Tuesday, November 23, 2010

a balancing act.

last week, i wrote about having to balance our life between two cultures. (thank you for your honest thoughts on that, b.t.dubs.)

my friend, joanna, brought up another important idea that we'll have to juggle. with most international adoptions, it is obvious to outsiders that the child is adopted. this can sometimes result in yucky conversations (like the one my friend, christine, had to deal with) with ignorant and rude people. {big hugs to all my friends that have had to deal with this downright ugliness.} but here's the thing...with us, it's not going to be apparent that choi boy was brought into our family through the miracle of adoption.

for us, we're not going to be reminded of the fact that choi boy is not biologically related to us when we look in the mirror. when other strangers see us, they are going to assume that i was pregnant with choi boy because they'd have no reason to think otherwise.

i feel like this is a blessing and, for lack of a better word, a curse. it's a blessing because we won't have to deal with those ugly conversations and ignorant strangers asking us how much our baby cost, etc. but on the other hand, it's a curse because it will be easy for us to forget.

in fact, in korea, some adoptive families thrive on this being able to forget. i read somewhere that there are a variety of prosthetic baby bumps that prospective adoptive mothers can buy so they can fake a pregnancy and then pass off their adopted child as their biological one. so sad. so very sad.

but *we* don't want to forget. we are so blessed to have adoption be huge part of our family story. and we are so grateful for the international adoption process that connected us to our son and allowed us to build our family.

so here's where the balancing act comes in...how do we acknowledge our adoption and help choi boy know and understand how grateful we are to this process while not going overboard and constantly drawing attention to it?

what do we say when someone says, "wow, he looks just like you!" or "i can see that he gets his dashingly handsome looks from his dad!" (hardy har har) do we say, "thank you" and move on, or do we take the time to correct and explain their error?

what would you say? how would you handle this?


  1. Wow..I inspired a Chois R Us post...feeling special over here.
    It's similar to anyone adopting within their race, but it is tricky. I would say that if you get a random comment from someone at the grocery store or park...just smile and brush it off. If someone you could know like a friend of a friend or someone at a b-day party or something, I would correct them.
    You're right...adoption is a wonderful way to form a family and should be celebrated!!

  2. An aside (kind of): I used to feel very awkward when people would acknowledge how cute S was. In part because I had nothing to do with that, as you know. I mean, I'm sure his stylish duds that I pick out accentuate it... but... ;-)

    Now we get comments all the time about his personality or character traits, and many times people say things like "He's got your sense of humor" or "your smile" or something like that... and you know what? I completely agree! So I do just that with strangers and leave the more in-depth conversations/corrections for those in our "inner circle." If you can believe it, strangers don't realize he's adopted all the time. Understandable when it's just he and I, but they still make the mistake when Doug is with us too. Crazy, no?

  3. I think it depends on how much time you have and how much the person seems willing to actually talk to you vs a quick comment and walking away, and if Chois Boy is listening....definitely good to work these things out ahead of time. Great to think about!

    From what I've read on other blogs - you won't always have the perfect answers right away, but at first our children won't be paying attention to our responses. Hopefully we'll have them worked out by the time our children are really comprehending what we're saying about the amazing, difficult, and miraculous way they entered our families.

    Oh my goodness - just ready Christine's post - what a jerk! Thanks for sharing though.

  4. It's such a good point and it will probably be a tricky thing to navigate. I agree with Jojo. Not really any business to the random stranger in the grocery store. I think that as long as you are open with CB and he is proud and secure about his beginnings, you both might end up having a little laugh together when he is older and people make those comments to you in public!

  5. Okay, let's see if I am going to make any sense.
    Yes, strangers won't be able to tell that Choi boy is adopted, and that may be easier on him. You won't need strangers comments to remind you of your family's history. You won't forget that you are an adoptive family just because you won't get the rude or weird comments. (Just like Christine, I don't really know what to say when someone tells me Ben is so cute. I just say "I think so too").

    When I look at my son, I don't see a Korean. I see him. I don't look at him and notice that he doesn't look like me. He is fully my son, but at the same time, at this point I think about his birthmother every single day. I would do the same if he were the same race.

    You don't have to be in an interracial adoption to celebrate the way your family was built.

