Call us mommy and daddy

The day after my Arrival Day, I woke up late. When I opened my eyes, I remembered I was in USA.

I felt anxious and loneliess in the new enviroment. I wanted to cry but I was a big girl so I have chosen not to cry. The cloths on my bed showed me the yellow-haired lady had been in my room while I was sleeping. The yellow-haired lady came in, showed me the cloths and without saying a word, left the room. I got dressed quickly before she came back, then I felt alone again.

The yellow-haired lady brought me in front of my mirror. She wanted to brush my hair but I stiffened. I didn't want my hair be brushed by this stranger.

She had many items and trinket to give me. I only remember few of them.  It happened in silence, she showed me an item, I nodded or I shook my head. The silence was embarrasing. I thought maybe the American lady was shy as I was because she said nothing.

She showed me a ring, I nodded, she put it on my finger. She showed me a trinket, I nodded, and she gave it to me.
She showed me earrings, I realized with horror that this American lady's ears were pierced. I shook ma head and I thought the Americans were barbaric. I felt anxious, I missed home and I wanted to go back fast but the lady showed a watch. I nodded and she put it around my wrist. It made me think that Americans are so rich that they can offer a watch to kids.  I never thought I could possess a watch as a child. I felt I could like the lady. I wasn't interested by  any other items that she showed me but I continued to nod without paying attention to her...

After giving me the last object, the American lady showed herself and said: "Mommy".   She repeated again interringly: "Mommy? hm?"  I understood by her body language that I had to call her "Mommy". I nodded. She seemed very happy. She called me "Kimmi". At the end of the day, when her husband came back, she showed him and said "Daddy". I nodded again.

That's how I began to call two strangers mommy and daddy. 

They didn't know I thought mommy and daddy meant Mrs and Mr.  When I became less shy, I talked to them in Korean. I never called them "eomma" and "appa" which mean mom and dad in Korean.  I called them Mrs and Mr in Korean but I don't remember how to say these words; I lost my eomma and appa's language and culture that were also mine . People call it  "assimilation".

Even after learning it's real meaning, I continued to call them mommy and daddy, until they brought me to Quebec, where they asked me to call them "maman" and "papa".


Taking away the difference

The other day, as I was standing on line at a store, I saw a tall skinny white man with red hair play with the long black hair of a young Asian girl.  The girl could have been no older than 8 or 9; she was wearing a stunningly beautiful holiday dress,  a matching ribbon in her hair, and very lovely black suede shoes.  No other "related adults" seemed to be around these two, so I accepted this as being an adoptive dad out holiday shopping with his adopted daughter.  I'll be blunt, the image of a white man stroking the hair of an Asian girl seemed a bit creepy to me, but then, I happen to know quite a few men who find Asian females exotic and the whole East-meets-West relationship-theme as being very erotic.   By no means do I suggest this was the case between this man and child, because I believe this was nothing more than a mere moment where the man was caught admiring the large curls put in his adopted daughter's long black glossy hair.  However, I'd by lying if I said the thought of impropriety did not cross my tainted mind. 

The point is, I could not stop looking at these two, because as an adoptee I'm always aware of obvious family differences and how a couple finds the child they call "their own".  I often want to ask, "Where did you (the AP) get this child?"  You see, when it comes to race and ethnicity, I like to learn which governments/countries are willing to relinquish their own to those from different borders, politics, cultures and history.  Somehow I see this farming-out of "unwanted children" as being some sort of social purification process, one that benefits the sending country more than it benefits the receiving one... so I like to know who sends out what, when and why.  For instance, when you look at one country's history, you can easily understand why so many Amerasian children in both Korea and Vietnam were placed in orphanages, or sold to Americans through agencies like Pearl S Buck:

During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, many of the unions between American fathers and Asian mothers happened through client-prostitute relationships. Mixed blood children, whatever the reality of the occupations of their parents, have inherited this social stigma. In poor countries where impoverished women have little choice but to consider prostitution as a means of survival, the resulting sense of disempowerment among men and women alike can bring seething resentment. Additional resentment may be fueled by the common knowledge that many servicemen fathers made promises to support the children, and simply left for the U.S., never to be seen again.  [From]

 More telling about the fate of an Amerasian child in an Asian country is this:

 A study made by the University of the Philippines' Center for Women Studies further disclosed startling facts affirming that many Amerasians have experienced some form of abuse and even domestic violence.

