Wednesday, February 3, 2010


First of all, the tragedy in Haiti deepened even more Catherine's passion for missionary work. Needless to say, no matter how very much I admire her strong desire to help people in some impoverished, underserved, deprived corner of the world, the idea terrifies me. What keeps Catherine from actually doing it is the thought that if at any point anything happened (as it did in Haiti) and communications got down, her Grandma (my mom) would die from a heart attack at that very moment. And my mom thinks she cannot die for now--not out of concern for her own life, but in order to prevent Catherine from looking for some disease and danger in an area at risk. Actually, Catherine does not want to go for an extended period either because she cannot be far from her younger brothers for long.

Also, the earthquake in Haiti made me think of the way in which our adopted children's country becomes a little our own as well. After learning the news, some people e-mailed us--because we are somehow closer to Haiti than most of the non-Haitian population anywhere in the world. There is something in the adopted children's country of origin that hits the adoptive family in a very powerful way. If due to poverty, oppresion, political unrest, or natural disaster the people in that country of origin hurt and grieve, something inside the hearts of the adoptive family members bleeds and cries with them. Yet, that mighty feeling, far from pushing the adoptive children away, should pull them even closer into their new family's fabrics and dynamics.

I have always campaigned, and keep on campaigning, against overemphasizing the preservation of the children's cultural identity and thus preventing the adopted children from becoming fully and unconditionally equal  members of their new forever families. No child wants to be singled out as different from their own family and their peer group. They want to embrace their adoptive family's traditions and background. If adopted from U.S., they want to be full-fledged U.S. citizens. If adopted from Italy, they want to be Italian. If adopted from Argentina, they want to be Argentinean. If adopted from France, they want to be French. It is not because some places in the world are better than others. It is not because some backgrounds are preferable to others. It is not because of anything else other than the kids' need to feel no different from those in their new culture. Some people sometimes thought I was underplaying the children's heritage. The eartquake in Haiti allows me to tell them they were totally wrong. We all felt the tragedy more deeply, more intensely, more closely related to us than just out of compassion for our fellow human beings. We all felt that there is some pull from us to Haiti which is almost as strong as the pull of the Italian ducal descent that we carry in our veins.

That said, I keep firm in my belief that the worst adoptive parents can do is to make their new little family members feel different from the rest of their new family. What adopted children need the most is to feel fully integrated into their new home, their new peer group, their new community. There can be no true equality if we keep on overemphasizing differences--only because as adoptive parents it's difficult to let go of the aura of being called rescuers of our own adopted children. Some months after Thomas and Nicholas' homecoming, Catherine told me that she intended to delete from Facebook the pictures of my trip to Haiti and of their very first days with us so that they could be just her youngest brothers as opposed to keeping endlessly being her new brothers. Against what I had always campaigned for, I found myself doing what many times I had denounced as damaging to adopted kids: I told her to wait a little longer before deleting those pix--because, once again, that rescuer's aura is kind of addictive. I myself had fallen into that "trap" as well. Our adopted children's heritage comes to us by itself, with no need for us to go looking for it. Otherwise we would be erecting barriers while claiming to draw bridges--and that is certainly what we should never do.

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