Friday, August 6, 2010

Why I don't hang with other adoptees

When I quit the email list of Bay Area adult adoptees, I told them, and myself, that it was due to the activities being incompatible with my lifestyle.  My little suburban neighborhood is a 90-minute drive away from San Francisco, and almost as far from Berkeley, where most all of the meet-ups and activities were.  Add to that the conflict between weekend soccer tournaments, scouting trips, and other day-in-the-life of a suburban working-outside-the-home mother, and I could never seem to attend.

Most of the activities were also geared to adults, not children.  Dragging my 2 boys along did not appeal, and time away from them to be on my own is so rare, that I invest that in my girlfriends or my spouse.

 But there is another reason I didn't gel with this group.  It seems to me that when Korean adoptees gather, it is mostly to commune and share their common grief and loss.  The loss of culture.  The loss of country.  The loss of family if they were old enough to remember them.  There is criticism of the Korean culture that values bloodline so much, that Korean families do not generally adopt Korean orphans.  The government's lack of social programs to support unwed mothers and their children, whence comes the current supply of Korean babies for adoption.  The racial issues that Korean children adopted into white culture must weather, and their parents' preparation, or lack thereof to handle such.

I don't mean to dismiss any of these concerns and criticisms.  I know there is truth in each of them.  My own adoption experience was not perfect either.  I faced a great deal of racism growing up in my all-white hometown.  The daily hazing both scarred and strengthened me in equal measure.  During elementary school, I was both shy and timid as a result of the racism I confronted at the bus stop, on the playground, in the hallways, and in my own neighborhood.  I fought my way out of that in my teens and early adulthood to become a strong, take-no-shit feminist.  But I still carry perceptions of myself that I know were forged when I was under 10 and felt alien and unattractive.

I just don't believe, when it all comes down to it, that adoption was in any measure a bad thing in my life.  Instead, I believe I won the freaking lottery.  Happily ever after arrived for me at age 6, and has continued to be a blessed life.  I read Sara Crewe, Oliver Twist, Daddy Long Legs, Lousa May Alcott's Rose Campbell in "Eight Cousins", and identified with every one of the orphans rescued by someone loving at the end of the book.

Were my adoptive parents perfect?  Heck no.  I could tell you now, and certainly told them in my teens, everything that they did wrong in raising me.  But the issues we had were not about race--they were typical issues that I believe many parents and children struggle with, and could have happened just as easily with biological family, as not.  They provided me with love, guidance, financial and emotional support--all that you could ask for in a family.

So, while I respect the varying opinions of my adopted peers, and value the thoughtful insight of Jae Ran Kim's blog, Harlow's Monkey, I just don't relate to it from my own experience.  Whether I have a more optimistic life view, or just haven't examined my own feelings enough to understand them, I can't say.  Certainly, I accept that my sister's experience was not as smooth as my own.  But I am not sure that her issues and challenges had anything to do with international adoption per se, as opposed to too-late diagnosed health problems, learning and emotional disorders, and a clash of personalities between her and my mother.

Jae Ran Kim's quote about being "more than the sum of our losses" is a beautiful and courageous thought.  I just see my international adoption as having been a huge gift, rather than anything to overcome.


  1. As an adoptee myself (albeit from the US), I have to say that I have much the same feeling about how lucky I was to land in my adoptive family. Perfect? Hardly. But we were both fortunate to be found by families who cherished and nurtured us and who provided us with the opportunities for both health and happiness. If that's not what adoption is all about, I don't know what is!

  2. Hi,
    I saw your first post on KimchiMama. I'm also a Korean Adoptee and I also joined AKASF in 1997 but dropped it. Now I have rejoined and am the new VP of the board. Holly and I are hoping to make the group more focused on family events and community focused rather than adults only and self reflection. I agree that whining has got to stop. I rejoined more for my children. Also to share my positive experiences.

    I saw one of your posts asking about the SV Korean school for your son. I would not recommend it unless he knows some Korean. There are 30+ kids in a class and the teachers don't speak English. I send my kids to a Korean school in Palo Alto which is great! For AKASF, we are trying to see if we can work with some local Korean Language programs to offer classes specifically for adoptees and their children. It is a work in progress.

    I hope that you will come back as a member. You can contact me at

    I've enjoyed reading your blog entries on Kimchimamas and this one.

  3. Thanks for the fresh comment! I'll be in touch when the work/school/family schedule lightens up. I'm still on the AKASF maillist.


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