Why Didn’t You Adopt from America?
I love this time of year. I mean LOVE. The leaves begin to turn colors and soon the Halloween decorations appear. Overflowing buckets and pillow cases filled with candy later we begin the slow march to Thanksgiving. Everyone seems to be in a good mood. Strangers at the grocery store buying turkeys, cranberries, and canned yams nod in solidarity with one another. This is our time of year. A communal time to give thanks for all the gifts we have. A time to look out for those whose cornucopia might be less full than ours.
“Does he know what Thanksgiving is?”
Awakened from my holiday musings I turn to see a woman behind me in line, scrutinizing my son.
I play along. Maybe this is a “Do you know the true meaning of Christmas” moment. “Jack,” I say, “what holiday is it this week?”
“Chinese New Year!” he gleefully responds. The woman’s mouth turns down at the edges. I’ve been over this a thousand times with Jack, this week is Thanksgiving. But to be fair most times I have him sit and cut out pictures of animals it is in fact for the lunar new year. So what if there is no year of the turkey? How’s a four year old to know?
“Is he Chinese? He looks Chinese,” the woman says. “Yes,” I respond. She looks over my son one more time as if maybe she missed something. “Why not America?” My brain is foggy. “Why not America, what?” Then it hits me. What she’s really asking, right in front of my son, is “Why didn’t I adopt from America.”
The reasons people choose to adopt are deeply personal. Most people don’t wake up one day and decide to begin a 15+ month paperwork chase and bureaucratic struggle to provide a forever home for a child from India. I don’t know any adoptive parents who haven’t labored through home studies, family profiles, birth mother matching, foster care inspections, or legal fees on a whim. Such comments belittle the journey that so many of us have undertaken and besides, why do you want to know?
I take a deep breath and try to explain my family to this stranger. Before I can get a word out she shrugs, shakes her head, and walks to another checkout lane. I get Jack out to the car and once he’s securely tucked in his car seat ask, “If someone says ‘where are you from’ what do you say?” “I live in Alexandria,” he replies, “But I was born in the city of dragons.” I smile. He’s right. Taiyuan is known as the City of Dragons because more emperors were born there than anywhere else in China. “You know that’s something to be proud of, right?” He smiles. “I know, Mama.”
I’m glad my son is proud of who he is and I am proud that my family is made how it is. But the next time someone asks “Why didn’t you adopt from your own country?” I might just say:
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