Parents who adopted internationally used to be told that assimilation was best. It was believed that love would be enough and that the child, adopted from another country and often of a different race, would eventually become part of, assimilated into, the majority culture. To focus or mention differences might create extreme discomfort and issues for the child. This was known by many as the love-is-colorblind philosophy.
Now, decades later, the pendulum swings the other way. We acknowledge that children who have been adopted have two identities: birth and adopted. Parents who adopt internationally are encouraged to “keep” their child’s culture, to cultivate and continue that connection to their birth culture.
Parents work very hard to do so, focusing much of their energies weaving in and surrounding their child and family with representations of their child’s birth culture (art, music, crafts, food, clothing). Businesses have sprung up to support the cultural acculturation process. There are language schools, culture camps, heritage camps within and outside the U.S., as well as homeland trips. And some well-intentioned parents go overboard, pushing their children forward to embrace it all. I’ve seen it. I suspect you have as well.
Parents often idealize or romanticize the culture, in effect asking their children to conform to this notion. So, what if your child doesn’t want to do embrace this notion? What if your child, deep down under the layers of her consciousness, is worried that she doesn’t or won’t fit in, because her parents have romanticized her birth country and culture to the point that she feels intimidated? Or what if she feels like she might disappoint her parents because she really isn’t interested in or ready to embrace that birth identity yet? Or just plain feels like she might fail?
Is all of this too much? Possibly. Your child is growing up outside her birth country—her adopted country, where her citizenship is. That is the culture she knows intimately. Your child may view her birth country as another country and not her own.
Parents: Are you representing your child’s birth culture realistically? If not, at what cost? Where is the middle ground?