I’ve read about other parents experiences adopting from China. Before we started the process I subscribed to some message boards. I don’t participate much but I read just about everything that comes through. The questions and comments about keeping children connected to their heritage came up frequently. The overarching response I kept seeing was “we don’t push it” and “if she’s interested we pursue it”. Being overwhelmed with many other things I didn’t give it much consideration. Additionally Penelope was so young I figured we would make a decision later.
But as I read more from adoptees I see a different thread. A connection to culture matters. Knowing the language matters. Older adoptees lament the disconnect. Learning Mandarin (or Korean, or Japanese, etc) poses some difficulty the older you get. I’ve studied Mandarin (spoken only) for several years and know virtually nothing. I can ask where the bathroom is, ask someone’s name, say what mine is, and a few other things. But fluency is a distant shore for me.
Sometime over the last few weeks it occurred to me. I’d rather get Penelope involved now, while she’s learning like a sponge, and face the potential repercussions later. I’d much rather have Penelope upset with us for making an effort to connect her to her culture and original language than upset we did nothing. It’s that simple.
The few words she still knows (Xi1Shou3 = wash hands), (Zai4Jian4 = goodbye), and (Ni3Hao3 = hello) I try to use often. After a positive reference in “Adopted” and further reading reviews on Amazon of the Mei Mei Play & Learn Chinese video’s we purchased the first one and watch it with her daily. So far she’s interested and loves saying Pi4gu. We are attending a trial class at an Atlanta language school soon. There is a play and learn program for children her age. I’m hoping she enjoys it and there will be other Chinese adoptees there.
Jenn and I have floated several ideas about her education. If I had to decide right now she’s be in an immersion school. I don’t have to decide right now so who knows what will happen. A lot will have to happen for her to attend such a specialized school but Jenn and I know it will be worth it.
For the older adoptees who read this, what is your perspective on this topic? Were you provided the opportunities to connect with your culture? If so how did you react at the time? If not do you wish your parents had made the effort?
For international adoptive parents, what have your experiences been like to introduce and keep your children connected to their culture?
On a completely unrelated note, here’s a picture of the family after Jenn opened her birthday gifts this evening. With that smile you’d think Penelope got the gifts.