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Monday, September 9, 2013

Part I {Dark brown hair, Light brown hair}

I was putting Tess's hair into pig tails, getting her ready for school.  Tying bows in her piggies.
We live in a Caucasian community bombarded with messages about what beauty is, and in it's absence what it is not, in every magazine, billboard, and television commercial.  I figure I need to counter balance the mass messaging she already receives.
I finish
of our primping-in-front-of-the-mirror-time the same way.

Tess, you're gorgeous.
You're beautiful.
Do you know how very pretty you are?

Today she has a reply.
Tess:  I like your hair mama.  It's light brown.
Me:  I like your hair, Tess.  It's a beautiful dark brown.  And so are your pretty eyes.  
Tess:  But I like your hair.  I wish my hair and my eyes were light brown like yours. 
I know what she means.  This is about looking like your mama and wanting to be closer.
Me:  Tess, I think your VietNam mama probably has gorgeous dark brown hair and eyes just like you.  I think she is beautiful just like you!
We talk about their first mamas as if these women are another person in our family, just ones we haven't met.
Tess:  But I wish my hair was light brown like yours.  
{maternal sigh}

Back to me.
My mom has auburn hair.
My birth mom has blond hair.
And my hair is brown.
I get what Tess is saying.
It's taken me no less than 40 years to come to my own peace regarding moms and first moms and wanting something so badly that just can not be.  And it breaks my heart to think she might struggle with who she is and who she does and does not look like.  I want her to love herself in the here and now and feel how she is perfectly made and a perfectly shaped puzzle piece to our family puzzle.  I don't want her to continually reach after something that may never be attainable.  And grieve the loss that could define her.
Says the lady that tries hard 4 decades later to not do just that.

Yet, I want to help her discover who she is and help her piece together her own identity if that's what she wants.
It's a balancing act that parents who adopt constantly walk.
Give them the information they crave, but only if or when they crave it.  Attempt to satiate their curiosity, but not your own.  Tell them their story but don't let it define them.  Help them figure out where they came from, and help them accept that they may never really know.

Back to hair.
Humor me; Let me do a mom thing and tell you how beautiful she is.
Tess has the most amazing hair.  It's dark brown with a slight wave.  It's not coarse or stereo-typically Asian hair, yet so shiny.  Not to mention her eyes are just-can't-stop-gazing-into-them gorgeous.  Her eyes are huge and so dark that one can't really see her pupils amidst her very dark irises.  This makes them appear huge.  And again not really Asian looking.  And her darker than normal skin tone.  Which makes her appearance, although undeniably beautiful, not stereo-typically Viet.  But an undeniable beauty none the less!  
I know.  I know.  I'm biased of course!  In fact she's often mistaken as Mexican in our very Mexican community.  Or Hispanic in general. Or even middle eastern.  Or even Italian once. 
And all of this makes us wonder if she'll have trouble identifying herself with any culture at all.
And what we should do about it.
To be continued... Part II {Genetic analysis: to test or not to test}


  1. I love this post Nancy... one of my girls says these types of comments to me almost everyday... she so wants to look like me. This is a great reminder that I need to consistently remind her of her own beauty!

    1. In this day and age of multimedia advertising of beauty, I think it's important for ALL girls to hear that they are continually beautiful. In all ways. Because in comparison, they do NOT look like the images they see and the images they are told are beautiful. Beauty comes in so many pkgs and they are only seeing a very few. I know you know that too. Now for all us mamas to put in into practice every single day. Harder than it sounds.

  2. My Asian girl desperately wants blond hair like the American Girl doll Caroline, even though we bought her the Asian doll Julie last year for Christmas. Everyday she asks more questions about many different things. I keep trying to tell her what I know, which isn't much, and hope that somehow it will be enough. I think she's got beautiful eyes, but somehow all she can see is my blue ones.

    Personally, I don't believe in genetic testing unless you know that there is something that needs to be found, or a child is having medical problems where testing could help. There are some people in my online adoption circle who want to test their kids just to test them. I really have a hard time understanding why. I've held down my child who I'd only had for two weeks because they thought she had thalassemia markers and needed more blood for testing. (She's fine.) I could never do that again unless it was absolutely necessary.

    It's a decision every parent has to make for their own reasons.

    1. We're wrestling with this same thing, Andrea. To test or not to test. I understand the issues from both sides. But I think there is another reason to test, when the child is seeking for info. And the DNA testing is a home cheek swab. We had blood tests when we came home too and I wouldn't subject her to that again unless it was medically warranted. But a cheek swab at home, that she can do herself, is pretty non-traumatic.

    2. I tell my girls we look alike on the inside. We talk about the ways we are similar then in likes,personality, etc and also you could talk about how you all have strong hearts that beat inside and help you run, play, grow....I stay away from that now with a heart child in the family! But, yes, otherwise we look alike on the inside...

  3. Our son will also make comments like I am going to be big like daddy, a lot of you have seen pictures of me I am 6'3" and big is an accurate descriptor. I usually reply by telling him that however big you end up being is exactly now big God wanted you to be. God wanted Tess you have beautiful dark hair and striking eyes and my challenge is to have our kids see them selves for who they are who God wanted them to be and be confident and proud of that.

  4. I'm sure Tess has some of her mother's same beautiful qualities. Tess is such a beauty! Tess's eyes are just downright BREATHTAKING!! You are doing a wonderful job of helping Tess notice some of her own unique beauty.

