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Monday, January 23, 2012

Finding Her Way

Last week, the Tongginator flipped through our DVD collection before stumbling upon Lisa Ling's National Geographic documentary China's Lost Girls.  After reading the blurb on the back, she asked to watch it.  The Husband and I discussed it, finally opting to allow her to view it with us watching alongside her.  We did skip over the scenes related to female abductions, but otherwise the Tongginator sat at the kitchen table, eating her snack while the DVD played.  I asked if she wanted to talk about anything, both during and after the show, but she shook her head no.  She didn't even appear to be watching the documentary, seemingly more absorbed in her food than anything else.  And that was that.

Until this weekend.

The Tongginator spent quite a bit of time last night talking with me about adoption, about her first parents and foster parents and about "that lame rule," also known as China's one-child (or sometimes two-child) policy.  It seems she did watch the documentary, much more closely than it appeared.  She asked me why there are so many girls in China if people prefer boys, and I had to explain that there aren't "so many girls in China," there are so many girl Chinese adoptees in the United States.  She filled in the blanks for me: "because people don't want girls, just like she (Lisa Ling) said."  I reminded her that sometimes it's because the family is too poor, or too young, or the child is too sick for the family to care for him or her, but that yes, sometimes it's simply because the child was born female.

It stunk having to say that.

I'm sure it stunk more for her to hear it.

The Tongginator talked quite a bit about her feelings, and her thoughts, with most of her struggles centered around international versus domestic adoption.  If anyone feels upset about the Hague mandate that international adoption be a last resort for a child, let me tell you that my Tongginator is a prime example for why that rule is a good thing.  She wishes she still lived in China, adopted by a Chinese family, living with her same culture and language.  It's hard being adopted transracially, transculturally.  In response to her views, I shared that I wish those had been options for her, but that officials in China decided that her only hope for a family was through international adoption.  I don't know if that was true, but it was what they said they believed.  They chose international adoption for her because they felt that it would be better than life in an orphanage.

She told me it wasn't fair.  I agreed.

We talked a lot last night, the Tongginator and me.  It was very healing for her - I could tell.  We had some serious moments, some seriously sad moments and some moments that weren't serious at all - even downright funny.  Like when the Tongginator told me, "I wish I still lived in China and not in such a small town stuck in the middle of nowhere Maryland."  Oh, y'all, I couldn't help myself - I burst out laughing.  Because we?  Live surrounded by the "small towns" of Baltimore, Washington, DC and Annapolis.  And the Tongginator?  Used to live here:

it may not look it, but I promise this is a VERY Small Town by Chinese standards

And then we both laughed when we talked about her future.  Because she said she felt sad she wouldn't live in China as a grown-up.  And I told her that she might still be able to do so, that many people adopted from Korea moved back there as adults, to live and to work, so maybe people adopted from China might do the same.  She pondered that for a minute, then in all seriousness said, "I wouldn't want to move back to China as a grown-up.  Because then I'd have to fly out there by myself.  And that's a LONG flight.  I might get sick on the plane like I did last time, and you wouldn't be there to clean it up.  And then I'd be the one who had to clean up my vomit.  All by myself."  I started laughing, then she started laughing.  A few minutes later, after our fit of giggles subsided, I promised that - if she still wanted me to when she was All Grown Up - I would fly out there with her, and that I'd help her clean up her vomit if she did, indeed, throw up on the plane.

Towards the end of our conversation, the Tongginator asked me two very important questions.  First, she asked if it was okay if she considered "my birthmother and my foster mother my other real mothers even though they don't take care of me now."  I told her that of course it was okay, that she got to decide who was important in her life, and what to call them.  (I've always referred to the Tongginator's biological mother as her first mom, but she prefers the term birthmother, so I'm now using both terms equally.)

Second, the Tongginator double-checked with me to ensure that she was allowed to feel angry or sad about being adopted.  I told her that it happened to her, not me, so she was allowed to feel however she felt about it.  I also told her that I would probably feel angry and sad if it happened to me.  I've told her that many times, but - for the first time - I felt she was old enough to hear something a bit more complicated.  I explained to her that many people who aren't adopted feel that adoptees should only feel happy about adoption.  I told her that didn't make sense to Daddy and me, and that those people just didn't know any better.  She asked me if I would ever correct people about it if they said she should only feel happy about being adopted.  "Tongginator, I already have," I answered.

And that's when she burst out laughing.

It seems the Tongginator thinks I sound both mean and scary when I get all riled up.

And she might just feel a bit sorry for those people, even if they are wrong.


Kim K. said...

I always appreciate having blogging friends go through these experiences first. We're just starting to get questions from Josie, but we barely touch the topic and then she moves onto other things. Thanks for sharing.

Aus said...

Good morning TM - great post here - ya know I think I really love you guys - you "get it" - and you do such a beautiful job of sharing it with both your daughter (and I'm sure Squirt to when she's old enough) and with the world.

We started with our 'tough time' with Chase yesterday - which marked the 2nd anniversary of his being removed from his foster home and returned to the SWI prior to our adoption day on the 25th...and he grieved and just clung to us yesterday - and for the first time a lot with me rather than Marie...we'll get thru!

