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.
of our primping-in-front-of-the-mirror-time the same way.
Tess, you're gorgeous.
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.
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.