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February 05, 2010

Fitting In

You probably think I'm going to tell you that Gwen and Maddy are represented by that lonely red flower but if you guessed that, you're wrong.

My girls are actually better represented by the two lovely yellow ones (no pun intended) in the upper left.  Can you spot them?  One is taller than the other and they're both standing happy and proud right next to each other.  Just as you'll almost always find them here in the real world.

At first glance, the yellow tulips all look the same.  But are they really the same?  If you look closer, you'll see that they have different sizes and shapes.  Some bloomed sooner and are already starting to fade while others are still waiting for the perfect moment to show the world what they're made of.    Many have imperfect or broken or missing petals.    Some are so tightly clumped together that they nearly disappear completely in a bright blur of yellow while others seem to prefer to stand all alone.

I thought about this photograph when Gwen and Maddy brought home their Kindergarten class photo last week.   I quickly scanned all of the little faces for my two sweet girls and then I took a moment to stand back and examine the entire class photo in a bit more detail.  My girls have been talking about most of these kids for months so it was fun to finally be able to put the faces and names together.

The first thing I noticed was that most of the kids were Asian.  I always sorta knew this (since we researched the school before we moved here) but didn't realize the ratios had grown to be this wide.  I specifically looked for Caucasian kids in each class (my girls are in different classes) and I only spotted one.  All of the rest of the kids were quite obviously Asian or Indian (one or two Black or Latino).   Really, I'm not good at guessing but I'd say that the overwhelming majority (75% or more) were clearly Asian while the rest were Indian and a tiny fraction (like one or two kids total) were something else.  Only one was unmistakably Caucasian and I couldn't help but wonder how it was going to be for THAT kid growing up.

What does this mean to my kids?

I think it means that they are the ones who will have to be tolerant and open minded and accepting of classmates who are "different" (instead of the more common situation in International Adoptions that it be the other way around).   I'm glad my girls will fit in -- in almost all of the immediately obvious ways -- but I also hope they'll be kind and compassionate and make the red flower kids feel like they belong and fit in too because some of those red flower kids will discriminate against them when the tables are turned.  And the tables will turn constantly.

The world is much more multi-cultural than it was when I was growing up but that doesn't mean that kids will automatically embrace all of those differences.  My husband and I have a big job ahead of us because our girls won't always be able to blend in.    We need to prepare them for that.  But we also have to prepare them for the reality that other people will feel like they're unaccepted too.  It's a big job and I hope we're up for it.

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