  6. My son has the same ability to look like a birth child that your son will have. My son is a transcultural placement. His birthmom's family came to the US from England and Germany. His birthdad's family came to the US from Mexico. Although my son's looks favors his birthmom, he is biracial. We find it an opportunity to educate but when we decide to do so.

    It gave me a chance to blow off people who I didn't want to deal with. I've read stories and had friends tell me about some of the inappropriate remarks that they get. It's nice to not get that part.

    You still have the chance to educate someone. When someone would remark on the color of his eyes and ask who he got them from, I would immediately reply, "His birthmother." When people said he would have to be tall because his dad is 6'6", I replied that his dad is tall but his birthdad was average for a man so we needed to wait and see.

    Ultimately, we didn't lose the chance to educate and celebrate. We lost the rubber necker crowd. We lost some of the stupid remarks that people should never, ever make.

  7. You can take or leave what I have to say:
    You know how people say that owners begin to resemble their canine friends (or vice versa)? It's because they have become a part of one another's life.

    The same is going to be with Choi boy, you and Peter. You are big, IF NOT THE BIGGEST, part of one of another's life. Of course he's going to act like you, and, yes, probably start to resemble you because he'll learn all of the wonderful facial expressions and mannerisms surrounding him. He's still going to be a reflection of you.

    As for us ignorami...correct us. For those of us who love to be "in-the-know", we'll want to know. Just like your blog, you never know who's heart your going to touch, what you have (or not have) in common with a friend, maybe it'll make people feel comfortable to ask questions about adoption that they are too afraid to ask anyone else. Maybe you'll inspire someone else to open their hearts to another child that's not biologically theirs.

  8. Hi Grace! I still get chills every time I read one of your posts, knowing that very very soon you are going to be hugging your son in your arms!!!

    For not forgetting... have you decided on what his name will be (other than Carson)? Maybe you could make his middle name his whole Korean name, including the last name. I tacked my maiden name onto the end of my Korean name when I changed my name when we got married. So my full legal name is now Christina Hye Young Lim Chung. (A mouthful, I know!) But I go by Tina Lim Chung, informally using my maiden name as my middle name. I'm speaking with the assumption that you guys will be the ones to register his legal name, so please excuse me if I'm incorrect! But we're lucky that with Korean names, there are lots of creative ways to make a name work :)

    As for choiboy resembling you guys... honestly, it will probably shock and please you guys how much you think he looks like you once he's home. First, I'm wondering if the adoption agency matches children up based on looks at all, because I think he kind of looks like you guys! Especially momma! And he's going to be learning all of his facial expressions and personality from you guys, and so much of resemblance is based on that. And you know how couples start to resemble each other after they get together? I don't doubt that the same would go for choiboy and you guys... probably so much more so, considering he's a baby!

    And anyway, even though he may not have grown inside your belly, God formed and shaped him exactly the way He wanted him to look to be your child. :) So if people comment on how much he looks like you guys, you can just thank God for making that happen!!

  9. First, thanks for the link to your friends' blog, I love her jab at that moron! Like some others have said, I think you get to decide when you feel like educating. Maybe once Choi Boy is old enough to understand the conversation that's being had you'll change up how you approach those comments but it's probably something that will evolve over time.

  10. Hi Grace,
    Since my husband and I are also Korean-American, this is one of the many things we think / talk about as we plan our adoption. If it was just about us (the adoptive parents), then we'd be happy to let people know about our adoption, especially among the Korean American community, where many are reluctant to adopt or may have misconceptions on adoption. However, it's not all about us, it's also very much about our future child. And it's his/her private information. Kids generally don't want to be singled out or different (especially when they're growing up as a minority), unless it makes them cooler. And usually, being adopted is not perceived as being cooler. So, unless our child wants it known to others, we'll probably be low-key about it and just smile at such comments and move on, or maybe just comment back with something like, "We think he's handsome too." So, we wouldn't be lying.

    BTW, on a separate note, you may want to register with the embassy before you travel soon to Korea with all that's going on there right now.

  11. I think it totally depends on the situation. You'll know when people are truly interested and want to hear what you have to say. And conversely, you'll know when people just want to say "oh he's so cute!" and then move on with their day. You will learn that a LOT of people are not worth your time and effort, sadly. But knowing that also saves you a lot of aggravation... talking to ears that don't want to listen is so frustrating.
    My favorite answer to "oh, she's soooooo cute!" is "thanks, I think so too." I think you can use that and end a conversation.