Great joy for you guys - and when T walks by - would you pass along a hug for me and tell her I think she's cool? Thanks!!

hugs - aus and co.

autumnesf said...

Mouse found the same DVD and watched it without my knowledge. A couple of days later she made a few comments and we had some of these same type conversations. Its an interesting ride for sure.

Jenny said...

My oldest is still only 4, and Ethiopian, not Chinese, but I am certainly saving this post to read and re-read. His processing isn't near the level that the Togginator's is, but he will get there.

Debby said...

What a great conversation with your daughter. She is a smart cookie. SO important that you have these conversations. She knows that you will answer her questions. So sweet that you told her that you would fly with her.

Beyond Normal Limits said...

"I told her that of course it was okay, that she got to decide who was important in her life, and what to call them." I just wanted to say again that I appreciate you. That may not have been an easy conversation, but you handled it well, focusing on your daughter's needs.

La Bicicleta Mamma said...

I don't know why but this post made me cry. Our girls have to think about so, so much when really the hardest thing a seven year old should have to think about is what color skirt she wants to wear today. Sometimes it makes my heart hurt.

But other times I am just amazed at the strength our girls have. That they can take these stories they have and roll with them. I think it's because they have some pretty amazing Moms to help guide them.

Thanks for sharing TM. That was one awesome conversation. You and your daughter make one awesome team.

Nikki said...

Thanks for this. Violet is not quite 2 yet, but we know the time will come one day. I think I will invest in the video as it seems to help with the conversation. I would not like to sugar coat her previous reality, just help it sting less. I can always relate to your posts and never feel alone after reading them.

Briana's Mom said...

What a great conversation - for the both of you.

After all I have read over the years, I understand how important it is to let your kids take the lead and let them feel how they need to feel - no matter how hard it is to hear what they have to say sometimes.

Bri has already surprised me with comments at age 5, so I am just bracing myself for what she will say two years from now.

Mama.The.Dragon said...

Thanks for sharing!

Amy said...

I can see all of these conversations in my future as well. Thank you for sharing:)

Patricia/NYC said...

We have had similar conversations since this past October...the floodgates opened & Kiara put it all together...heart-wrenching, truly. But I am so thankful she has started to get it all out & talk about it. It's ongoing, & I know it will continue, but knowing that SHE knows she can talk to me & her dad about all of it is a great thing. In Kiara's words (& I know you will appreciate this):
"When I'm a grownup, I'm going to China & CHANGING ALL the stupid rules!!!!"

Somehow, I don't doubt it at all! :)

Cedar said...

I have the hardest time putting my feelings into words sometimes...but this is beautiful and sad and really important for all adoptive parents to understand and the Tongginator...she is amazing! This one could go into a magazine...

Kim said...

My Sweet P just turned 6 and we've been having very much the same conversations. She has told me that she wished she could be with both her birthmom and me and that she wished she could live in China. It's amazing to me how much she thinks about it and 'what' she thinks about!

Thanks so much for this post. I'm happy and relieved to read about the experiences of others.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post. DD is going through a lot of angst because of CNY, and focus on her from her Girl Scout troop. It's so hard.

Thanks for sharing your story, and giving me more words to use with DD.

Karen said...

We read an adoption children's book the other night, and my daughter, who's now 7, asked for some reasons that children are abandoned. Until now, I have told her that they are abandoned because they are the second or third born child, or the family was poor. I just could not tell her it might have been because they're girls. I just don't know if she's ready for that kind of sense of rejection. She too hates the one child policy, and says it's dumb that China has that kind of policy...and we have talked about it being ok for her to grieve the loss of her first parents. It's so complicated.

the meaklims said...

Another INCREDIBLE post. Tonggu Momma, I have missed you!

Saving this one to my 'special' folder, for future reference.

Thinking about your little T and thankful that her Momma listens to her little heart.


Sharie said...

This one brought tears to my eyes...T is always a step ahead of Amelia so I always appreciate you sharing how you talk about things because I know I'll be having the same conversation soon. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The Tongginator is so smart! I hope she gets to go back to China someday.

The Byrd's Nest said...

Oh how I long for the day that Lottie will open up like this, her little heart is so full of anger but she just will not talk about it. So proud of your girl:)

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

Wow - what an insightful girl. So glad she is processing it all with you.

Mia's Mommy said...

Again ..taking notes for this conversation some day with my own little junior Tongginator. :)

Kelly the Overthinker said...

I loved reading this very honest post because I feel like I can already mentally prepare myself a bit for when the time comes - if the time comes - when the time comes...I don't know. But, whatever the case, I'm thinking these things through now whether my bio daughter or my adopted daughter ask - I wanna be ready.

delucchi family treasures said...

I had the exact same conversation with my Amy-Li who is now 6 and a half. It seems to be the age where there is so much going on in their little heads and they are trying to work out where they fit in it all.
Pop along to mine for a visit, have missed ya.
Love Jules

Cavatica said...

Many steps behind you. Thanks for offering some guidance, no matter how different or similar our path might be.