Do you think a transnational adoptee needs to acknowledge their birth culture?
Maybe this sounds like a ‘duh’ question, but I like thinking about these types of questions because they can be so easily taken for granted. I pose this question because, through the blogosphere and various media, I have noticed many APs or future APs eager to integrate their child’s birth culture into the child’s life as much as possible. I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing. I’m simply curious. What informs us that this is the ‘right’ thing to do? What is a parent’s best hope for their child in making that decision?
My mom started integrating Korea into my life seemingly from the start. We were attending a local adoption group before I was out of diapers. The group was open to any family with adopted children, but ended up largely composed of KADs. We had parties at holidays, celebrated the Lunar New Year and many of us went to culture camp together during the summers. For us kids, it was really just time to have fun with friends. Or, if I’m being very honest, it was time for us to all feel awkward together trying say words in Korean and do a fan dance. By the time I was in middle school, most of my ‘generation’ had dropped out of the group and I didn’t want to go anymore, but my mom kept dragging me until I was about 15. I think she had a harder time letting go of it than me. I really didn’t care anymore. A parent might see this adoption group as a positive thing, but from the adolescent’s perspective, I didn’t see the point (and I really didn’t enjoy how wearing hanboks further flattened my nonexistent chest). If my mom had shoved Korean culture down my throat every day, I think I would have become highly resentful.
Today I am very interested in my heritage, but when I look back, I have to wonder if my mom’s choices to keep me involved in the adoption community affected where I stand now. I’m not really sure that it does. I don’t think that integrating a child’s birth culture into their life is necessarily a predictor for how they will feel about that culture as an adult. And for those who don’t recognize their heritage, are they any worse off than someone like me? Does it matter? I know one other KAD who stayed in the adoption group as long as me and today she’s rather indifferent. She’s married with a family, teaching and comfortably settled in suburbia. She has a good life. Never been to Korea, no plans to go or search for birth family. Does she need some more Korea in her life? I know other KADs just doing their thing and I don’t see anything wrong with it. Maybe one day they will feel differently. Maybe they won’t. I think we have just as much a right to pursue our birth culture as we have a right not to.
At the end of the day, I think we’re all just trying to find some measure of acceptance. Of belonging. The activities I did in adoption group didn’t mean nearly as much as simply being with other Asian kids with white parents. As for playing yut, making mandu, knowing how to write my name in hangul.. Some KADs just don’t give a damn about those things and I say it’s okay! Exploring my Korean heritage is turning out to be meaningful for me, but I’m only speaking for me. Adoptees, like anyone else, all find their own paths to fulfillment.