Sunday, January 25, 2015

Growth and tiramasu

It occurred to us a couple of days ago that Caroline had gotten bigger almost overnight.  My eyes didn't entirely deceive me.  Not only has she outgrown clothes that fit her well or were even a bit too big for her a few months ago (we've been using some of her dresses as blouses!), we, like most parents, keep an unofficial record on the frame of the kitchen door.

At this rate, we're going to need a bigger door.

She's standing at just about 36", which is somewhere between the 80th and 90th percentile.  Our tall girl!

In other news, she's discovered a new food that she loves: tiramasu.  We split a piece of this after dinner a few nights ago (after she plowed under a hodgepodge of spaghetti marinara, broccoli, asparagus, pizza with bacon and mushrooms, Greek salad, and anything else on the table she could get; she is NOT a picky eater).  I say "split", though in fact Chrystal and I got only a bite or two each.  Caroline, after sampling this new dish, proceeded to DEMOLISH it.  Honestly, she was using her fork like a shovel.  Well, why not?  Tiramasu contains coffee and chocolate, two of her favorite things.  My mother-in-law joked that, if we had put some bacon on top, it would have been culinary perfection in Caroline's eyes.

"Why did they bring three forks?  I can only use one at a time."

As an aside, the blue dress she's wearing was an emergency purchase.  A certain careless individual (who shall not be named) decided to give her some of his coffee while on the way to a birthday party... which she proceeded to spill all over the dress she had been wearing.  Fortunately, Chrystal was able to duck into Target and find something, so we weren't terribly late.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Racism and Asian-Americans

As an adoptee, I had grown up with white parents in a white town in rural Connecticut. My only knowledge of Asian culture was Chinese food and, when I was growing up, a number of meetings of adopted children that still haunt me, though I realize that my parents had my best interests at heart. They had taken me to these meetings for connection, but what I remember was the disconnect: the awkwardness of forced interaction between children who thought of themselves as white and didn’t want to be shown otherwise. We hated being categorized as adoptees, or I did and I read those feelings into the others, who to me did not seem friendly, or familiar, only more strange for their yellow faces.

The author, Matthew Salesses, goes on to discuss how he has dealt with being an Asian in a white country and especially the racism that he has experienced.  For example:

--- The truth is, racism toward Asians is treated differently in America than racism toward other ethnic groups. This is a truth all Asian Americans know. While the same racist may hold back terms he sees as off-limits toward other minorities, he will often not hesitate to call an Asian person a chink, as Jeremy Lin was referred to, or talk about that Asian person as if he must know karate, or call him Bruce Lee, or consider him weak or effeminate, or so on.

--- Racist jokes were told with alarming frequency for a school billed the “most liberal in the South,” and I was friends with two groups: one mostly white, mostly Southerners in the same dorm; the other mostly black, with whom I played pick-up basketball. They joked without censor. I had a girlfriend whose aunt and uncle lived in North Carolina, and when we went to visit, they would say that at least I wasn’t black, often before some racist diatribe. This seemed the predominant sentiment then. At least I wasn’t ____.(1)

--- Both Harvard and Princeton are currently under investigation on charges of racism toward Asians, whose grades and SAT scores, on average, must be higher than those of other races in order to gain admissions. Many Asian Americans are responding by marking the box on applications that declines to indicate race, something I cannot help but read symbolically. I confess that I would give my daughter that exact advice, in admissions: not to reveal her race. The accusation is that schools have capped their “quotas” of Asian students, and this is why Asians need to score higher, because they are competing amongst themselves for a limited number of spots. Most Asians accept the unwritten rules, pushing themselves or their children harder. But why should they, in a country that prides itself on equal opportunity?

This last sentence really hits home.  If I may indulge in some racism (and making generalizations about people based on race IS racism), Asians are widely regarded as having an excellent work ethic(2), especially when it comes to school.  But why?  Part of it may well come from the Chinese imperial examination system(3), but I suggest that much of it also comes from both a desire of the home culture to compete with the more "advanced" West and, more importantly, a belief amongst immigrant Asians that the path the success and acceptance, especially in America, is through proving one's merit by hard work and academic achievement.(4)

And what a moral quandary this is!  What ought a person say when he is praised for his race's GOOD qualities?  "You people are so hard-working!"  "You people are so polite!"  "You people are so respectful!"

