I was listening to an interview on the radio this morning and it pretty much kicked me in the gut. A mother and father were talking about their two boys they adopted from Russia. I resonated with them in many ways: the paperwork, the wait, the grief of having a child in an orphanage, the work, the exhaustion, the unbelievable joy, and so on. But then they said this:
"We've often been asked if we'll make sure we incorporate the boys heritage and culture into their lives as they grow up. And we do! They're living in Mississippi now, so they eat red beans and rice, shrimp, and listen to Hank Williams."
Yes, it was said tongue in cheek, and yes, he was trying to be funny. But his point was that his boys are now a part of his family and they're not Russian guests living with them. They're his boys. And as much as I applaud his deep love for his kids, this struck me as very, very wrong. His boys are not guests, but they are Russian. They will want to know all about where they were born and what it was like there. Keeping their birth country's culture alive in the house does wonders for an adopted child's soul.
I will be the first to admit we could do a lot more with Zinabu and his heritage, but we certainly don't throw it out the window and consider him blessed because now he can eat pizza with us. His "Ethiopian-ness"--if I may use that made up word--is a lot of what makes him Zinabu. How he eats and moves and walks and talks. Very Ethiopian. His questions and concerns about his adoption are soothed when placed in context with where he came from. To insist he's an American now is to shut the door on a very rich and treasured past. I cringe when I hear other APs (adoptive parents) doing just that.