Friday, June 5, 2009

Identity Crisis

Now for the full & long story about the identity crisis. Well, maybe it's not quite a crisis, that's a bit strong, maybe it's more like an identity recognition. You see, my soon to be five year old is starting to question her own identity. Not in a bad way, just in a surprising way.

I guess it started while we were at the park a week or so ago. I noticed her really checking out this Asian family that was playing a few feet from us in the sand. And by Asian family, I mean the kids and the parents were all of the same ethnic origins (odd, huh...) . She watched rather intently for a bit, no expression and without comment, she just watched.
After a few minutes I asked her what she was thinking about. I got the shrug of the shoulders and a "nuthin" for a response. But she still watched them. I said "Well, I see those kids over there look a lot like you. Think they are from China, or maybe from Taiwan like baby bro?" To which I got another shrug. So I pressed a little further and said "Wow, they look a lot like their parents do, huh?" To which I got no verbal response, just another shrug. But she was still watching them closely.

And then she was off to play with her pal in the water...

Later that week I picked out our bed time stories. As I do most nights I got one or two "regular" books and one adoption related book. This one happened to be "When I was born in China". That night she wanted nothing to do with the book. Refused completely to let me read it, or "any of those china books" as she put it. I asked why she didn't want to read any of her adoptions books and she said she just didn't want to talk about it now (I assume she meant she didn't want to talk about adoption or related things).

So I got "Stage Struck" by Tommie D* instead.

But then while we were riding in the car over the weekend she informed her Daddy and me that she wants to change her name. She told us that she will no longer be called Simone. Now I was expecting to have the conversation we've already had... the one we had a month or so ago when she said her "other Mom" would have named her something cool like "Princess Buttercup".

But no, that was not the name she wanted to be called.

We asked what she wanted us to call her instead, what this new name was going to be. She replied seriously "QingLu...and then LuLu for my nickname". Really?? (you see in China they called her LuLu, and we of course have told her this, and we've called her it quite a bit too)
And she stuck by it, well whenever she remembered. If I called her Simone she would calmly say, "my name is QingLu, remember". She is back to being Simone most of the time, I guess it is exhausting trying to remember a new name all of the time. (Oh yes, I see the irony here...)

So my Mama mind is working in overtime again. How do I foster a love for both cultures, especially knowing so little about the one. Well, maybe saying "knowing so little" is not quite right, but just not being of that culture. I mean, I can read 1,000 books, take language classes, eat dumplings daily and participate in every Chinese cultural event offered in this area, but I still will never BE Chinese.
I want my children to grow up proud of who/what they are, and feel safe and comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings. Like being able to say "enough adoption/Chinese stuff...just let me be" or the flip side - feeling the need to tie themselves to their birth culture by using the names they were first given.

But is it possible to push too much, will I turn the subject- actually subjects...plural...for International Adoption has many facets to it- into issues? Or are we helping her feel more comfortable with her ethnic identity by talking of these things often and by pushing her more into it through cultural events, dance & language classes and by having contact/relationships with other Asians?

And now I ask myself, am I just making a mountain out of a mole hill? Perhaps all she has been doing is being a normal mind-changing kid, and I'm reading more depth into her actions. (gosh, feel like I've had these feelings before...)

Part of the reason I do question is because of things she has said and done in the past. For example, we play the "adoption game" sometimes (Simone's made up game, she initiates it whenever she wants to play it).
It goes like this...I have to say out loud, (and in a kinda whiny voice or else I am prompted to try again) that I want a baby so very much. Then Simone is the "social worker" that visits the house and then I have to fill out papers and go though all the motions. She then declares I can go over and "find" my baby. I look at my pretend refferal picture of my new baby the whole pretend flight over, and then our eyes meet when I exit the plane and I yell "my baby" and she yells "my Mama" and we hug and are happy and I say "my baby, forever and ever". And then we play it again.

We don't do that as much anymore (it's like sooo 2 months ago) but it leads me to believe that maybe she does think about adoption and how it relates to her, to us. Now it's up to me to help her find the natural joy of being in a family, no matter how we formed it, no matter what culture came first or next, because each culture will hopefully be intertwined as just part of who she is.

So, I guess I'll just keep plugging away at this Mama stuff and hope, and pray, that I'm doing it the right way and that my children will end up as emotionally well developed adults, with a good sense of their own identity and where they fit in in the world.
And if not, well as my friend Cort says "It'll give em plenty to talk about in therapy..."


Mark & Kris said...

Jennifer, it sounds like you are doing a great job with Simone. You are letting her take the lead and you answer her as she needs answers. Sounds like you give her plenty of opportunities to talk about what she is thinking about, too. It does seem like there is a fine line between focusing too much on adoption or not enough. I get concerned about that,too, and we don't even have a referral, yet!! What I think may be wonderful in your case is that Simone is seeing you adopt her brother. She will see first hand how you and your husband love her new brother and how he has become part of your family through adoption. She will get a glimpse of her story through watching her brother's adoption. I hope I am explaining this's hard to get what I'm thinking written out right.

Lisa said...


I loved your comment about seeking the joy in a family regardless of how it is formed & celebrating the aspects of each culture...& entwining the beauty of each. Your thoughts are and have often been my thoughts too. You expressed them with such clarity and as always so much genuine thought and love.

I wish I could answer all of these questions definitively for you....for Simone...for Lauren...for Tyler...for Wei-Che....for us all.....but I too struggle with the boundaries and openly wonder if I assign more "worry" or thought to seemingly innocent things because of my status as an AP? I just don't know.....

But I do know that you are providing an incredible foundation for both Simone and your little guy. Your family has embraced many cultures, diversity & traditions. You allow Simone to determine the pace with which she is comfortable exploring her origins and place in the world.......and you offer her unconditional support, guidance and love in the process.

That's a lot my friend. You a wonderful can absolutely trust in that!

Thank you for sharing this....we have been exploring some similiar issues expressed by Lauren.....she too is busy constructing some theories, albiet in a different way than Simone....but in the same way kids work to make sense of their world. I share this journey with you....

Hugs and hope your weekend was grand!