Adoptee radar

The first day we were at “Tiki Tina’s,”
I saw two cute little biracial toddlers, one just over a year and the
other I’d guess as two. They were watched closely by a teenaged white
boy, but every time the waves splashed they ran to their white mothers’
sides. Okay, I thought, maybe they aren’t adopted. I know I have the tendency to think that every brown child clinging to a white parent is adopted. My cynicism was soon rewarded, however, when “Daddy!” showed up.

(One little, two little . . . )

The next morning, I saw those same two families in the breakfast
room, but they were not alone. First, family at the table right next to
us had a little Asian baby.

(three little adoptees)

Two tables down sported a white, gay couple with their two Asian
boys. In the line for the breakfast buffet we passed two more
school-aged Asian kids with their white parents.

(four little, five little, six little adoptees, seven little . . . )

The count was at 7 kids and we hadn’t even finished breakfast.

Geez, I whispered to John. “I didn’t realize Duluth was such a haven for transracial adoptive families.”

“Do you always keep count?” asked Lucie, always there to remind me that “little pitchers have big ears.”

“I guess I just always have my radar on” was my poor and unsatisfactory explanation.

of course, here I am at the water park with my kids, enjoying some very
latent quality time (since all my quantity time lately has been school
and field work), and I still can’t stop thinking about all these
transracial adoptive families. It might have something to do with the
little notion that I’d brought along Cultures of Transnational Adoption along as “fun” reading.

I’m feeling like a protective, mother hen, trying to gird her
hatchlings for the cruel world that might lie ahead. I’m wondering
about these adoptive parents – what motivated them to adopt children
racially and culturally different than them? What are they doing to
prepare these children for life as an “other,” in their own families
and in the world at large? Do these parents understand the role they
are playing in the systems of geo/social/political and economic
reinforcement that perpetuate the flow of “deserving” (meaning both
actual orphans and “social orphans”) children from certain designated
countries to privileged, white families in the U.S., Canada, Australia
and certain parts of Europe?

Or are they merely thinking about the day-to-day life of parenting,
with the diapers and the naps and the help with homework and the soccer
team and where to take them to for spring break?

Whenever I talk to adoptive parents who are planning to adopt
transracially, I always ask how many of them are planning for their
kid’s future educational needs. Hands shoot up in the air. When I tell
them That’s the same kind of foresight you need to plan for your child’s future racial and cultural needs
there is usually silence. I find that when it comes to adoptive
parents, most of the concern is on the short term – the next five to
ten years. Somehow, a lot of adoptive parents forget that the little
cute kid they adopted from China or Guatemala will grow up some day to
be an adult – as Dr. Jaiya John reveals in his book “Black Baby White Hands: A View from the Crib,” his parents thought they had adopted a little brown teddy bear, but he grew up to be a big, black grizzly.

Are these adoptive parents ready for us to become adults?

As we walked towards our car on Tuesday night for dinner, we saw a
family come out of the hotel lobby. Three little kids that looked to be
Guatemalan with their white parents.

(eight little, nine little, ten little adoptees, playing at the water park!

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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