Big Brother and Little Sister: A Mom’s Viewpoint

By Luanne

Both my kids have always been close friends, sometimes experimenting with an “us against the world” attitude.  They had their secret jokes and dialogue with each other about being Asian with white parents and living in a largely white community.

Because they were close, they spent a lot of time together.  When they were little, the naughty factor increased exponentially when they planned their capers together.

At ages five and three, they locked themselves in their Jack-and-Jill bathroom and cut Marisha’s hair.  A couple years later, they rigged up a walkie-talkie and for weeks spied on their dad and me when we thought they were in bed.

Sometimes Marisha, being the younger, got the worst of the situation and she would pout.  Once she got back at her brother by singing a song about him.

You can hear the song in this video:

Read “Big Brother, Little Sister,” Marisha’s August 10, 2012 post about her brother Marc here.

The Questions of Adoption

by Marisha

Hey world! I’m so happy to be launching this blog with my mum and finally putting my voice out there about adoption and the trials and tribulations that come with it. I was adopted from Seoul, Korea when I was 3 1/2 months old, raised by Caucasian parents, and surrounded by two different religions. My brother and I have had such an interesting upbringing–definitely not one that fits any sort of mold. Our lives are not painted from a black and white palette, but one that’s rich and colorful.

Smiling children

Marisha and brother Marc

It’s been a journey, full of more blessings than I could ever have imagined, and I have been given a life filled with opportunity, love, and possessions that didn’t teach me superficiality, but rather appreciation and respect for the simple fact “this is what hard work can get you.” I can thank my parents for that, for teaching me that nothing will just be handed to you–you have to wholeheartedly jump in the pool of life and seize the opportunities given to you.

As I get older, the questions of adoption and my birth parents become more apparent to me. I am 24 right now, and the last two years have definitely been my biggest transition time in terms of my identity (as with anyone, I presume). I have encountered a lot of beauty, but also have dealt with the strongest bouts of depression I have ever faced and events which have affected my personal and professional relationships. Problems have come to the surface which I didn’t know I had.

As I get further and further into learning about the woman I am, I can’t help but think that all that is unknown about my adoption has left me feeling a little empty. I have heard the story over and over that my birth parents were young and they were from different social classes and were not allowed to be married. That’s what led to my adoption.

Three women with baby in Korea

Baby Marisha in Seoul with her foster mother and foster sisters

I have pictures from my foster family, but none from my birth family. The questions arise: “Who do I look like more?” “Do I have the personality of my mother or father?” And the most important, recurring question– “What are my genetics?” I suspect that I could find the answers to these if I looked hard enough, but maybe I like the idea of fantasy. I am an Aquarius after all, and we are the biggest in-the-clouds thinkers.

Whatever the answers, I hope you find this blog a space where you can follow me into this journey of my life as an adoptee. I hope you find it interesting and that you can enjoy all my personal stories and questions I live with everyday. Adoption is my big elephant in the room and if I weren’t to talk about it, people would think that I had a lot to hide about myself. But I don’t, and I want to be as open as possible. More to come . . . 🙂

New Ideas

by Luanne

I’m the mother of two young adults, both adopted from Korea when they were babies.  But my relationship with adoption began much earlier.  I’m the sister of an adoptee, too.  Back in the early sixties, it was still a new idea that adoption wasn’t a secret to be kept and that an adopted child could grow up knowing he was adopted and still feel loved and accepted by others.  My parents embraced this idea.  When they started the adoption process for a boy, they explained all this to me and I thought I understood.  Yet it wasn’t quite that simple.

Sister meets her new baby brother at the adoption agency

Luanne and baby Teddy at the agency

It was a March day, when my parents and I drove downtown to pick up my brother Teddy from Catholic Family Services. We weren’t Catholic, but Mom explained that their agency was the one with the babies and we were in need of a baby.  We pulled up in front of an old house on South Street and went in. Teddy lay in a white bassinette in a small room. My parents and I encircled him, looking down at our new baby. Our case worker said, “He’s just six weeks old. Isn’t he a darling?”

Though shocked to see his face covered with a red rash, I quickly decided not to be picky since I had been waiting all seven years of my life for a brother.

A few months before, when the case worker was going to visit us for the first time, Mom and Dad had warned me that she would ask questions, and I sensed that our family getting the stamp of approval rested on me and my answers.

I kept things businesslike, asking for a brother since our family needed a boy more than another girl. Since it was 1963 and I’d never met anyone who was adopted, I assumed that kids, adopted or not, would automatically look like their parents.  I had my mother’s brown hair and blue eyes, so I put in an order for brown eyes to match Dad’s.

Now I peered closer at the baby with his frill of reddish brown hair.  “He’s got blue eyes like mine!”  I’m sure I sounded accusatory.  The case worker explained they were fresh out of baby boys with brown eyes, so they had chosen Teddy because he looked like Mom and me.  I considered the logic and figured he would do.

When we got him home, all the relatives started coming over to meet him. For two weeks, we had somebody at our house almost every day. They liked to have me sit on the couch and hold Teddy while they took our picture. Teddy felt like one of my dolls, but warm and heavier, and yet I was conscious of how fragile he was and how careful I had to be with him. Every day I rushed home from school so I could see him.  Day by day, I learned to be more comfortable with him, and how to hold the Playtex bottle with its plastic bag insert so he could get formula without swallowing too much air. I learned how to burp him, patting his back which seemed barely bigger than my hand. He relaxed and smiled at me when I picked him up, and he wrinkled his forehead when I lay him back in the crib.

I’d been in the choir at the Methodist church all school year. A group of us would walk from school to the church. We were six kids, all ages, from an afternoon kindergartener to a tall fifth grader, a girl I’ll call Jane.  Her size and confident demeanor gave her a lot of authority.

That day we decided to cut through the backfields to the church, although we usually just marched down the side of Gull Road. Jane said it would save us a lot of time to cut through, and nobody wanted to argue with her, although the snow was melting in the field, leaving ruts filled with mud.

Since having a baby brother was a new phenomenon in my life, I liked to bring up the subject–a lot.  After having been an only child, I loved the sound of the words my brother.  As we walked, I chimed in with something about my brother Teddy.

Suddenly Jane, who was leading, turned around and said, “He’s not your REAL brother. Don’t lie about it.”

My skin seemed to peel back from my limbs, and my stomach got a sick flipfloppy feeling. “What do you mean he’s not my real brother?”

“He’s ADOPTED. That’s not REAL.” A sea of bloody red anger splashed across my eyes.  Jane had no siblings and, since she was eleven, probably thought she’d never get any. But I wasn’t thinking from her perspective.  To me, her words were an act of violence against Teddy.

That’s the first memory I have of being angry.  I lowered my head, aiming straight for her stomach.  Eventually Jane and I got back on friendly terms, but I never forgot that some people don’t really understand what adoption means for those of us whose lives are changed by it.  My parents’ philosophy had become my philosophy, but I now knew it wasn’t shared by everyone.

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