The findings cited cases of racial, gender and class discrimination that Amerasian children and youth suffer from strangers, peers, classmates and teachers.

The study also said black Amerasians seem to suffer more from racial and class discrimination than their white counterparts.

White female Amerasians are highly vulnerable to sexual harassment, the study noted.

Even more disturbing is the finding that parents of Amerasians sometimes discriminate against their own children.

According to the Learn. Ph. Foundation, a nongovernment organization that aims to improve the welfare of indigent groups through technology training, about 50,000 Amerasians are found mainly in Subic in Olongapo and Clark in Pampanga.

Abandoned early in life, these Amerasians, the NGO says, continue to suffer needlessly.

Most of them were abandoned after the US government closed its military facilities in the country in 1991.

The number of Amerasians, however, continues to rise because Filipina sex workers continue to flock to areas where US soldiers are stationed, particularly during military exercises between the Philippine and US troops.

Reports also said the sex workers from as far as Cebu in the south sometimes go to Clark and Subic to have sexual trysts with American tourists.

Perhaps owing to skin color and the fact that most have been born out of wedlock between sex workers and visiting American soldiers, the Learn. Ph. Foundation said these groups are not being given the chance to become productive citizens and that up to now the US government seems reluctant to recognize the lineage of the Amerasian children and withholds the benefits due them by virtue of their having American fathers.   [From:" ‘G.I. babies’: Little outcasts", Joel D. Pinaroc, The Manila Times, Sunday 25 April 2004, ]

So, in spite of my own understanding of child-placement overseas, friends have told me over and over again, "It's not polite to ask unprepared parents such probing questions about their adoptions".  Instead, I have learned to bite my tongue, and become one of those polite passive PC people who will sit/stand stare and wonder, "What's the story?", without saying a word to upset a man and his little adopted (foreign) girl.  [Because being caught watching with a very curious expression is so much more comfortable, isn't it?]

As I stood, waiting on line, watching these two, I began wondering... in what country was this little girl born, and did she remember her Mother-land.  If so, what were her memories, and how did that life compare to this very Americanized one?  Did she like being in an American family, or did she simply play the role she knew she had to play?  [Because that's what grateful appreciative adoptees do!] 

Then it began to hit me...  how long does it take for an Asian child to lose her cultural/racial identity?  I mean, I'm sure this girl at the store got the same speech I did from my afather -- "You are one of us now.  (It makes no difference who your parents are... we accept you as one of our own)".   Sure, in terms of being a "mixed-breed", lots of people have a little of this and a little of that mixed in their blood, (no one in my afamily telling me what that real mixture was....), but I believe the point my adad was always trying to make was quite simple: "We're Americans, and because of us, you're American, too." 

[Well, what if I didn't WANT to be American?  What if I was proud of my birthplace, what if I was proud my parents were NOT Irish or Italian, and what if I wanted others to know I was a Canadian brought to live in America?  What if did NOT want to be "different" from what I already was?!?  Then what?] 

At this point in my wandering thoughts, I began to realize what bothered me most -- by looking at the girl in front of me, I could not tell what her true ethnic identity was, and I wondered if that bothered her, too.  After all, based on the coloring and eye shape, I think most would assume she was either Korean or Chinese -- as if they were the same thing.  However, "Asian" can mean any of the following to the un-knowing eye :  Asian Indian, Bangladeshi, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Loatian, Pakistani, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese, not to mention any of those races/ethnicities found in the Pacific Islands.  

[I know in my case, I used to hate being told I looked just like my Irish amother, and had eyes like my Italian father, when in fact, I have none of their blood, genes, or ethnic history in me.]  

So I'm very curious... how quickly DOES a child lose his/her sense of cultural/racial identity in a land that tries to embrace the homogenized melting-pot theory that "each blended family is the same", (even though we all know this is not at all true...)?   When did you become less Korean (the only identity you knew) and grow to be more "white"?

Two years

I couldn't answer to your questions immediately because I'm hurt and I'm totally disgusted, not by your questions but the whole shitty thinking that transracial/international adoption is so marvellous. I feel alone because apparently many of transracial adoptees have no problem with losing their birth culture, they have no identity problems. What conforts me is to know that  even those who were adopted as babies feel the same loss than me.

