Wednesday, December 14, 2011

International Adoption Can Make the Holidays Taste Sweeter

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Here's a link to a story I wrote for today's Philadelphia Inquirer about how families with internationally adopted children incorporate their children's heritage into the holidays.

It was great fun doing all of the interviews and hearing how different families, like the Braydon-McCormicks, mesh all of the cultures represented in their multi-culti clans during the Christmas season. Of course, because this was a newspaper article, I didn't get to include half the information I wanted to, given the limited space. For one, I would have liked to include more details about just how thoughtful these different families are in their celebrations. It's not like they just hang up some extra ornaments on the tree and call it a day. I also would have liked to include some Jewish families with adopted children in the story as well. Maybe next time.

The main nugget of truth I walked away with after talking to all of these great people, was that an adopted child's heritage isn't just acknowledged on special occasions and holidays. It becomes the family's heritage. As one of the mother's I interviewed, Kate Rupertus, said. "Our family is now Irish, Italian and Ethiopian." And that was evidenced by the beautiful Ethiopian decorations in their home as well as the fact that on St. Patrick's day, all of the kids go green. In other words, the child isn't just adopted into the family, his culture is too.

Makes my heart sing. I love these meltingpot moments.



Amy said...

I'm glad that these parents are being thoughtful about incorporating aspects of the adoptees' native cultures into their lives. I do hope that the parents go beyond food and holidays (the easier stuff) and are able to discuss and guide their kids through the racism and identity issues they will inevitably face.

I've seen, heard, and read about so many interracial adoptions gone awry (some in truly horrific ways) that interracial adoption often makes me uneasy (intentions are often good but there can sometimes be so much hurt and complications).

I hope people remember that every adoption represents great gain (new family, new culture, new opportunities) but also deep loss (loss of one's blood family, native culture, sense of belonging). Token celebrations will never make up for that loss. An interracial adoptee often becomes an outsider, never quite fitting into the world of the adoptive family/culture nor the biological family/native culture. It often takes an interracial adoptee a lot of hard work to become comfortable in his/her skin.

Andi Sibley said...

I really appreciate your article and this blog post. I try to bring as many African American and Cuban influences as possible into our family to support and celebrate my two adopted son's cultures, as well as sharing our other family heritage strains with them. I have worked on finding ways to incorporate Kwanzaa celebrations into our family traditions, for example, because I love the values taught and the African history/heritage that is so highly valued in the teachings, celebrations, and principles. Not all, or even most AA families celebrate Kwanzaa so it is challenging. As a white mom I sometimes find myself being the one who comes into my son's first grade class to do the Kwanzaa talk/activity and it feels a little funny, but I love doing it. And the kids enjoy it. I like it even more when we are in the audience together hearing a storyteller in an traditional African presentation. I would be delighted to hear more suggestions about ways to build and expand our participation and community ties throughout the year.

Andi Sibley said...

I want to add to my comment. I know some people think Kwanzaa is a "made up" holiday and not really worth investing in. What I like about it though is that it is one really big way that you can find materials teaching strong African family values and a positive force for building on that foundation. I can teach my son's about the greatness of African history, the power of the people, the beauty and strength and loveliness of their heritage in a focused way. It works for our family in so many ways. I really wish there were more celebration and support for things like this!

Anonymous said...

The idea of Kwanzaa being a made up Holiday doesn't hold water. Mainly because every holiday is made up at some point!

LT said...

Thank you for your comments. And I can definitely say the families I interviewed are doing the right things all year around, but I know many people aren't doing so much and it's troublesome. But hopefully, they will learn as they come in contact with more people who can help them.

Wow, thank you for sharing your experiences. And kudos to you for making the effort with your sons. It does make a difference. And one suggestion I might offer is to look for a church where there is a large population of Cuban/Afro-Latinos where you can easily tap into the culture and heritage of your sons and become really part of a community. That's always a good start.

I think many people do consider Kwanzaa a 'made-up' holiday because it was "invented" rather recently as opposed to holidays like Christmas, Easter and Hanukkah which have been celebrated for hundreds of years. But just as religion is a man-made construct, one could say then that all holidays are 'made up' by man.

Alicia said...

We celebrated Enkutatash (Ethiopian New Years) participating in a big event hosted by the Ethiopian community of our city and are getting ready to attend our first Genna celebration (Ethiopian Christmas) where our kids will dance traditional ethiopian music. This event is also organized by Ethiopians living in our town.
I think that is wonderful that the adoptive community and the Ethiopian community have come together to preserve the culture of Ethiopia abroad.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alicia,

Thank you for inorporating and celebrating your children's Ethiopian culture.


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How international adoption works ? I don't get it after all.