular basis. We have talked about difference in skin colors, but not much beyond that and I have never pointed to other Asian children and said "she/he looks like you". And yet she does. In the library last week, she noticed an Asian child standing in line with her mother. Camille stared at her and in a loud voice said "she looks like me". I don't ever remember Noah doing this. Is it a gender difference? Is it just normal development that I have forgotten Noah doing? Is it a result of our hyper vigilance/ desire to surround her with multicultural books or our concern about raising a child of a different ethnicity emerging in subconscious ways? I am glad to see her growing awareness, but while thinking about the letter to her family I wonder how to phrase this...." happy to report she is aware of her Asian appearance. happy to reassure you that we are regularly eating at Chinese restaurants and reading her books filled with Asian faces. She is also starting to ask questions and demonstrate awareness of her adoption story. She refers to you as her Taiwan mama and wants to know who was with you when she was born." These are not easy things to put into a letter that will be translated and read by her family and the orphanage staff, but in some ways they seem more important than the physical and developmental milestones we routinely share in our updates. At age three, Camille is starting to delve into parts of her past, parts of her identity, her story. Reading the words of adult adoptees I can anticipate that there will be many more questions, internal grappling, mixed feelings, and searching. I know that there will be times when I won't have the answer or the magic band aid for immediate comfort. I know that there will be parts of her journey and her story that she must do on her own. As I document this early stage of awareness, I just hope that she will know that she is loved, she is not alone, she will always have our support.
Tara said...

First, the photo took my breath away. It is arrestingly beautiful and shows her lovely features so well. Second, the sentiment and words made me cry, for happy, sad, and complicated reasons. I know these conversations are in our near future. I can imagine my son saying the same as yours, and yet for now I comfort him because he somehow thinks that it is more desirable to have two mothers.
Tara

Kellie said...

What a beautiful post. In every way.

holly said...

What a unique opportunity to reflect on Camille's life like this, I wish I did that more. She is a bright beautiful girl.

Not sure if you were asking for feedback on "is it normal" for kids to point out who they look like. My blonde haired blue-eyed daughter is drawn to dolls and pictures that look like her. While I can't think of specifics I know I've heard her use a similar phrase at some point in time while looking at books. "She has hair like mine!" or something along those lines. Like you say, being ultra-aware when it's more of a novelty to find her look-alikes may make it seem different. Am I making any sense??

Anonymous said...

Love the post and the picture! Ansley very early on noticed that she was the only one with brown eyes. I then pointed to her many cousins that had brown eyes. The straight black hair, another point of discussion. She was also quick to point out her skin was darker than ours. UNTIL, her brother came home from Ethiopia. Then, her skin was the same as ours and her brother was the different one. (a matter of perspective I guess)

She doesn't really grasp the whole idea for growing in the tummy yet, so that is yet to come. I see her observe and I'm sure she's coming up with her own analysis. It's just hard to figure out if she's getting it 'right' or not. The DUmplings group helps a lot as she sees so many families like her own. But then is she coming up with the wrong conclusion. We talk about her Taiwan family (which always brings a frown) and Turner's Ethiopian family, which always brings a question, "When is his family coming to get him". SO I know she is confused. Just how to clear it up and help her understand. My answer is usually, "They won't come get him. He's a member of our family forever, just like you and Sawyer and Judson"

It's like a mine field and you just never know where the mines are.

BTW, love the 'catching the baby' explanation.

Jan

Anonymous said...

Meant to say, when I took Ansley for a haircut, the lady who cut it was from Vietnam. Her 5 year old daughter was there and playing with ANsley. They were looking at kids pictures (in hair books). The other little girl was quick to say, she didn't like 'Yellow hair', only brown hair like her own. So kids notice and come up with opinions, whether guided by what they see or what they hear, not sure.

Jan

Mom said...

What a beautiful and thoughtful post. I too hope that Camille will always know just how loved she is by so many people in her life....in fact "all the way to the moon and back".
I think I remember your telling me about how Noah asked why he didn't look like Camille and the other children in Okinawa. I think he was about her age. I think that most of us judge how we look by the world around us, so it seems natural that children would do the same. The book that Cynthia's niece wrote, "Coffee with Cream" is about that growing awareness that develops in a child. One thing for sure is that Camille and our whole family are enriched by being part of each others lives.

morninglight mama said...

Let me reiterate everyone else's comments-- this is an incredibly thoughtful and respectful post. The fact that you are putting energy into this train of thought shows that you are really connecting to her needs!

I'd say that it most definitely is developmentally appropriate at her age to be aware (even hyper-aware) of her physical appearance, and would be even if she was in a very homogenous-appearing family. As a preschool teacher, I was very accustomed to children talking quite frankly about all the differences- and similarities- they shared with their classmates. Comments on hair, skin, and eye colors were a regular part of their conversations, and it was always at face value (without any of the value judgments attached to it!). My two year old gets VERY excited when a character in a book has "orange hair just like me!" (She gets very offended if anyone compliments her 'red' hair-- "It's orange!" is her usual response.)

And may I just say, once again, that I am in awe of you as a parent-- you are simply so wonderful to your children!!

Laureen said...

Hauntingly beautiful picture of Mei Mei. Very thought-provoking post... one that I need some time to process.

Party of Three said...

Lovely picture & lovely post. Camille is in good hands.

Morena, Andy, Dominic & Christian said...

I remember grappling with similar questions from Dominic, particularly about tummy mommies. This was when I found his lifebook to be really helpful, and it was during this questioning stage that we'd re-read his lifebook often, and it seemed to reassure him, especially seeing the pic of his birth mother and talking about his special story and how we became a family.

craftymama said...

that is a gorgeous photo! and a gorgeous kid- you are all lucky to have found each other!

Dawn said...

Beautiful! Amazing moments in your life... Thank you so much for sharing!

Corinne said...

That girl is SO LUCKY to have you as a mom. And you know I love the picture :)

Cloudscome said...

Came here from Becky's Book Reviews. This is a really lovely post. Your photograph of your beautiful daughter is stunning. My adopted African American sons have made similar comments and questions about their physical features, first families and ethnicity (I am white). I think it is very developmentally appropriate and the important things are to keep the conversations open and accepting, respect & allow them to have their own thoughts and feelings, and provide a lot of cultural connections for them in relationships that are meaningful. Just as you are working hard to do! It sounds like you are doing a fabulous job. I will enjoy continuing to read this blog.

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