It took me a little bit more than two years to lose my language completely.  I don't know exacly when but I remember once realizing that I was dreaming in French instead of dreaming in Korean. My memories of childhood were a translated version. For example, I remembered my sister telling me to stop crying and I knew she told me in Korean but despite my effort, she was telling me in French.

I read and undertood the third and last letter from the nun of the orphanage in March 8 th, 1977  (two years and one month after my arrival). Until now, I haven't met any adoptee who had kept  the birth language as long as I did. I think I lost it very quickly after that letter.

 It's in that year that I read my adoption paper and discovered the lies.  My parents contacted a Korean man in Maine who had stayed with us for few weeks right after we moved to Canada.  When he talked to me, the sounds were still familiar to me but I didn't understand one word and I didn't know how to speak either. I didn't realize immediately  that I lost my language, probably because I wanted so much to become like my parents and everybody else around me. It's only a year later, when my father brought me to a Korean church that I realized I couldn't speak or understand Korean. I didn't recognized one word, even the sounds became strange. I remember after we came back at home, I had a panic attack, I felt ashamed as if I had been raped.

I became gradually less Korean within those two years. Now that I can look at those years overall, I can describe them but at that time, I wasn't aware of losing my identity or my koreaness. It began with the way of living. Immediatly after my arrival, I have stopped bowing in front of adults or receving thing with two hands. I remember when I was in Maine, I found strange the gestures of the kids to tell me "come here" as if I was a dog ( Koreans do it with their palms down, while weterners do it with their palms up). I thought  Americans are so stranged, they called people like if they were dogs.
I lost even the simple gestures, I don't know when and how exactly, particular to the culture.

Even if the assimilation was done gradually and even if I was not aware of it, I had extremely difficult moments because I was alone and I couldn't share my feelings.

On my first year in Canada, I think it was during fall, I brought the photos of my orphanage to school. One girl claimed they (the girls on the photos) looked all same, with same eyes and same black hairs.  I didn't understand what she ment but few months later, when I looked back at the photos, I finally understood what she meant. My friends and I all looked same.

Before then, I was envious of some of my friends because I found them cute and pretty but now, all I could see were the all I could see were the uggly Chinese eyes, or slant eyes, with their flat noses and black hairs. I looked at the photos of the guardian of the orphanage and she also appeared to me same as my friends, with slant eyes and black hair. 

Seeing myself through the eyes of weterners, was the second step in the process of becomeing less Korean after losing my Korean habits and culture.  I was completly shocked and I tried to understand what happened to the photos.

Of course, I didn't know anything about assimilation and I didn't know that I was seeing myself throught the eyes of the westerners, so I suffered alone. I had moments where I wished to cut myself from my neck to my abdomen to change my uggly body. Later, I had moments where I thought I was white. Whenever I was thinking of my Korean family, I imagined them as being white.

When I found my siblings, I realized the transracial adoption not only took me away my original culture and language but also altered my sense of beauty. I saw the westerners as normal and I saw myself as uggly and abnormal since I've been assimiliated and raised in a white area. Assimilation is like brainwashing. When I saw my family, I understood it was the result of living in a white area but even knowing that, my family members were all abnormal  to me and uggly  with their slant eyes.

try to cover her eyes

I remember one of my wife's 3rd grade students (a Korean transracial adoptee) would try to cover her eyes when anyone took her picture.  She shared her feelings one day with my wife near the end of the school year.  She could have written some of the words in your post. 

She was a very pretty girl in 3rd grade, and she's a strikingly beautiful young woman today.



Because we have only adopted children, I am the one who looks different and feels ugly among my beautiful children.  So I do understand your words and feelings, only from the opposite side.

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

Almost 4 Decades Later - Still Haven't Assimilated

First of all, I would like to say that I am so thankful for KADS like Kimette who has the courage to tell things as she remembers.  Through sharing her history, she has shown that ALL adoptees have histories before being adopted.   It is adoptees like Kimette and Kerry who have given me the courage to have a voice.  Until then, I "accepted" the fate that was handed to me.   Now I know that I am not alone and my feelings are real and others will understand.  Unlike Kimette, I only remember South Korea like a vignette, dream-like state.  For me, I had a nightly recurring dream until the age of 10.  I was 3 when I came to the US and my amother has told me that I had mastered enough words within a year to communicate with them.

