Written by Love Isn’t Enough Contributor Amber; Originally published at American Family.
[Editor's note: To provide helpful context, Amber, who is white, is the mother of L., who is adopted from China. In this post, Amber describes a meeting she had with a teacher and the principal at L.'s preschool.]
To review, L said “I hate my skin” several times. She also said “I want white skin like XYZ.” Because she said “white skin” which I don’t think we have ever said to her and mentioned only white kids at school, I figured this was possibly something from school. So I emailed L’s preschool teacher to find out if there was an incident and she invited me to come in for a meeting to talk about it.
I should have known the meeting wasn’t going to go well when I walked in and saw the principal was there. (The principal already thinks I am crazy because I was a little, uh, agitated with her when there was an incident in which a preschooler was left on a bus for three hours and no one noticed. It wasn’t L, but the whole idea of it really freaked me out.)
I sat down and the preschool teacher immediately said she didn’t know of any incident with L. That being said, the class had been discussing “same” and “different” a few weeks before. The class made self portraits and talked about similarities and differences in both general ways and as they relate to people’s bodies.
I am totally fine with discussing physical differences with preschoolers. It is something they are beginning to recognize anyway and pretending they don’t exist is silly. We talked about that, but I also asked if the teachers ever noticed any exclusion going on due to differences. They thought about it and said they couldn’t think of anything like that.
I told them that L has started noticing physical differences, but she had never put them in the context of herself before and it alarmed me that her first mention of it was so negative. The teacher nodded and said she understood why I found it a little worrisome.
Then the principal piped up: ”Have you ever thought of joining an organization for families who adopted kids from China? Maybe they be able to help you figure out how to deal with these adoption issues? ”
No joke. She was trying to send me to FCC. In my head, it was like the needle scratched all the way across the record.
She went on: ”And we were thinking, maybe it would be good if we made being different something to celebrate instead of a bad thing. Like, does your family celebrate Chinese New Year?”
I tried to be very measured in my response, but I realized at this point the principal was not only clueless, she was totally missing the point of the meeting.
“Well, L has never connected being adopted with looking different. She doesn’t look different than half of our family. Her dad is Asian and she has Asian cousins and aunts and uncles.” I said. (I had already mentioned that Mr. A is Chinese at the beginning of the meeting in case the prinicipal didn’t know.)
“She knows she was adopted from China and we talk about that, but she has never indicated that she has any understanding of there being a difference in appearance between being Chinese or anyone else. She doesn’t know she has darker skin or black hair because she is Chinese. She just isn’t there yet developmentally.”
I went on, “We would be happy to do Chinese New Year for the class if you want, but cultural stuff doesn’t really have anything to do with this.”
[to be continued...]