5.13.2013

I'm Glad My Kids Feel Normal

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Three cheers for Sarah Mitteldorf, a Chinese adoptee who has written "Many Ways," a play that explores the perspectives of Chinese adoptees that was performed this past weekend at Asian Arts Initiative.  The biggest bulge of Chinese adoptees are between the ages of 9 and 12, the girls featured in Mitteldorf's play, and Mitteldorf herself, who is 27, and Mitteldorf's play has given a creative voice for some of their experiences.

It's still early for Jada, who is 8, but I wonder if her intersection with this issue of her being adopted from China will be decidedly less dramatic.  Unlike many of her fellow adoptees, she was adopted into a family that included someone who looks like her.  Also, unlike many of her fellow adoptees, she was adopted into a community that is very racially diverse. 

To be sure, a lot of the uniqueness of the Chinese adoptive experience is the "from" part: where she came from, who were her birth parents, what of the Chinese culture is meaningful for her.  But a lot of the uniqueness is from the "to" part: Asian-looking kids with non-Asian names and non-Asian parents living in largely non-Asian communities. 

To Jada, being adopted from China is . . . normal.  The "from" part is a unique aspect of her origins, but otherwise registers no mystique or strangeness from her or her friends.  And the "to" part is also decidedly normal; in a sense there is normal among her friends, since there is such diversity in race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, and family structure. 

It's one of the perks of living in a big, cosmopolitan city.  Not that cities are inherently better than suburbs: no place is devoid of the really bad things that negatively impact kids, like divorce and abuse and addiction and racism.  But for a family that includes adoptive kids, the fact that there is no normal against which their faces and stories stick out like a sore thumb, it helps them to feel normal and I think that's a good thing for them.
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