Aimee Balint (XinRui Guo)
Dianbai, Guangdong, China
I would think, you’re telling me I’m loved so much that I was given up for adoption, yet the country that loved me so much also hated me?
When I was young, my mom worked full time. So for the most part I was mildly raised by the other mothers in the neighborhood. I was in this group with two Filipinos, one Chinese girl, one Japanese girl, and me. We all bounced around the different houses. Because almost all the other mothers worked part time or stayed at home, they were in charge of caring for all of us. So I grew up in a household where I could connect with other Asians who grew up in similar American born Asian households.
But my mom actively said she wanted me to be American, not Chinese. This came from an experience where she feared that I’d be taken away by a Chinese woman. Regarding America, she thinks the “melting pot” is right; you no longer have your own culture. You just assimilate into the culture you’re given. She didn’t actively discourage Asian culture, but there was no encouragement either.
My Mom wanted an infant where the parents wouldn't come back and claim the child. She adopted at fifty-four, so she was already too old to adopt in the states. In China, there were very little restrictions. As long as you had the money, anyone could adopt no matter what age or marital status. So adopting from China was out of convenience for her. I also think she had a mild savior complex; she wanted to save a baby and raise it as her own.
She would say, “You're lucky because your parents loved you enough to give you to an orphanage,” but then at the same time she would tell me that I cost as much as a car. She's also said, “You're lucky to be in America. You could have grown up in China and you would have probably been dead. No one wants girls in China.” I would think, you’re telling me I’m loved so much that I was given up for adoption, yet the country that loved me so much also hated me? She’s not very good at talking about adoption because I think she feels threatened by it. She thinks she's a bad mother, but not because of anything specific. She's just wired to think of the worst case scenario. I don’t think she was ready for the intricacies of motherhood, specifically raising a transracial child.
When I started to learn more Asian recipes from my friend's mom, who is originally from Hong Kong, my mom would comment on it. She would say things like, “I guess I'm a terrible mother because I can't do this.” And it has nothing to do with her. I think she plays the victim a lot. If I say I want to learn more about where I came from and my adoption, she'll turn it around and ask, “Aren't I enough for you?” I just want to learn more about where I'm from, but she doesn't understand why that could be important because she comes from a family and community where she already knows everything in regards to who she’s related to, where she’s from, and where she belongs. She also doesn't have any ties to any one culture because she's very much American in that she's a hodgepodge of different cultures. Since she doesn't have a connection to one culture per se, she doesn't understand my reasoning for trying to learn about my culture and find a community.