    Our girl speaks of her Bio-Mom often and include her in conversations ALL THE TIME. Of course, Bre's adoption story is slightly different whereas she KNEW her birthmom. She knows her story and will "roll it off her tongue" matter-of-factly. We were doing an ALL ABOUT ME poster project this weekend for school and when it cames to Parents' she said I have (4) parents and proceeded to fill in the blank w/our names and her bio-parents names (of course, only stopping to ask about spelling). I love that she knows her story and while it does NOT define her, she is very proud of her story. She tells us often, I'm glad you and dad are my parents! She also LOVES! LOVES! LOVES...her Bio-Mom and we often bring her to visit her gravesite after church (the cemetary is only a block from our church). I look at Bre often and see SOOOO much of her mother in her. From her thick beautiful hair on down to those beautiful shapely legs.She even sounds like her when she laughs! It's AMAZING!! It's like watching her BIO-MOM all over again. are unique, you are beautiful and you are so VERY LOVED.

    1. What a blessing to have Bre's story. It is a story of loss. And that's never easy I can only imagine. But I'm glad she has some puzzle pieces to deal with. And in the end, she has so so so much love and know it. that's the best puzzle piece of all.

  5. Tess looks a lot like my friend's girls. Mom is white, dad is half black, half Vietnamese.

    1. Ya, she kinda fits in lots of boxes. We joke that she should be a child stunt double when she grows up!

  6. Your family should move here to Georgia, where I am the minority. We live in a neighborhood that is becoming predominately Indian, the dayworkers are hispanic, and if I go downtown African Americans are the majority. Are you adoapted Nancy?

    1. No, not officially. But I've often wanted to make it official even as an adult and even talked to my mom about it. 45 years later, still in process.

  7. As if we mamas aren't charged with a great enough challenge already to help our little girls know they are beautiful no matter what, the challenge is doubled with our adopted children.

    Tess is so beautiful, so striking.

  8. This is beautiful. My Elizabeth (7, born in China) has eyes just like Tess. I remember when she was about 10 months old tilting her just so so that I could make sure she did have a pupil!! LOL!! Her eyes are so brown that they are black and sooooo beautiful!!!

    My second daughter, Caroline (3) is biracial and also has brown eyees but not nearly as dark as Elizabeth's. I tell them very often how I am soooo hoping that when we get to heaven that the Lord will give me brown eyes and very dark brown hair just like them. They laugh and think I'm silly. But I am being very serious.

    Love this post and so connect with it,


  9. Although many people consider the Han Chinese look as the "Chinese" one, China has many (I think 13) minority groups. Some of these, particularly in the North such as Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia remind me of your daughter. Through the centuries, Northern tribes from outside China conquered and ruled large parts or all of China. Many of these tribes did not necessarily look like the Han Chinese. In fact, in the original poem Mulan is probably fighting as a member of a Northern tribe so she probably looked different than the Disney version. Most of these Northern tribes became Sinicized and became part of China. Due to migrating for work, minorities can be found all over China. So if you do a DNA test and her ancestors are not Han Chinese it would just mean that she is one of these minorities, but still Chinese.

    1. Hi Anonymous! Tess is Vietnamese born in southern VN. And like China, it's very much a melting post for many SE Asian ethnicities. Tess most resembles, at least according to the Vietnamese, Khmer/Cambodian. She is amazingly petite, even by Vietnamese standards, which also would go with the theory that she's at least in part, Cambodian.

    2. Sorry I did not catch that earlier. Since I just came to your blog from the No Hands But Ours blog, I made the unfortunate assumption that she was from China. Next time I'll try to get more background before I comment. Good luck with your decision.

    3. Oh no bother at all! I changed some of the wording a bit for a different audience. And I agree that she does resemble some of the Chinese tribes too. I appreciate you dropping by and commenting!

  10. Also there are many minority groups in Southern China. Some of these groups have a presence in both China and other Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam.

  11. Love this post! My (almost) 6 yr old was born in Inner Mongolia, China. The people in her province would stop us & ask if she was Japanese -- or tell us she was too small -- or suggest she had "come by train". Our 3 yr old was born in Shandong Province, China and once we got to Guangzhou, shopkeepers would yell out "Shandong girl" to us. Both of my beauties have deep chocolate eyes. The oldest has incredibly thick, coarse, slightly wavy hair that picks up a reddish tint and the youngest has lighter brown, stick straight, fine hair. The oldest talks about her "China Mama" all the time. She says she wants to go visit her "not to stay but just to say I'm a happy girl". She is also convinced "my China Mama must be super pretty cause I don't look like you so I must look like her"

  12. Good morning my friend - I apologize for being away but family issues have caused my absence and will continue to demand my time. Great stuff here in all of these posts - but his one requires a thought or two (actually they all do but time is what it is!)

    Happy birthday and forever family days to all however belatedly!

    Ah yes - these challenges - I remember clearly the time our first adopted (Korea) "noticed" that her skin didn't look like ours - and how openly she ended up accepting that - and today how much our daughter she is regardless of how she came to join her family!

    But your thought about genetic testing - I get that - all parts of it. And I swing wildly on the topic. Today I'm in the "unless there is some medical necessity (In our case a diagnoses of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) I'm opposed". The child can make his or her own decision about it later - the results will always be the same!

    But I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject!

    hugs - and great joy for you guys -

    aus and co.


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