Last week, my husband and I watched the documentary, Somewhere Between, by filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton. I highly recommend this film to you. It is about the lives of a group of teenage girls who were adopted from China and are now living in America with their adopted families. While we were watching it, I cried several times. I can feel their struggles as well as their happiness. It is very obvious that their feelings are complicated.
On the one hand, these girls are lucky. Their American families love them and take good care of them. There is a couple who are adopting a young girl with cerebral palsy. I was deeply touched by them. They had great love, extra patience, and much more! I really admire them!
Watching this film took me back to about 15 years ago, when I tutored two adopted Chinese sisters. Their adoptive parents provided the two girls the best education. In addition to regular school, they had after school classes, Chinese lessons two times a week, violin classes two times a week, and swimming lessons once a week. There is no doubt that they are having lives that the girls who stay in the orphanages in China can’t have.
On the other hand, these two sisters, just like the girls in Somewhere Between, saw that they are different from their parents and the rest of their family. If the family of an adopted Chinese child lives in a place where there are few, or no, Asians, they can also see that they are different from the people all around them at school, in the shopping malls, and in the restaurants. Then they start to ask themselves, “Who am I?”, “Where did I come from?”, “Who are my birth parents?” They want to know their identity. After Haley, who is 13 years old in the documentary, united with her birth family in a village in China, she said she was very grateful about the opportunity to meet her family, to know that she has sisters in China. She could feel the strong connections with them, even though she couldn’t communicate with them. She could only talk a little bit with her elder sister who speaks some English.
Here are some thoughts I have for the families of adopted Chinese children (they are almost always girls):
- When they are little, provide as many opportunities as you can for them to learn the Chinese language and culture. In your local Chinese community, there are always celebrations of important Chinese holidays/festivals. You can take your child to attend the celebration. I always see parents and their adopted girls in our local Chinatown.
- If you live in a city that has a university, check to see if they have a Chinese student association, and/or an organization that has volunteers who can help your child to learn Chinese. When my daughter was at college, she had a sister, an adopted girl. My daughter taught her Chinese, took her to Chinese restaurants, and helped her mom with groceries in Asian grocery stores.
- Check if there are more families in your area who also have adopted girls. If you can find some families, you can always get together with them, and let the girls play together. As parents, you can also share ideas of how to raise the girls.
- When possible, take your child back to China and visit the place where she was born. For the majority of them, they just want to know their identity. They are curious. Back in the summer of 2011, my husband and I were on a cruise through the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River in China. We met two couples from Denmark, and each had an adopted Chinese daughter. They took the girls to visit the town where they adopted them. In the girls’ words, now they know what China looks like.
I hope my words will help adoptive families in some way. I would love to hear your thoughts as well, so please leave your comments below. I strongly recommend the documentary, Somewhere Between, to everyone. I know it will touch your heart.
Click below to watch on Amazon Instant Video.