In my previous post, I explain why thanksgiving and gratitude is important to me. Because this is National Adoption Month, I will continue on with my gratitude project “30 Things I’m Grateful/Thankful For,” Adoption Edition!
Day 3: I’m thankful for the neighborhood where I grew up. It’s still a pretty awesome place.
I’m a native Philadelphian, born and raised. And even though I definitely had no control over this, I’m so thankful for my parents’ choice of where to live in the greater Philadelphia area. My neighborhood was West Mount Airy, a northwest section within the city limits of Philadelphia. It’s south of Chestnut Hill and north of Germantown. It is famous for its diversity across all categories: racial, socio-economic, religious, and ethnic. What’s even more amazing, it was an ongoing intentional decision by the residents to be an integrated community. One of the pivotal moments was during an economic downturn in the 1950’s where real estate lenders would commonly use racially-driven predatory practices to convince white families to sell their home for less than their value because black families were moving in. The neighborhood rallied together to stand up against these practices and create a diverse and unified neighborhood, and it has stayed this way ever since. I encourage you to read about the inspiring history both here and on Wikipedia.
Now why do I bring this up as a transracial adoptee (TRA)? Because it makes a difference to see someone who looks like you and to know you’re not the “only one.”
Every day growing up, I looked at my family who had blond-ish hair (except my dad, who was mostly bald) and blue-green eyes. And then there was me: straight, dark Asian hair with brown-hazel eyes. No one in my immediate family looked like me. We did have a Japanese-American family who lived around the corner, so I saw them occasionally. I attended a private school, where there was one East Asian family. I was mostly surrounded by white people, so why wouldn’t I think I was white? Intellectually, I knew I was Japanese-American, but occasionally, when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, it would surprise me. Who is that dark-haired girl? Oh, that’s me! But because my neighborhood was an inclusive, diverse and accepting place, I may have looked different, but I never FELT different.
Some of you who are reading this may be adoptive parents with transracial adoptees in your family. You may not have the luxury of living in a large, diverse, metropolitan area like Mount Airy, Philadelphia. My advice: pay attention to your child’s cues. Expose them to their roots, but don’t try to smother them. Educate yourself, and seek out resources and connections that will help support your child as he or she comes to terms with looking and sometimes feeling different. This website has loads of resources: use them.