You people...

I detest the idea of my daughter growing up with a chip on her shoulder, convinced that she's the target of a daily, incessant barrage of racist slurs, "microaggressions", &c.  On the other hand, if Salesses is to be believed (and I most assuredly do believe him), that is very likely the world she will live in.(5)  What ought I to do to prepare her for it?  Is talking to her enough?  Where's the line between making her aware... and making her paranoid?

For now, thank heavens, my worries are a little more pedestrian: "Is coffee in the morning bad for her?" or "Look, can we watch something other than 'Peppa Pig' for a change???" And, more importantly, my worries are more than offset by simply enjoying time with my little girl.


(1) I cannot resist telling this story.  Years ago, I briefly dated a Chinese girl (she was born, educated and had lived most of her life in China).  She early on told me point-blank that her family would greatly have preferred that she date / marry a Chinese boy but, as they are in somewhat short supply here in No. Carolina, a white boy would do.  They were absolutely dead-set against a black or Latino boy.

(2) This same girl once boasted to me that, "We (Chinese) work harder than anybody else in the world."

(3) "This system allowed anyone who passed an examination to become a government officer, a position which would bring wealth and honor to the whole family. The Chinese imperial examination system started in the Sui dynasty. Over the following centuries the system grew until finally almost anyone who wished to become an official had to prove his worth by passing written government examinations. The practice of meritocracy still exists today in the Chinese cultural sphere, including ChinaTaiwanSingapore and so forth."

(4) This has by no means always worked.  Until the post-war period, even well-educated Chinese and Chinese-Americans often found work outside "Chinatowns" only as laborers.

(5) There is good reason to believe that things have gotten better for Asians in American and continue to improve.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Big girl chair

Caroline has officially graduated from high chair to big girl chair (at least, when we're at home).

Yes, that's coffee in her little cup.  She likes to have a cup (or two... or three) in the mornings with her breakfast.

In other news, we find to our astonishment that she has learned to:

--- Count to ten

--- Sight recognize capital letters

Now, she's not 100% reliable on either of these things - she often skips "5", for example - but we think that these skills are pretty incredible in a child who's only a bit more than two years old AND only been exposed to English for about seven months.

Another thing she's done recently that bowled us over was tossing an empty drink bottle into the recycle bin without being told.

We're very proud of our remarkable little girl!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nick Searcy on Parenting the Non-White Child

I often ponder the issue of race and what I shall try to teach my little girl about it as she grows older.  Via Twitchy comes this from the actor Nick Searcy, himself the father of a black son.

My friend Tony Katz sent me this article today, and I found it tremendously disturbing. For one thing, this is not really about this man’s son. It is about this man’s politics. It is a defense of every leftist lie from ‪#‎WhitePrivilege‬ to ‪#‎HandsUpDontShoot‬ to ‪#‎IcantBreathe‬, all of which are simply poison.

I do not teach my son that he is a perpetual victim, and that he is hated. He is not. He is loved and admired by all who come in contact with him, because he is a wonderful person.

I teach him that there is evil in the world, and it comes in all colors, creeds, religions and genders, but that it is never an excuse for him not to do the right thing. I teach him to take responsibility for what he does, and to make sure his side of the street is clean.

I teach him that police officers have a difficult and dangerous job, and they face potential death every time they enter even the most routine traffic stop or random encounter. I tell him 1) do not break the law, and 2) if you accidentally do, by speeding or even a careless mistake, if an officer approaches you, you treat them with the utmost respect, and do not give them ANY reason, even if you feel you have been stopped unfairly, to think that you are a threat to them, or that you are not willing to cooperate them in every way. That is what they deserve, and that behavior will protect you as well.

We have talked extensively of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, and of slavery. There is no question in his or my mind that it was a horrible chapter in our country’s history, and and a terrible wrong that had to be righted — and it was, through a bloody Civil War, and a terrifying period of civil unrest, which required incredible bravery and resolve. But I also make sure that he knows that America did not invent slavery and racism. Both have been around for thousands of years, and have been practiced by individuals of all races. The history of humanity is filled with evil, oppression, tyranny, and racism. It is a crime that is not inherent in one race or another, or one country or another. I teach him not to blame America, the bravest, freest country for individuals in all of history, for sins and wrongs that were pervasive throughout the world at its founding.

