Fitting In

February 5, 2010 DonnaT 4 Comments

You probably think I’m going to tell you that my adopted Chinese daughters are represented by that lonely red flower but if you guessed that, you’re wrong.

My girls are actually better represented by the two lovely yellow ones (no pun intended) in the upper left. Can you spot them? One is taller than the other and they’re both standing happy and proud right next to each other. Just as you’ll almost always find them here in the real world.

At first glance, the yellow tulips all look the same. But are they really the same? If you look closer, you’ll see that they have different sizes and shapes. Some bloomed sooner and are already starting to fade while others are still waiting for the perfect moment to show the world what they’re made of. Many have imperfect or broken or missing petals. Some are so tightly clumped together that they nearly disappear completely in a bright blur of yellow while others seem to prefer to stand all alone.

I thought about this photograph when Gwen and Maddy brought home their Kindergarten class photo last week. I quickly scanned all of the little faces for my two sweet girls and then I took a moment to stand back and examine the entire class photo in a bit more detail. My girls have been talking about most of these kids for months so it was fun to finally be able to put the faces and names together.

The first thing I noticed was that most of the kids were Asian. I always sorta knew this (since we researched the school before we moved here) but didn’t realize the ratios had grown to be this wide. I specifically looked for Caucasian kids in each class (my girls are in different classes) and I only spotted one. All of the rest of the kids were quite obviously Asian or Indian (one or two Black or Latino). Really, I’m not good at guessing but I’d say that the overwhelming majority (75% or more) were clearly Asian while the rest were Indian and a tiny fraction (like one or two kids total) were something else. Only one was unmistakably Caucasian and I couldn’t help but wonder how it was going to be for THAT kid growing up.

What does this mean to my kids?

I think it means that they are the ones who will have to be tolerant and open minded and accepting of classmates who are “different” (instead of the more common situation in International Adoption that it be the other way around). I’m glad my girls will fit in — in almost all of the immediately obvious ways — but I also hope they’ll be kind and compassionate and make the red flower kids feel like they belong and fit in too because some of those red flower kids will discriminate against them when the tables are turned. And the tables will turn constantly.

The world is much more multi-cultural than it was when I was growing up but that doesn’t mean that kids will automatically embrace all of those differences. My husband and I have a big job ahead of us because our girls won’t always be able to blend in. We need to prepare them for that. But we also have to prepare them for the reality that other people will feel like they’re unaccepted too. It’s a big job and I hope we’re up for it.

More about us at Double Happiness.

4 responses to “Fitting In”

  1. Kim says:

    I love how God works in such unpredictable ways! The greatest blessing of our expat assignment is living for the first time as the minority!
    Blessings from Hong Kong,

  2. Ellie says:

    What a great post! We are getting ready to move and while my elder daughter (11.5) has about 30% Asians in her current school (here in Australia) – who knows what the ratio will be for my younger "asian daughter" wherever we end up. I will definitely look for a school where she can at least have a friend or two who look like her. More importantly, I hope I can teach her acceptance for everyone in her class, no matter what they look like! 🙂

  3. Donna says:

    Oh, Kim! I'm so envious! We hope to have a chance to live overseas with our family for a while. As a former Army person, I've done it many times and it's something I'd love to let my kids experience.

    Our Blog: Double Happiness!

  4. Donna says:

    Ellie, I didn't know Australia had a large Asian population. But we just visited London last summer and I was shocked to see that it's extremely multi-cultural. The world is changing, huh! A good change too!

    Even though diversity is important, I personally think it's really important that children go to school with other kids who look like them. We just watched "Adopted" last weekend and this issue (not fitting in) seemed to be the main source of grief for the leading character in that movie. And I've read about it over and over again on various adult adoptee blogs.

    I'm sure we'll never move our kids to a school where their ethnicity is under represented. Adults can be pretty darn mean but kids can REALLY be cruel. I spent a very painful year in a school where I was one of just a few girls of my race. We were tormented daily and I was in 8th grade so it was already a very confusing time for me. Trust me, that year was hell but it changed my life. I could have grown up bitter and angry but, instead, I became MUCH more compassionate about suffering. It was a good lesson but one I'd never subject my kids to. I guess I'm overly sensitive to this particular thing because of my personal history. In fact, our choice to adopt from China was heavily weighted on the fact that there are LOTS of Chinese people in our neighborhood, schools, workplaces and our personal inner circle of friends.

    Our Blog: Double Happiness!

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