However, our life as an adoptive family has not been faring as well. The sacrifices have felt bigger. We left behind friends with families like ours (built through adoption), Taiwanese friends, a very active adoption group, my beloved book club, a city with diversity and two Asian food markets near our house. We know of only two other families who have adopted internationally, but when I attempted to host a gathering there wasn't any response. I am really hoping that this summer will bring a few more families...perhaps I should send out some kind of wanted ad encouraging adoptive families to move to Sicily? Selfish, but maybe it would work?
During our recent trip to Amsterdam, this came into clearer focus for me. We encountered several families who had clearly adopted from Asian countries. It stopped me in my tracks. Literally. I stared and had to fight the crazy urge bubbling up inside to tackle them and tell them that we were just like them. And it hit me then, that I was lonely for those friendships and that support that has always been in our lives until now. Prior to those "sightings" (I sound like a crazed stalker, don't I?) I had been focusing my energy on helping us all to adjust to a new culture.
Since moving here I haven't read any adoption related books, I haven't kept up with many adoption blogs, I haven't gotten on any of my yahoo adoption groups...these are all things that had previously been a big part of life. I think some of that happens naturally with time. Similar to being a first time parent...spend lots of energy and time reading all the latest parenting books, buying all of the newest gadgets and safety items, searching for reassurance that you are doing everything the "right way" and then the second child comes along and suddenly all of that activity seems excessive and there isn't any need or time for it. But I also think that part of my separation from the adoption world is related to this physical separation and it worries me a bit. We are very much in the minority here in Sicily. If we lived in Northern Europe or Spain, we would have larger sources for support. Whenever we travel with Camille...small Sicilian towns, Turkey (lots of commentary there about traveling with an Asian child), Germany, and our recent trip to Naples...we are suddenly under very close inspection. Most of the attention is just curiosity and genuine interest, some of it has bordered on rude, and some of it is religious which doesn't sit well with me (God bless us for "saving" her...see Laurie's recent post where she speaks even more eloquently about this).
Getting attention in public isn't a new thing and in many ways Camille handles it better than any of us, but feeling so isolated is new for us. And I worry that it is happening during a crucial developmental time. Camille is more aware than ever of differences in skin color, family composition, and birth stories. She is trying to make sense of it all and somehow place it in the context of the princess stories she loves so much. I have been working hard to introduce more multicultural stories and characters, but she often refuses and wants to re-read the stories of those lily white princesses that swoon and twirl. I have been pulling out more adoption stories lately (if you have any favorites, please share) and most of the time she is receptive and responsive. And then there is "Year of the Dog" which we have on audio book and she listens to almost compulsively these days. I think she is drawn more to the humor than the Taiwanese connection, but I am glad she enjoys it. But in my heart I know that books and Asian dolls are not enough. I try to reassure myself that she is becoming a Global citizen of the world...speaking Italian, traveling, making friends where ever we go, but underneath it all I also worry that at this stage in her life she shouldn't be the only one. The only Asian child living with a white family in Sicily.
When I recently went to apply sunscreen on Camille's arm, she wanted more because she worried she was getting too brown. She said she wanted to have white skin. It hurt to hear those words coming out of her mouth. I wasn't shocked. I have had friends tell me about similar conversations with their kids. I know that all children have things that bother them, that set them apart, that lead to teasing. I have read books. And I have to admit there is some basis for her desire to have different skin. She is surrounded by people with lighter skin. But it still took my breath away for a moment and made me wish we could give her a different experience. I really, really wish I could get on Amazon.com and order up some adoptive families, some darker skin for myself, playmates with a wider variety of skin tones and have them all sent to Sicily by express mail. Guess I will have to settle for ordering some new books and give some serious thought to where we will move next.
***My mom made the doll in the photo. She got the kit last year during her trip to London. Camille loves her new dolly and promptly named her Ni Hao Kai-Lan...which is way better than Ariel, but still...