The Real Thing
My husband Tim and I adopted our daughter Willow, who is now 12, from China when she was 9 months old. We were told by the adoption agency that once the process was complete and the three of us were back home, many people would stop to inquire about our daughter’s Mongolian features or why she did not look like us.
It may be that having a child of a different ethnic background from yourself is more difficult in other parts of the country. And certainly that may lead to problems. But In my neighborhood in Brooklyn I see black women with half-Asian, half-black kids and I see kids with dark skin and blond hair — the mother is white, the father is not. There are Indian fathers and Caucasian mothers with their offspring. There are families with two dads. There are also Hasidic families with ten kids and Muslim women dressed in full burkas who have dressed their daughters the same way.
So here in New York City, we haven’t attracted too much attention.
Well, O.K., sometimes.
It is true when she was a baby, if I took her out on my own, sometimes people did ask me, “Is the father Chinese?” If I said “yes” the usual response was “Good for you!” This puzzled me, so then I just said, “Either Chinese, or some black dude – who can remember?”
But as always, if you don’t have one kind of problem, you will automatically be given another.
There are more than enough for seconds! Even fifths!
One thing I figure, whether adopted, mixed race, religious, non-religious, whether your child is biological, whether you send her to Hebrew school or piano lessons – there is no one who does not resent his or her parents, We all have this in common. Indeed, it may be what makes us human.
Everyone feels they are doing the best possible job as a parent. But apart from the most obvious types of abuse, there is little that is clear-cut in regard to child rearing. Some discipline their kids and refuse to allow them to go to school dressed in a tutu. Others allow them to eat McDonald’s. Even if your house is tidy, this could be a mistake in child-rearing! So could being a vegetarian! Or serving meat!
A girlfriend who is now on the waiting list for a child from Ethiopia says that the talk of her adoption group is a recently published book in which many Midwestern Asian adoptees now entering their 30s and 40s complain bitterly about being treated as if they did not come from a different cultural background. They feel that this treatment was an attempt to blot out their differences, and because of this, they resent their adoptive parents.
So in a way it is kind of nice to know as a parent of a child, biological or otherwise – whatever you do is going to be wrong. Like I say to Willow: “Well, you know, if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!”
And she says — as has been said by children since time immemorial — “So what, I don’t care. I would rather do that than be here anyway.”
My friend has a biological kid who said one day, “I hate you.” She cried and cried and told the child how deeply hurt she was.
I have heard those words, too, and my child is not biological. Like, I care? Hate me or love me, I am her mother and she knows it and since she is not getting a reaction out of me she almost immediately revises her opinion.
Is it my fault she is still angry because I kept coming home with another dog? I would have been thrilled, if I was a kid, to have six poodles! How was I supposed to know she would turn out to be the type who didn’t like dogs? And she says even if she did like dogs, she only likes mixed breeds!
“You should keep a list of everything I’ve done to you,” I have often suggested, “That way, later, you can read it to your therapist. Otherwise you might forget.”
Sometimes I think, Well, maybe I should be more of a disciplinarian. But what am I going to do, lock her in her room? She has an ensuite bath, a computer, cell phone and a game boy and if I say, I will take those away she says, “So what, who cares?”
Same with TV privileges. “Go watch TV!” I tell her.
“No, I don’t want to.”
“You will watch TV, young lady.” It’s no use.
I know that there are some women who have given birth who believe that the type of love they have for their child is more intense, more real, than the love I have for my kid, because they hatched it themselves. This argument makes no sense to me. After all, the fathers (until recently) never could be sure that it was their sperm that made them the dad.
You might as well say, “Listen, Daddy-O, you had ten minutes max of involvement in the creation biz, and you didn’t even get to pre-approve the winning sperm, And if your kid is the product of the fastest sperm in the bunch, that is just plain pitiful. How could you care about the child?”
However I would no more say this than ask someone with a baby if they were certain the father was human.
I also know women who never really bonded with their kid – biological, or adopted.
I figure, Willow, she’s my kid, she just got here differently. I don’t remember floating around in my mother’s womb, or coming out of the vaginal canal – but I still know that person is my mother, even if she is a little off.
And my kid knows I’m her real mother.
Not biological, but real. It doesn’t get any realer than