And I try to teach him that he can become whatever he wants to be, and the world is not conspiring to destroy him because of his skin color. I tell him that the most serious problems he will face will be those within himself, and frankly, that personal failings and limitations, not the evil of others, prevent most people from achieving their dreams. I teach him to not blame others for a bad grade or a failed enterprise, and that while unfairness often exists and must be addressed, most of the time the problem is within his control.

I hesitate to criticize another parent. There are problems that arise when you are a transracial parent, and all parents deal with them in their own ways. And God knows, I am not perfect.

But what kind of man teaches his son that the world is out to get him, the police want to kill him simply because he is black or white or whatever, and he will always be despised because of something he has no control over whatsoever? That the deck is unfairly stacked against him, and he should always be suspicious of white people because they are racist even when they don’t act like they are, because #WhitePrivilege means they can’t even know that they are racist because they’re too dumb to see it?

I pray for this man’s family, and I wish them well, but I think he is doing his son a grave disservice. His son lives in a country where he can become whatever he wants be, within the limitations of his abilities and his willingness to work to achieve his dreams.

That’s what I tried to teach my “white” daughter, and that’s what I try to teach my “black” son.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas

Caroline did not quite get the concept of Christmas this year.  We tried to explain the true meaning of Christmas as well as Santa Clause.  She loved the Christmas tree and going to the Church Christmas play, but she didn't really understand why she was getting so many presents. 

Decorating the Christmas Tree was her first Christmas Activity.  She really enjoyed that and well, she got to redecorate it several times as she kept taking the ornaments off.

Then we went to see Santa.  She enjoyed going to Old Salem to visit him.

She baked Cookies with me and Lao Lao.  I think she really loved that.

I think the part she liked most of all was visiting with friends and family.


Although she received many presents, her cooking set and the boxes seemed to interest her the most.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 18, 2014


Rehoming is when adoptive parents decide to disrupt their adoption and find new adoptive parents or guardians for their adopted child. This is most often done due to behaviors that are beyond their ability to parent. Most adoptive parents complete a rehoming through the court system with an appropriate assessment of the new home. There have been cases when an adoptive parent simply transfers guardianship of their child to the new parents and has little to no knowledge about the family.

Perhaps I'm na├»ve, but this concept never crossed my mind before.  Unfortunately, it does seem to happen, and the courts and legislatures are beginning to do something about it.  Here is a recent ABA Journal article that discusses the legal background and framework:
Among pet owners, "re-homing" an unwanted dog or cat is a relatively straightforward process. The owner who seeks an alternative home often places an ad on the Internet, and a private transaction occurs that moves the pet to a new family. But with the rise of foreign adoptions of children and the inability of some parents to handle troubled youths, more and more desperate families are taking that approach with adopted youngsters and re-homing the children with strangers. Often those re-homed children report gruesome tales of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by their new guardians.
The process of re-homing has been largely unregulated—no federal laws prohibit the exchange of unwanted adopted kids. Most states allow private adoptions, but the processes vary widely and oversight is limited. In most cases, re-homing may be executed by a simple power-of-attorney letter or a notarized statement without government authorities or even any lawyers vetting the new parents.
I am reminded of the chapter in Anne of Green Gables when Marilla, determined to send Anne back as she and Mathew had requested a boy to help around the farm, discusses Anne's fate:
"It was our own fault," said Marilla resignedly. "We should have come to you ourselves and not left an important message to be passed along by word of mouth in that fashion. Anyhow, the mistake has been made and the only thing to do is to set it right. Can we send the child back to the asylum? I suppose they'll take her back, won't they?"
"I suppose so," said Mrs. Spencer thoughtfully, "but I don't think it will be necessary to send her back. Mrs. Peter Blewett was up here yesterday, and she was saying to me how much she wished she'd sent by me for a little girl to help her. Mrs. Peter has a large family, you know, and she finds it hard to get help. Anne will be the very girl for you. I call it positively providential."
Marilla did not look as if she thought Providence had much to do with the matter. Here was an unexpectedly good chance to get this unwelcome orphan off her hands, and she did not even feel grateful for it.
She knew Mrs. Peter Blewett only by sight as a small, shrewish-faced woman without an ounce of superfluous flesh on her bones. But she had heard of her. "A terrible worker and driver," Mrs. Peter was said to be; and discharged servant girls told fearsome tales of her temper and stinginess, and her family of pert, quarrelsome children. Marilla felt a qualm of conscience at the thought of handing Anne over to her tender mercies.

