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Adoption Blog: Melting Pot Family

Ethiopia In Our Hearts . . and In Our Lives



I recently shared my family's adoption experiences during our agency's weekend for parents in the early stages of adopting. I attended long ago and returned once with my family. That return visit led to some interesting and challenging questions for all of us.

This time, I felt strangely exposed while explaining how adoption touched each member of the family in a unique way.  I shared anecdotes of both sons’ questions and responses, my husband’s unique perspective, and my own concerns.  After answering questions, I wished them luck and rose to leave when a man in the group asked, "Can I ask you one more question?  Has your circle of friends and acquaintances changed since you brought home your daughter?"

I stopped. After reflecting a moment, I answered honestly, "Yes and no." We entered the process of transracial adoption thoughtfully. Both my husband and I have a diverse set of friends and acquaintances, and we considered the unique challenges that our child and our family might face. We wondered if we could help a child navigating prejudices we never experienced ourselves. Our social worker had a reassuring answer, "If you recognize the challenge and are struggling with how to best address it, you are good candidates to parent transracially.  Those who don't do that have a harder time helping their children."

I read books about transracial adoptees' experiences.  "Black Baby White Hands" and "In Their Own Voices" both helped me anticipate what our daughter might need from us. One big take-away: I needed to look outside our family to make sure she connected with others who shared her cultural and racial identity.

I also examined the diversity of culture within our family and our community.  We love travel, have friends from many countries, and enjoy being part of a global community.  I have embraced my immigrant parents’ Dutch culture as part of who I am.  I embraced my husband’s Greek culture when we married as part of our families’ identity.  After our daughter came home, our hearts embraced her Ethiopian one, too. I began my first blog to raise awareness about Ethiopia's beauty and to explore ways of weaving this new culture into the fabric of our lives.

Through the blog, I met many people who shared a love of Ethiopia. I raised awareness and funds – leading to our Ethiopia Reads' first library in Leyla's town of birth, Bahir Dar, plus our current effort to raise money for a second and a more general literacy program in Addis Ababa.  I also found the exercise of writing helped me truly exam and bring clarity to various adoption related issues. Our ties to Ethiopia are now quite tangible, far reaching and continuing to grow.

Recently, a mother asked an on-line group how she could meet people of color on behalf of her child. The question was thought provoking for me – I never really thought about it in those terms.  Instead, I found ways to bring Ethiopia – its beauty, its history and its need -- into our family's consciousness.  We weren’t looking for Ethiopian acquaintances – we wanted a deeper connection. Once we showed a dedication to our daughter’s birth country, relationships germinated with like-minded people whether they were Ethiopian, born in Ethiopia, or just grew to love this east African country. 

My dad was born in Indonesia, then lived in Australia and the Netherlands before settling in the US.  He is Dutch but his cultural identity is different than my mother, who lived her whole life in the land of tulips before immigrating. My husband is the only member of his family who lives outside of Greece. He is still fully Greek but he embraces the U.S., the Netherlands, and Ethiopia as part of who he is too. And in doing so, he separated himself to some degree from those who remain in his homeland.  Through watching their experiences, I came to realize how culture fits into identity is a individual and evolving experience.

To my darling daughter, I owe her a commitment to cherish her culture as part of our family, to genuinely learn and connect with her birthplace, and give her the best of both her father’s and my cultures. The mosaic of those different elements will then be available as she molds her own identity and makes her own peace.


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2 Comments

This type of adoption sets example for others.

Pantry Cabinets

By jesicamenon on Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 9:28 am.

Hi Jesicamenon,

Wow—that is high praise in deed. Thank you for sharing your view.  I certainly hope sharing our experiences and learning would inspire others.  Just as I have been similarly inspired by others. 

I also have had the good fortune to be be raised by two people and married to one who cherished their birth cultures as well as embrace the diverse cultures that make up our globe.

Best,

E

By Ellenore Angelidis on Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 9:47 pm.

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Ellenore Angelidis

Ellenore Angelidis



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