Saturday, January 20, 2007

Family Trees & Korean Adoption

Personally, I’ve never understood the issues surrounding family trees and Korean adoptees. The first time I had to do a project that required me to trace back my family history, I went home and asked my parents for help. It never occurred to me that I should use anything other than my adopted family. I had grown up on the stories that were told at every family gathering – about grandparents, uncles and aunts that I had never met before, but they were mine all the same. Not once did it occur to me that they didn’t belong on my family tree. Intellectually, I see where people are coming from…so I try very hard to think objectively when I’m talking about this topic.

I remember when an adoptive parent was really upset with her son’s teacher for assigning a family tree project. She was very upset because her son had no information (obviously) about his Korean family. My knee jerk reaction was to be pretty upset with the adoptive parent. To me, it felt as if she was implying that her family and her husband’s family weren’t her son’s family because he was adopted. In my mind, once you adopt a child, everything that is yours becomes theirs. It doesn’t matter where someone was born or how they became a part of your family.

After I was able to calm down a little, I realized that this probably wasn’t what the adoptive parent was trying to say. In fact, she would probably be horrified if she knew that’s what I took from it. As an adoptive parent, you have to try to figure out where it is necessary to acknowledge your child’s birth family and where it is not necessary. How much will that matter to your child in the future? I do think that we have to be careful how we approach the situation. If done incorrectly, a child could pick up the same incorrect conclusions that I made and feel as if they are not a part of the family.

When it’s my son’s turn to do a family tree project, I have the names of his birth mother and birth father. If he is okay with it, I think that I will probably have him include them in the tree. Because I was a found child, I don’t have that information even if I had wanted to include my birth parents. I think I probably would have. My sister would have been horrified by the very mention of the idea (thus reminding us that all Korean adoptees are different). We won’t know how my son will feel about the acknowledgement until he’s a little older. I won’t force the issue, but I’m definitely going to lay out the option. But then, that’s all we can really do…


Mommavia said...

I think it's wise of all adoptive parents to acknowledge our child's birthcountry in this situation and leave it up to them how much it known to others. As much as I would like to include it myself, that may not be my son's preference. After we received our son's referral, I frequently was questioned on the circumstances surrounding his adoption. My reply, "That is his story to share when he is older." I feel that is the same response for a family tree project as well.

Anonymous said...

Hi again, (I'm the same person who commented on your "the other side" post)

Again, I really identify with you. When I was in school I had no problem writing about my great-grandmother who came from Lithuania. It would never have crossed my mind to feel hurt because I couldn't write something about my biological family.

While I think it's good to get lots of different experiences on adoption voiced (and that people feel respected and supported), I sometimes wonder if what's getting out on the web is really a representative cross-section of the adoption population. I just feel so much less anguish than most people (parents and adoptees) who write. The more I read, I sometimes wonder if I must be in some deep state of denial due to intense cultural brainwashing. Then I think, wait. I think it should be ok for me to be happy and for adoption to be a part of my life but not the dominant force. I mean it's an important thing, but I'd rather have my life be driven by what I choose.

I really never would even have discovered this world of adoption blogs and discussion board based on my needs as an adoptee. It's just because I'm going to become an adoptive parent that I started looking at things, and then I uncovered this whole new world. And I find that some people who are speaking about what they think is "our" experience aren't speaking about mine at all. It's sort of disorienting.

Mommavia said...

In response to anonymous, I hope that more adult adoptees and adoptive parents write about thier pleasent experiences with adoption. I like to look at the other side of the coin as well, but it's disheartening to find so much anguish and not an equal amount of joy.