  12. I totally hear you Grace! Actually for us it has been really helpful talking with families who adopted domestically and not transracially here in the US. Our social worker is one of them. She gives me great advice on how much to share and how much is Joel's story to share as he gets older. Even stuff like do we tell teachers as he gets older that he is adopted? Do we tell extended family? For us one of the reasons we have been so open about our journey is so we can share about the blessing of adoption....but at some point, we don't want Joel to think that he is a "mission" of some sort. We are planning to revamp our blog after finalization and make it so that unless you've known us through the whole journey, you will know we have a family brought together by birth and adoption but you won't know which one is adopted. It's definately been a challenge for us to know how to balance since we have bio children also. Also, Joel looks so much like our family that it is uncanny so that again has been interesting to navigate as many people have made that comment to us. But I'm glad to know you and to meet another family in the same boat...may we encourage each other in this as we go along! =) Did you get the etsy order btw?

  13. I think it takes time and practice to figure out how you feel most comfortable responding to strangers' comments. It was great for me to have a few years to get used to this before the boys really understood what people were talking about. Personally, I don't feel like my children need their private stories and information discussed w/strangers, so just keep it simple and say "thanks".

    In terms of forgetting that Choi Boy is adopted - you won't forget. There are so many ways to honor how he joined the family, you will just have to try them out and see what works best for you. Shortly after we came home, I made photo books on sh*tterfly for my kids w/pictures of their time w/their foster families and our pick-up trips that we still look at frequently. We also made Lifebooks that we keep w/our books and read whenever they pick them out as well as reading many adoption-themed children's books. We celebrate their family days and find ways to talk about where they were born. Its hard to picture now, but you'll find ways to make it happen that won't seem awkward or forced once you get used to it.

  14. You say thank you and move on. Especially if it is from a stranger. They don't need more info than that.

    I think it is more important that CB always know that he was adopted, how he came to be part of your family, what his life story is, and how much he is loved. You won't forget but you won't always be thinking about it either. You'll just look at your son and see your son. I'm not saying that you should hide the fact that he is adopted, but to me, the most important thing is for others to know that he is your son. And after that, the details are up to you, him, and the situation.

  15. I think it's great that you are thinking about all this, Grace. I agree with some of the other comments. It depends on who's asking. There's no need to explain to everyone that says he's cute that he is adopted. I would imagine this is going to be a balancing act for sure, and maybe there are some resources for domestic adoption that will cover this issue.

  16. I agree with most everyone else. It depends on your mood, who you are talking to, how much time you have, etc. Sometimes bringing up that he is adopted will be beneficial for the other person to hear and cathartic for you to tell. Other times it will probably be a pain to explain and easier all around if you just say thanks and move on. Either way, you are an amazing mom!

  17. hi grace! we're only in the application stages of the adoption process but as korean-americans ourselves, we've thought of this as well. especially since my three (biological) children all look so much like...well, each other! people are always telling us how similar they look regardless of their gender; we have a girl, boy, girl. our kids also look SO much like my husband or myself. so when the time comes to welcome our newest son, how will he fit into the "physical" picture of our family? will he feel left out? will it be blatantly obvious to others? i wonder...

    however, i realize that in the grand scheme of things, this will hopefully become a trivial matter. and it is my observation that just as people in love grow to resemble and even look like each other, so will our adopted-blended family. i mean, don't even dogs grow to resemble their owners?

    one more thing. i personally know of a korean-korean pastor family that had their boy biologically and then adopted two more korean girls (separately). and the amazing thing is, that the two adopted girls look like they have been born biologically into the family! they both look so much like their mom and brother.

    in any case, choi boy will be loved and accepted immensely and that is what will be most obvious and apparent to all.

