Irish? <+> Czechoslovakian? <+> Korean?
I was doing this project on the profile of adolescence for my Human Services Human Systems and Development class. And I couldn't help but consider myself in how I compared to the rest of teenagers of the past...
So I hope you see that I got the concept "Identity I.C.K." from Irish, Czechoslovakian and Korean. It is so apropos because I did feel much "ick" from my adolescent phase in life. The identity part just about did me in. It was hard enough being an early bloomer and Asian gal with a "rack."
I'll begin with my conclusion: 1) that my adoptive parents didn't have any clue about normal adolescence; 2) that I was screwed based on #1 and the perception of my adoption; 3) that I behaved normally for an adopted teenager (outside of being overly obedient and helpful around the house).
After reading long chapters on how a huge range of "normal" can explain the psychological, social and biological changes that occur in a child, I realized that some parents (including me before this class) really have no idea what is "normal" child development. And, "normal" is such a non-specific and general term it is sickening.
I was raised by well meaning parents who were Irish and Czechoslovakian. I suppose a part of them felt that to communicate to me and the public (probably more to the public) that I had successfully integrated into their family by wearing green on St. Patrick's Day year after year. No amount of wearing green or being cooperative would ever make me a drop more Irish than any other person.
My mother was born to a Slovak mother and a Czech father, thus "Czechoslovakian." My well-meaning grandmother never tried to make me Czechoslovakian but blessed me with many great ethnic baked goods and meals. I was pretty darn close to her up until she told me that my burning interest in life was a piece of rubbish. Oh that my younger self would have handled that better... but I digress.
Then, I had the absurd task of settling on the fact that I was born in Korea. So that makes me "Korean" right? Well, that's where the adoption makes it so complicated. I never got the blessing to find my identity in my birth culture. I did, in my private "life," teach myself Korean from a college textbook that I bought during the "college search" phase of my high school career.
I remember feeling exhilarated to find the Korean Adoptee community online on my Apple II gs (I know, I just aged myself). Well, stupid little me didn't realize that my parents were so paranoid that they'd check my online identity searching activity. They saw a message I wrote another adoptee and misconstrued it as I thought they were horrible. I got it loud and clear that I was not supposed to find my social belonging. (Whether that was the intended message of my parents, I don't know).
I felt like I didn't belong anywhere but with the band nerds and with the pen and paper. But, I stuck with that crowd and that activity to help me get through adolescence.
I didn't even feel "accepted" by my biological family (bless their heart) when I reunited with them in my 20s. They immediately sought to change my dress. All the while, I was not supposed to be known as the long lost child. I know they love me, but I did not feel "accepted." You know what that feels like, right?
So, getting back to that textbook I mentioned... I've been able to see my history with new eyes. I love myself more today than I did before I read those chapters. I read that a whole subset of the human population would consider me normal and not a terrible person. I no longer had to feel like the evil child that I never was.
It's nice to come to that realization and at the same time come to an understanding which would afford me the ability to extend grace to my parents. I see their fear of finding my identity as their fear of losing me and proof of my loyalty to them. Their aim was human. I've never had people so afraid to lose me. It is a high compliment.
My biological mother had to lose me to be accepted by society. My adoptive family had to integrate me to be accepted as a "family" to our American society. Who had the harder job? Who did better for me? You're entitled to your opinion. But my answer is that my adoptive family have done so much to make me presentable to humanity. THAT- is big to me.
All I know is that there is no handbook on being a parent, on being an adoptive parent, or on how to grow up without identity "ick." We just do the best we can and hope that we don't do anything that we'll hate about ourselves for the rest of our lives. I am relieved to say that I have one less thing to harbor against myself any longer. I am free.