Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sense of Belonging in America part 3

I believe, whole heartedly,  that part of my job of being a parent  is to pay close attention to my own learned  judgments and prejudices to do with race, ethnicity and any ‘isms’ that you can think of, so that my daughter can understand the power of prejudice. And the power of tolerance and acceptance.
This is even more important to me as my daughter is Chinese and she is adopted.  When I decided to adopt my daughter most of my friends were very supportive of the decision.  However, there was one ‘friend’ in particular who had very strong opinions, which caused her to emphatically not tolerate the idea let alone the decision to adopt a child from China.  Needless to say, we had to part ways.  We have all grown up with our learned inherited prejudices.  I am not immune to prejudice. However, I find it very liberating whenever I  see my learned familial and societal prejudices limiting my thinking  and I am able to broaden my mind’s eye from what I assume that person to be to who that person truly is in the moment.

The deep seated need to belong, I have come to realize, brings with it an implied element of exclusion and tribalism. So recently, I have been asking myself some deep questions. And as usual the questioning has been more productive than the correct answers!   If I belong to this particular group, then what does that mean to those people outside of the group? Ie. What does it mean to me to be American? What does it mean to be British? What does it mean to my daughter to be American or Chinese or adopted?  Once I have that ‘sense of belonging’, how does it influence my identity or  my relational experiences of competition or collaboration?

How can I help my daughter cultivate both a sense of belonging as well as a tolerance and acceptance of being different and unique?  How can I help her to grow up in an imperfect and at times intolerant world and still maintain feeling confident and good about who she was and who she is and who she will become?

Maintaining ground and balance in all I do and practice every day as a parent, is tiring and at times messy. As a single parent there is no one else to bounce off those important questions regarding raising my child.  Sometimes I can get exhausted and lost and I have to sit down quietly at the crossroads to be able to see what would be most helpful given the circumstances.  Life  is imperfect, and finding some kind of map that works for you is very important as a parent and particularly an adoptive parent. It does not really matter what map you use as long as it provides guidance, sustenance and a way to go forward and it works for you and your child.

My daughter is at that age, where she is most sensitive to wanting to be the same, and fitting in. and she is also aware of  ‘differences’ and the  judgmental opinions of others that threaten separation and can cause a life time of prejudice.  

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