Last night we celebrated the Chinese New Year with friends. We took our children, 5 in total, to a Chinese restaurant. There we sat, 11 of us around a long table, cultures and birth countries and skin colors varied yet all of us bonded over the simple fact that we chose to adopt children from China. Would we know these people otherwise? Probably not. Did we ever think we would one day be at "that" table in the restaurant, the one that draws every eye in the room?
Six white adults with four small asian children ranging from 5 years to 23 months old, and one african american elementary schooler. Children eating asian noodles along side french fries; chinese donuts and american ice cream. A statement to the lives of these children; always two cultures colliding, every day, every moment. They are asian, and they are american. They like rice and noodles, yes, as most little ones do. But they eat those noodles with a fork, because their parents don't know how to use chopsticks. They eat french fries and chocolate ice cream because they live in America.
I wondered, as I sat at that table last night, looking into the eyes of two beautiful little girls and chatting with our friends about the journey to these children, both figuratively, as in long and heartbreaking at times, and literally, as in 13 hours on a crowded plane and eating at the same place every day of the trip because the hamburgers there tasted somewhat like an american burger. Somewhat, if you didn't think too hard about it...
So I wondered, how long will we keep up this wonderful tradition? This was our first Chinese New Year celebration, and I look forward to many more, to watching the children grow and change and enjoy spending time together. But I wonder if there will come a time when celebrating what makes us different as a family will not be what my son wants. Will the day come when he will want to skip the annual event, when he will not smile and wave at everyone in the restaurant, when he will think that they are not looking at him because he is all baby smiles but instead because he doesn't share his mom's round eyes or his dad's red hair?
I don't know what will happen. I don't know why every eye was on our table last night. Any group trying to eat with 5 young children in tow is going to draw attention. I wonder if other parents think these same thoughts. Do other parents feel the stares? I am sure some do, for different reasons. And I don't, normally. After all, we are simply a family, living our life. But when you do something as private and personal as start your family in such a public way, this is often the outcome. And I am fine with that. Maybe that lingering glance at my son in the grocery store will spark an interest to adopt. Maybe that seemingly thoughtless question from the day care employee will lead to a better understanding. I do not mind the occasional stare and question. But I wonder what my son will think, as he grows. Will he mind? Will he eventually do whatever he can to avoid those stares? Will he eventually forfeit the culture of his birth country in order to prove to his world that he does fit in, that he does belong?
I hope not, for his birth country has so much to offer, both to him, and to me. And I always want to celebrate that!