  18. You've gotten so many wonderful comments and such great advice that I'm afraid I don't have much to add other than I agree with alot of what has been said.
    On a sidenote just to share....It's funny...every now and then I will catch a glimpse of myself and Noah in the mirror when I'm holding him and it always takes me by surprise how much we don't look alike! It's as if I just forget that he isn't my biological son sometimes because he is such a huge part of me. Strange, huh? :)

  19. I have a personal story with maybe a different perspective of adoption. I babysat for a family through jr. high and high school which has since developed into my second family now, where their daughter, Kristen, is like my younger sister. Kristen was adopted and her parents received her 5 days after she was born. They celebrate her birthday and then 5 days later they celebrate her adoption day. Talking about that with Kristen now (she's 17), she has always said that she loves adoption day because it helped her not feel different. When she was younger it was awesome because it was a 2nd birthday, but now they celebrate as a time together as a family unit, remembering the start of the three of them.

    In regards of how to handle comments from others, I can offer advise from my own experience. When I first met Kristen and her parents, I had no idea she was adopted. Her parents are white, brown hair, blue eyes....Kristen the same. I made a comment to Tim that she definitely has his nose and he responded with, "Well that's strange since I'm not her father". I was mortified. He thought that I knew that they adopted her and was immediately apologetic saying he was just cracking a joke, but that's been 13 years ago and I still remember it. I can only imagine that most who will reference Choi Boy to the both of you are only meaning it as a compliment. At the same point, aren't you even just a little excited that maybe his nose WILL resemble your own, or that he may have dashingly handsome good looks that resemble your husbands?? :-) At the very least, it will always invoke an inside hearty giggle if others see traits of you in him.

  20. I'm a little late on this post. I looked at everyone's answers and agree. I'm still navigating the ways to handle these issues. Your going to be a good Mama; tackling this issues already!

  21. I also have people approach me all the time to tell me how cute Kyle is. I usually say "Thank you" and move on. When Kyle first came home I used to be very open with people about his adoption but lately I have been thinking more and more about how this is Kyle's story and I should only share it with those who genuinely care about us or wish to adopt. When Kyle is older, Ed and I will let him determine how he wants to approach intrusive questioning.

  22. I'm a little late to the comment box here...but I totally agree with what has been said by many other wise women here. Your response will all depend on your audience, the purpose behind their question/statement, and your mood at the moment. ;-) People tell us Little D is "soooo cute" (or some version of that) ALL the time. I usually just say thank you and tell them I agree. I know they can tell he is adopted when he is with me, but it isn't such a sure thing when he is with my husband. My DH is half Asian (Chinese) and Little D does look a LOT like him. However, we are so proud that he is adopted and that our family was formed through adoption...but...not everyone needs to know the details...it is D's story and no one else's...so we haven't shared the details with anyone.

    We talk about D's birth/foster mother/family all the time with him. We also have been reading lots of adoption-themed books. I know he doesn't get it yet...and won't for quite a while...but we figured it is never too early.

    The fact that you are thinking about these things is WONDERFUL! You rock!

  23. I think by celebrating the Korean culture - in ways you may not have as an American-Korean - like Children's Day - did you do that with your family? Little things like that can help remind you of his more intimate tie to South Korea. Also reading adoption books and participating in adoption get togethers can help. I love our Seoul Brothers gettogethers!
    As for comments, I would say Thank You - if they are commenting on his looks etc. If if is someone you know, I would say, you do realize he is adopted - or something like that.

  24. I understand where you are coming from...although you are decreasing the chances of awkward moments during which a stranger will comment on your family being obviously different, you are actually increasing the chances of awkward moments where you have to decide whether it's worth clarifying that your son was adopted, not born to you... No advice from me, just empathy. So much to think about sometimes, eh? Good things it's all worth it. :)

  25. Hi! I just came across your blog yesterday and have been reading non-stop!!! I have been searching searching searching for any blog/article/experience of Korean Americans adopting & am sooo grateful I found you : ). Yes, definitely stalker-ish : ). We also talked about this in our Core Training & I expressed some concerns...I think one hard part of it not being obvious to others & not being asked the rude questions in public, is: our boy won't have seen us model a response. Okay...for example...those children who saw their parents model a good response to, "Oh, he's adopted! Does he know his "real" mom?", wil know how to answer that when he's at school & one of his peers ask! I'm afraid our boy is going to have to come up with these answers on his own! I know we'll do our best to talk about these things at home, but they won't have as much "real world" practice. Not that I'm not grateful for the anonymity that being the same race lends...I definitely empathize and give kudos to trans-racial adoptive parents, you & your kiddos deserve a huge hand of applause for even attempting to graciously deal with strangers & their (sometimes) rude questions.


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