To a large extent, I understand WHY parents might decide to rehome.  During our "training" as prospective adoptive parents, we were told about the potential problems that adopted children might have, including severe behavioral issues ranging from attachment disorders to violent behavior (in Green Gables, Marilla is advised that adopted children put strychnine in the well water!).  We've seen from the experience of friends who've adopted that the medical files aren't always... um... completely accurate.  In short, the well-intentioned parents may find themselves with a situation that is financially and emotionally beyond their capabilities.  What to do?  Is it not in everybody's interest to give the child ASAP to a family that CAN handle the situation?

This is a difficult question.  On the one hand, I can see how "rehoming" might well be the best option for all concerned.  On the other - and I realize that this is an easy thing to write - parenting is not like a job where one can just quit because the (shall we say?) terms of employment turn out to be rather different than promised.  How is the adoptive parent who finds himself with a "difficult" child any different than the birth parent who finds himself with, for example, a severely handicapped child or a child with very difficult behavioral problems?  My wife and I talked about this during the process: "What if ---?" Our decision was that we would take what came just as we would have done had we had a biological child*.

But there are those parents (and I realize that we might have been amongst their number; there but for the Grace of God goes Sherlock Holmes) who don't chose to stick it out.  Clearly, there must be a legal framework for rehoming.  The child has very likely been abandoned once; it shouldn't happen again.  He doesn't deserve to go from bad to worse.
"Kids shouldn't be in want ads like: 'Our dog just had puppies. Want one for free?' " adds [Ann] Haralambie, a former chair of the ABA Family Law Section's Juvenile Law and Needs of Children Committee. "That's precisely where people like the mentally ill and pedophiles go to get children. At best, it's abandonment, and at worst, it's human trafficking."

Ultimately, the burden falls on the prospective parents to decide if they really are prepared to deal with whatever may come.  Anne Shirley turned out to be a fine young lady and a joy to the Cuthberts; I think that such is the case with the vast majority of adopted children.  But things MAY not go so well, and people do themselves and ESPECIALLY the children a huge injury if they ignore this possibility and, hence, can't deal with it if it comes to pass.**
Haralambie, too, believes that re-homing signals "a much more basic, systemic problem"—the lack of resources to properly screen prospective parents and to inform both the child and the family of what to expect from adoption. "Adoptive parents need to have a real-life reality check and then real good support once those children arrive."
Adoption is an on-going learning experience for everybody, from the government agencies to the social workers to the parents to the children.  Each year, we learn more about what we've done well and what we need to do better.  As hard as it can be to read what some adopted children write about their experiences and viewpoints, we need to hear what EVERYBODY has to say to make the process as fool-proof as we can.  After all, we are talking about the lives of children: none of us want to foul up.


(*) Early in the process, I wondered if I could accept - nay, love - an adopted child as I could a biological child.  I'm very, very happy to say that, with my daughter, that question has been answered unequivocally in the affirmative.

(**) I highly recommend to the prospective adoptive parent Patty Cogen's Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: I read this before we were matched, and I must say that it was tough sledding as Cogen pulls no punches on what CAN happen.

Patty Cogen.  Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years.  Boston: The Harvard Common Press, 2008.

Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Nick

After considerable anticipation (especially on the parts of Mama and Ol' Baba), Caroline met St. Nick for the first time.  We were pleased that she - unlike many small children meeting He Who Hands Out the Goodies for the first time - didn't cry or fuss.  She got into his lap without any trouble, but then looked puzzled and a little dazed.  Worse, she forgot all the coaching I gave her about what *I* want.  Oh, well... Maybe next year.