Today I revealed to my amother that I did not know for years that my Japanese Aunt by marriage was deaf.  I thought she couldn't understand me because she spoke Japanese.  I was 10 when they told me again that she was deaf and I was quite shocked.  They must have told me at a time that I did not understand.   I was 10 before I felt confident that I could communicate in English, but even at the age of 10, I felt cheated that I went through a major part of my childhood, not understanding my life.  No wonder I appeared to be sad, quiet and withdrawn and I became prey to my family sexual and emotional abuse.

As an adult, I have often wondered, how did I do so well in school?  I started school at 4yrs old and graduated high school when I was 17.  All those years I went through motions, without fully understanding what I was doing.  Not that my  grades reflected it either.  But how did I do it?

I believe now, that much of who I am is is tied to my blood and experiences.  Although I was given up and moved from my country of origin....  I am Korean.  That fact will never change.  I feel that I have not completely assimilated because I still do not understand all the parts of me that are because I am Korean or are tied to my biofamily.  Even today, I feel closer to adoptees (with the exception of my immediate family (( husband and sons) and a few friends) more than the general population or my adoptive family.

Here is the Online Webster definition:

Main Entry:
Inflected Form(s):
as·sim·i·lat·ed; as·sim·i·lat·ing
Middle English, from Medieval Latin assimilatus, past participle of assimilare, from Latin assimulare to make similar, from ad- + simulare to make similar, simulate
15th century
transitive verb1 a: to take in and utilize as nourishment : absorb into the system b: to take into the mind and thoroughly comprehend2 a: to make similar b: to alter by assimilation c: to absorb into the culture or mores of a population or group





A sad family tradition that reminded me of you --

I know there are so many in this world who want to believe adoption is the greatest blessing an abandoned/abused child can be given.  I think many people tend to forget not ALL children adopted were orphaned, abandoned OR abused by first-family members.  I think many people tend to forget the word "Mom" or "Dad" may be freely used and given, but in order for either word to be felt/associated with sincere sentiment and positive emotion by the child-in-question, that word... that title.... has to be earned.  In addition, I think many people tend to forget the important significance a loving and concerned grandmother can have in a child's life.... especially if that child's mother is/was the grandmother's daughter. 

Today I read yet another piece about the Mother of Malawi Adoptions, and I thought of your own introduction to the word "mommy" when I read the following:

When celebrities adopt, the process is often publicized and other blended and blending families can learn a lot. The Sun newspaper in England reports that Madonna called her soon to be daughter, Mercy, in Malawi and said, "Mommy is waiting for you across the seas."

Madonna reportedly calls the four year old who allegedly has a basic understanding of English, nightly. The paper also reported that on Thursday, Madonna had a nanny and a nurse sent to Malawi to care for Mercy until the adoption is finalized, at which point Mercy will be moved to an apartment Madonna has allegedly obtained in the Malawian capital. Then a private jet will transport Mercy to join her new blended family that includes mother Madonna, sister Lourdes, from Madonna's prior relationship with boyfriend Carlos Leon, Rocco, Madonna's son with second husband Guy Ritchie, and adopted son David Banda, with whom Madonna also shares custody with Ritchie.  [From:  "Madonna teaches Mercy to call her mommy", June 18, 2009 ]

How very sad a mommy and a mother-land can be so quickly and easily replaced.  It comforts me knowing there are other adult adoptees who understand the sadness I feel when I read about a stranger in a strange land quickly and immediately assuming the title "Mommy", simply because she was granted an adoption decree.  As a mother, nothing would kill me more than knowing my children were told to call another woman "Mom", simply because my husband re-married and wanted me replaced, ASAP.  [After all, is that title ("mommy/mom" or "daddy/dad") rightfully earned the moment a person signs a (first, second, third) marriage certificate?

If the word "mommy" is going to be associated with the person who  a) performs the tedious, repetative tasks that go with daily child-care and b) is always readily available for the child-in-need, shouldn't Mercy be calling her new nanny "mommy"?  Has anyone thought maybe Mercy would like to decide (in her own language) what her new celebrity benefactor shall be called?  I mean, a child Mercy's age does have the ability to speak and make her own associations, doesn't she?  [I wonder how a person in Malwai would say, "nice blonde lady"?]  


While reading your response I had to think of the word "home", as in the expression: taking [child's name] home. Whenever I read that, I tend to look at it from a child's perspective, for whom it is anything but home.

Pound Pup Legacy