Several months ago I wrote about the experience of visiting ACCA’s pre-school Mandarin class at Emory University. It didn’t go well. Nevertheless we decided to enroll Penelope in the Spring semester class, accepting the risk of Penelope hating it. If she hated it we would withdraw her and forfeit the tuition. If she enjoyed the class Penelope would have more exposure to Mandarin and Chinese.
Two months into the class and everything’s good. Once a week we drive to Emory, park, and hike the quarter-mile to class. We pass the athletic complex’s track and field, the ghost of a creek, and towering cranes erecting a new ethics facility. Other families pass us as we head up the hill and toward the ascent of steep steps leading to her class. Sometimes they look at us. Penelope and I are an odd lot among the families heading to and from classes. Every family headed to or from the ACCA classes are Chinese.
The first week of class I was acutely aware of this. As the weeks passed I got busy with my own Mandarin lessons and talking with other parents. The staff and teachers are gracious and made us feel welcome from day one. During the Chinese New Year event I discovered our family was something of an oddity. “Have you had any other adopted children in the class?” I asked. “No, she’s the only one.” “Ever?” I said. “No, she is the only one we’ve ever had.”
Penelope is not the only child attending classes with a white parent. But she is the only one there with two white parents. As a child and adolescent I had no interest in attracting attention; my goal was to fade into the background and survive high school. I don’t know how Penelope will react to the amalgamated family she finds herself in. Attention, unwanted or unsolicited, can motivate people in a myriad of ways.
There are countless moments after adoption when I’ve been shocked by my own ignorance. I realized our daughter-to-be would often find herself as the minority in a crowd. Adoption agencies, discussion boards, and books abound on the topic. But I can’t recall reading anything about the opposite. What reaction will she have as Chinese with white parents in a group of Chinese families?
If there are any older international adoptees willing to discuss this I’d love to hear from you, especially how thoughts and feelings on this changed from childhood to adulthood.