Adult Colombian Adoptees -- What they wish their parents knew!

Over the past three years I have participated, mostly as a lurker, on several Colombian Adult Adoptee forums. I was interested to learn from them about their experience in preparation for raising my own little Colombianito. As I read posts, I realized quickly that not every adoptee has the same perspective about their adoption. Feelings ran the gamut from thrilled to horrified. This reflects the feelings also found in domestic adoption. I have read the books, attended the classes, and hope to raise 2 happily adopted kids. But, was I missing something? Something obvious?

One thing that I noticed right away about nearly all the adult adoptees -- whether they were happy or unhappy with their own adoption -- was that all seemed to have one issue that they wish their parents would have known about and addressed. In preparation for writing this blog, I asked several adult adoptees to share their feelings -- the results are found below. Most of the adoptees have asked that their names not be used out of respect for their parents, so out of respect for that request, these comments remain anonymous.


#1 -- From a happily adopted adult:
"I was adopted in 1974...I think my parents were more concerned with my fitting into American culture to avoid my feeling "different," than they were concerned about teaching me Colombian culture. And so basically, my Colombian heritage was erased; except for when my adoption was mentioned in conversation. I was raised to be a proud American...While I know my parents were never ashamed of who I was or where I came from, EVER, I do wish they had made a little more of an effort to make me feel equally as proud to be Colombian. Key word: equally - not more than American, just equally. Perhaps in today's day and age, modern technology has made that idea so much easier to accomplish for adopting parents than it was for my parents. But I still think there were things they could have done. They could have taken pictures of the country while they were there, perhaps brought back souvenirs, exposed me to the food, shown me magazine pictures, ANYTHING.

I grew up not too far from an area in NY where everything Hispanic, (from many different countries,) exists at your fingertips, including Colombia...Yet we never spent any time in this area...not even for an occasional, special Colombian meal. There were Colombian American parades...that we never attended. As I grew up and went out into the real world on my own, I met a good number of Hispanic people who seemed to take offense when I told them I couldn't speak Spanish...as if it was my fault. I even had one woman raise her eyebrows when I told her I was adopted and my parents spoke only English. She was horrified, 'They should have taught you!!!' was her harsh response...even after I just finished telling her they DID NOT speak Spanish. I'm not comfortable venturing into areas such as these even now, because I never know how fellow Hispanics are going to react. I think some people think I'm ashamed of who I am and that I would rather be American, while others seem to feel bad for me...poor little adopted girl. MOST OF THE TIME, however, I am received very lovingly."


#2 -- From another happily adopted adult
"I am so happy to be in my family. I cannot imagine having grown up anywhere else. But, I secretly resent the fact that my parents never talked about Colombia -- except for in reference to picking me up and leaving. It really didn't bother me while growing up, but when I got to college, I realized how much I had missed. I was actually assigned a roommate whose family was from Colombia, though she had been born and raised in the Miami. She was so excited to hear that I was from Colombia too. She was all ready to go dancing with me, but I didn't know anything about Colombia. I barely recognized the flag and often got it confused with Venezuela. I enjoyed learning about my birth country soooo much. It made me feel that there really was a void in my life that needed to be filled."

#3 -- From an unhappily adopted adult
"I am not sure if you really want to hear my opinion because in so many ways I feel that my adoption ruined my life. I don't want to get into particulars, but my life was not the Brady Bunch or Cosby Show. Much of this has to do with my adoptive family's issues, but some of it was also caused by where I grew up. It was a small town in the heartland. I was the ONLY brown person in a VERY white town. It was hard, and whenever I was teased, my parents would just say -- you are just like everybody else. But the fact was, I WASN'T just like everyone else. I often felt that my COLOMBIANESS (if that is really a word) was ignored, overlooked, or simply rejected. I wasn't supposed to think of myself as anything but a white American. When I went away to school, I joined a Latin American Student Organization hoping to find some common ground. I was saddened when I didn't fit in there either. I didn't speak Spanish, I didn't know or understand anything about my birth culture. I was a brown person rejected by a white culture and a white person rejected by a brown culture. I am not sure what might have helped, but I wish my parents had encouraged me to learn Spanish. I wish they would have helped me love and appreciate my brown skin and my wonderful Colombian heritage."


