Saturday, February 23, 2008

Twinge to the Heart

I've been meaning to blog about this, but haven't really had the time to sit down and formulate my words as I would like. And, I'm really not sure I can even adequately describe the feeling I had, but I'll try.

Back when school first started, I had signed up to help with some of the class parties for Ryan's class and also ended up being the person who organized the Valentine party. I searched through various websites & magazines and came up with what I thought was a pretty good plan. All organized with crafts, games and snacks and moving from section to section on 15 minute intervals. The plan was in place, the craft supplies ordered and parents lined up to bring in snacks and a couple of extra parents to help out with the games. There was a plan and the plan looked good.

I was particularly happy with the game I had found, it was where you pick up the little conversation hearts with chopsticks and see how many you can get in a certain amount of time. We had the room divided into 4 tables and a fellow parent/friend played the game with one table while I played the game with the other. We then did the same thing on the other side of the room. Great game. Great plan. The kids were really enjoying themselves and were really getting into a pretty big competition with each other. I was pretty darn proud of myself for finding something they obviously enjoyed.

Then ... when we got to the last table, one of the little boys didn't write his name on the sign up sheet. We go to church with this young man's family and I taught him in Sunday school when these guys were in kindergarten, so he is someone I know. I noticed that as we moved closer to it being what should have been his turn, that he walked behind me and stood where the child that had gone first was standing - except he was somewhat standing behind her. Hindsight of course is 20/20. But, do I really stop and think "why" does this child act like he doesn't want to play? No, of course not. I call the young man by name and ask him if he wants to play and he shrugs his shoulders and says no. One of the other children says "oh no, he can't play. He'll BEAT us!". But she didn't say it in a mean way, just more of a matter of fact way. You see, the young man's family is Cambodian and I realized as the young lady was making her statement and I was watching the young man - that I had not thought this game thing through well at all. The young man asks in a rather incredulous tone, why she thought he would win. She replies that she knows he would win because he's "Japanese or something like that" and that he KNOWS how to use chopsticks. Was the little girl being mean? I certainly didn't pick that up in her tone. Nor did I feel like she was making fun, it was more of a matter-of-fact type statement. The young man replied that he wasn't Japanese (which he isn't) but that he is AMERICAN. To say my heart sank to the bottom of my toes just does not give justice to how I felt and I had absolutely no idea what to say, I was frozen in time. Not only did my heart break for him and what he had just gone through but it brought to mind how much of this type thing will Emma endure in her lifetime?

When we were in the process of adopting Emma we were required to take a certain number of classes and even on top of the requirement, over the years since we began this process - I have read countless books, articles, websites - you name it on the topic of adoption. Within that topic you also have the layer of it being a transracial adoption. As one class called it, we were becoming a "conspicuous family". I vividly remember one class we took that talked about all of us being "racist" and how I took issue with that, I really do not think I see people as being one race or the other. But the author/teacher brought out the point that we all make "assumptions" on races, whether those assumptions are positive or negative. In this class and in other things I've read it's been pointed out that specifically with Asians you are going to have to deal with people assuming your child is smart, just because of her race. All of that to say, I thought I had read enough and planned enough that I would have these conversations with Emma at an appropriate time and teach her how to deal with these types of things and I realized at that moment in time that I will never be able to teach her but I realized that yes, she will more than likely face these same types of assumptions. It was a totally innocent comment, but by the look on the little boy's face, he knew it was coming and was trying to avoid it and I was heartbroken that I of all people should have known. My eyes water up even now thinking back to it. Was it that big of deal in the big picture? Probably not, at least not to most of us. But by the look in his eyes it was a big deal and it was certainly not the first time in his 10 years of life had that happened.

Like I said above, I thought I was prepared and well read but I realized I wasn't. Along that same line - I have another story too but I'll save that for another day.

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