Identity Crisis for TCKs and the Adopted Child

Different is Beautiful

Photo by epicnom

The scene and conversation below is one that we tend to be a part of on a weekly basis. 

It’s raining. A bright blue, a brighter orange, and a large blue and green umbrella dashed across the street to the bus stop. Okay, dashed isn’t what we did…I had Jie Jie, so we stomped in the water puddles and marched. The large bus squeaked to a halt and we quickly slid our way to an open seat. I looked at the kids’ spotted wet clothes and wondered why I had insisted on them using the umbrellas.

Mei Mei and Jie Jie shared a seat. Ge Ge stood holding a pole. A Chinese lady sat next to the girls and I stood near them praying that Jie Jie wouldn’t jump on her, suck her hand and then try to shake the lady’s hand, or that Mei Mei would be patient with her older mentally disabled sister.

Yep, all three things came to pass, but thankfully the lady was gracious as we swayed to the rhythm of the bus.

The older lady looked at the girls, then at Ge Ge, and then at me. I was ready for the question. The question that we get about 2-3 times a week.

“Are all these children yours?” she asked in Chinese pointing at them.

I nodded and smiled thinking to myself, there’s only three.

The lady looked at Mei Mei and said, “But, she doesn’t look like the rest of them.”

I nodded and told her she is adopted.

Mei Mei sighs and says in English, “Mom, why do they always say THAT?”

I sighed and just winked at her. Too tired and wet to have this conversation again.

Then today we had this same conversation with a different Chinese lady walking home, except Mei Mei added another sentence, “I wish I could change my skin color.”

My heart stopped. WHAT did my daughter just say? WHY did she just say that? HOW am I to handle this right now as I’m chatting with a total stranger while keeping my tight grip on Jie Jie who wants to run out into the street?

I pushed her comment to the back of my head and finished the conversation with the lady. After our good-byes we hustled home to start homework, her comment crammed into the back of my mind.

Suppertime came and it was just the girls tonight. Her comment and my concerns about it wriggled itself out of the corner of my mind and I began to dialogue with her about it.

Here’s my conclusion:

1. Insecurity – Being different and singled out can make most people feel insecure. As a woman, I can relate with that. We did talk about other kids that she knows who are also adopted. She is not alone, and neither am I.  

2. Identity – We just started to scratch the service on this one. I mean think about it:

  • Third Culture Kids struggle with identity.
  • Girls struggle with identity.
  • Adopted kids struggle with identity.

This is something that we will probably dialogue about for years to come.

And I think that is the key: Dialogue, to keep the communication open so she feels comfortable to share her hurts, her fears, and frustrations. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a listening ear and a loving heart for my little girl.

I just have to remember to keep those ears open. To put down the dishrag. To not let concerned comments stay crammed inside my mind never to be found until it is too late. To sit with a cup of tea and listen.

Your turn: How do you handle questions like this from your adopted child(ren)? or from your TCKs when trying to identify who they are? Please comment below.