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Now, I know that this is not a scientific poll by any means, just an observation. But, after talking with dozens of adult adoptees, I believe that there is a common theme:


What do adult adoptees wish?


That their parents had made an effort to teach them about Colombia, its culture, and perhaps even its language.

Comments

Michelle said…
As a Colombian mommy, this information is priceless. Thank you for taking the time to research and post. I truly appreciate it.
Erin said…
This is exactly why I am so happy to have this blog as a resource- I can learn more about Colombia and its unique culture. Thank you!
Jennifer said…
Please give a special thanks to the individuals quoted in this article. I am sure their words will have a positive impact on many children's lives.
Anonymous said…
Bravo, Melinda! I'm sitting here in tears. You hit the nail on the head.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for posting this. I am in the process of learning about the K programs for my almost 5 yr old Colombian son. There is a dual language program for which we are elligible to participate in the lottery. This program teaches all subjects 3 days a week in Spanish, 2 days in English. I am gathering information on my child's special need to be in this program should we not be selected through the lottery. You have fueled my fire.
Audrey said…
Thanks again for taking the time to learn about and share these important insights with us all. And I'm so glad that the people quoted were willing to have their words posted, as it is incredibly valuable to hear their thoughts in their own words.

It seems to me that this blog is all about sharing a very important message that our children's birth culture needs to become part of our family's identity. You are really helping people who want to embrace Colombian culture by sharing your knowledge, and this post illustrates how in the long run your efforts could have an impact on the lives of our Colombian children. What a cool thought!
Paula e Ivo said…
Melinda: Qué gran valor tiene este post para nosotros los padres!!! Que bueno poder conocer los sentimientos de adultos adoptados para poder aprender a criar niños felices con su adopción. MIL GRACIAS!!
Renee said…
Thank you so much for this information. It validates our children and their heritage.
Your blog is SO insightful and helpful as we are beginning this journey! I can't figure out how to follow up on your comments, so I'll just give you my e-mail here: ralspaug@verizon.net.
Tim said…
Very interesting, thanks. I myself was adopted from Colombia in 1971, but an American Foreign Service family. They raised me in their scotch-irish-american tradition and culture, and that is what I now consider to be *my* culture. I spent 9 years living in various latin-american countries, experiencing their cultures, and enjoying every minute of it, but they didn't raise me as a "Colombian", they raised me as they would have raised their own biological child, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Adults like to be different and unique, but children don't. Children don't want to be a Colombian child, or a Chinese child, living in an American family. From the experience of friends of mine who were raised that way, it makes you feel like a permanent exchange student, not really an integral part of the family. To be adopted means that you become a part of your new family and their culture. I have no interest in my biological heritage, no desire to track down family, or find my birth-parents. Not out of resentment, though. Simply out of fulfillment in the life my parents (my only parents) gave me.

I am aware that not many adoptees feel the way I do, though. I hope that by whatever means, they are able to find the peace they deserve.
Anonymous said…
My husband and I are about to leave for Colombia to pick up our son. We participated in the kidsave program last summer and knew that we wanted him to be part of our family.

I have been looking for a place like this one to share thoughts, experiences and feelings about the adoption world.

I thank you for the comments from the adult adoptees. Thank you for your invaluable insight.
Thank you so much for this lovely post. I was adopted from Latin America in the late 70s and after graduating college I made my first friends ever from my birth country! They inspired me to learn Spanish and go back to my birth country for several months. Even though my dear parents NEVER EVER encouraged any of my endeavors to reconnect with my birth culture and the people of that country, I am so glad I followed my heart back to my birth country. It has enriched my life profoundly to have lots of friends from my birth country - it's the best!

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