Friday, May 29, 2009

Remembering Ethiopia

Our family has made a commitment to be an Ethiopian-American family. To not just adopt a child, but to adopt her entire family, her culture. We've been intentional about including African artwork and children's books in our home, talking about Ethiopia with our family and encouraging our daughter to share as much as she'd like about her experiences in Ethiopia. We want her to be proud of her culture and feel confident about who she is and where she comes from.

The problem?

She wants to be an American. Lately she has been frustrated when we talk about Ethiopia - especially when family or friends ask questions about Ethiopia and our trip there in January. She doesn't want to practice her Amharic language when her Ethiopian friends call on the phone, insisting she only speaks English. She tells us she hopes she gets white skin when she grows up, instead of her beautiful chocolate skin. She says she doesn't like the African art or maps or souvineers around the house.

And I know it's all normal. It's normal for a kid to want to be "just like everyone else"'s normal for her to not want to be different, to not stick out...

But regardless of how she feels right now, I know my job is to preserve that part of who she is and where she comes from. My job is to make it okay, or better than that, to make it cool to be Ethiopian. So how do I do that? How have some of you done that with your adopted children? Or how do you plan to do that as they get older?


Amanda and Co. said...

Thank you for posting about this. This is an issue we have with our youngest. She's pretty much felt that way from the day we stepped on the plane in Addis bound for Chicago and ultimately Honolulu. She doesn't want to speak the language, she pretends to not remember it and she has nothing nice to say about Ethiopia.

We're working through it. I started with the skin tone preference (she thinks white=beautiful and nothing else) and we're slowly but surely moving toward the Ethiopia is a part of who you are and it's wonderful aspect.

Thankfully our son accepts both aspects. It's difficult.

It breaks my heart when she tries to deny who she is. Just breaks my heart.

a moore said...

we know you're problem...and i'm sorry we don't have a solution.

Sarah Jane said...

Hi Gretchen,

This has been on our mind as well. . .though we haven't brought the boys home. We fully intend to do the same thing. I've read in many books that children go through this phase, and that it's common, so I feel like I'd expect it, but in most cases (according to the reading I've done), as they get older they desire that connection to their country of origin again. I'll be interested to see how Selah continues to react to it.

davesonya said...

still working on this one (like all of us, I'm getting the idea...), but we do what you are doing--lots of talking about all kinds of beautiful skin colors & how God made us just how we are. Ana says maybe in heaven she will have peach skin & I will have brown! I hope so!
holding out hope to all of us fighting this fight...may they love who God has made them to be...