Virginia Tech & An Adoption Story

April 18

Is anyone else having a hard time shaking this one off, or is it just me?

First of all, my condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed.  I just can’t imagine.  I just can’t imagine anything worse than losing one of my children in a horrific murder spree, except maybe finding out that my child was the horrific murderer.  Yes, that would be worse.  So, condolences also to the family of the young man who did all of this.

This whole thing has made me think lots of thoughts the past couple of days:

1.  There but for the grace of God go I.  I can’t help but think that if the internet had been in 1993 what it is today, Mr. Crazy Guy who threatened to blow up about 16,000 of us when I was in college, would have had a real bomb in that briefcase, not just books and papers.  If you’d like to read a humorous account of that event, go here.

2.  The media need to back off the university president.  Horrible, horrible things happen in life, unfortunately.  That doesn’t mean we need to immediately begin a witch hunt of blame every time one of those things happens.  It’s not like the man had his own personal copy of the shooter’s plan and stuck it in his “get around to dealing with” later pile.  Back off the local police and campus security as well.  The guy went into a dorm and shot two people.  I don’t see how that was supposed to be taken as an indicator that he would go into another building and start shooting everybody.  It’s not like they all had a crystal ball.  And, if they did, the media would blast them for that.

3.  The media, heaven help ’em.  They have a valid and important place in a republic/democracy.  They’ve just forgotten what that place is.

4.  Gun control.  Gah.  We’re not going to hear about anything but that from now until Nov. ’08 probably, and I’m already tired of it.  The truth of the matter is, if I didn’t have children all over the place, I’d have a concealed carry permit and a special place in my purse.  But, as we know, it is always open season on purses when you have kids.  And no, my support of concealed carry has nothing to do with the fact that I lived in Cooterville for many of my formative years. 

O.k., if I have not enraged and lost you now, I’ll move on to an experience I had yesterday and probably enrage and lose you there.

A new Korean market opened in our area, right on the same street as two other existing Korean markets.  Since it was the grand opening, and since I’ve been needing to stock up on bulgogi sauce and jab chai noodles for a while now, I took Tank Boy and went.

It’s always so *fun* going to Korean markets with Tank Boy.  As usual, the women already in the store, all Korean, started a flurry of conversation in Korean.  One of these days I’m going to take one of my very Anglo friends that speaks Korean with me to these markets to find out what they’re really saying about me.

Anyway, a flurry of Korean and then one of the women comes up to me and Tank Boy and tells me how cute he is, asks if he is Korean, asks if he speaks Korean, asks how old he is, and asks if he is adopted.  This is pretty much the way it goes every time I go to a Korean market, and I’m used to it.  After our friendly little conversation the woman goes back to report, in Korean, to the other woman.  I go to the Korean markets just often enough to be used to this routine and it really doesn’t bother me.

As we were checking out, the proprietor of the store gives Tank Boy some free candy (also frequently part of the routine) and then says, “He such lucky boy to have mom like you.”  Like most adoptive parents, this makes me a bit uncomfortable.

I didn’t get mad or offended because what good would that do?  I don’t know if she really meant it as some kind of compliment, or if it was just something she thought might butter up a potentially loyal customer.

So I said, “Well, we’re really lucky to have him.  We have three girls, and we needed some boys in the family, so we’re really lucky to have him.”  Obviously that is over-simplifying our adoption story, but like I’m going to stand there and give the lady the full run down in her store.

Anway . . . so she said, “That why he very lucky to have mom like you!”

From what I’ve been told of South Korean culture, both by Koreans and Americans who have been there, Tank Boy would not have had an easy life had his (unmarried) birth mom decided to parent him.  She would have been shunned.  Finding a job would have been very difficult.  He, also, as the son of a single woman, would have been shunned.  Apparently this would have followed him into adulthood and he, too, would have had a difficult if not impossible time getting a higher education and a job.

The thought of that happening to my son, of course, breaks my heart.

So I like to believe that her comment, uncomfortable to hear though it is, was motivated by her understanding of what his life likely would have been like had he stayed in South Korea, though that doesn’t make me feel any less lucky to have him.

Of course, though, that makes me wonder.  As an adoption community we talk so much of honoring our child’s birth culture and doing everything we can, some even going to extremes, to expose them to that culture.  But how far do we take it?  I’ve talked before about the fact that I believe family culture is more important than birth culture, and I do; but just to be clear, I’m not opposed to exposing my children to their birth culture.  However, as I teach Tank Boy about his birth culture, what do I tell him about why his birth mother chose adoption for him?

In this current mind-set of pseudo birth culture worship (ooops, there go half my readers falling on the floor), do we or should we take the time to mention the negative aspects of said culture?  Do I explain to Tank Boy that his birth mom undoubtedly loved him very much, so much in fact that she felt the need to get him out of a culture that would ostracize him?

I’m not trying to berate or belittle the South Korean culture.  Actually, I respect the fact that shame still exists in their society.  I just think it’s taken too far.  There has to be a happy medium and, while the pendulum of American culture has swung to the point where shame is, unfortunately, virtually non-existent, South Korean culture seems decidedly too far on the other side of the arc.

Do we teach our children an idealized and idolized version of their birth culture, or do we also include the cold, hard realities which lead to their adoptions in the first place?

Geez, and I just thought I was going to the market for noodles and sauce.

And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says hello.

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