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He Looks Chinese

By DeeDee Corbitt Sauter, Contributing Writer

It’s April! Spring became official just last month, flowers are blooming, bugs are getting back into action, and one year ago this month DeeDeeour youngest son came to the United States from China. Many of you actually know me and my family. Although our first-born son kept us on our toes, we really wanted to dance with the stars and sought the means to enlarge our family. This is not the story of the journey but a brief window into what has happened since we came home as a family of four.

We knew that people would have questions, and we prepared ourselves to answer them. It’s a natural process. You do something that not everyone else does and people want to know details. Makes sense, but we were unaware of how many people actually wanted our fertility history and rationale behind adoption. Always learning something.

On March 29, 2010, our Ox (We call him Ox since that is his Chinese Zodiac sign) was placed in our arms and our lives were forever altered. Like I said, we came home, proceeded with our routine, anticipated some questions and went about changing diapers and baby proofing the first floor.

At first, I thought some of the questions were ludicrous and people were joking. But many of the queries were actually repetitive, signaling to us that we should stop laughing and become serious. So in light of our one year anniversary and because the questions have not stopped, I have decided that a short FAQ sheet is necessary. Perhaps this will help others who have adopted; maybe it will just help my friends. Maybe nothing will change.

Does he speak Chinese? Seriously? When our Ox became a member of our family, he was 10 months old. Cute as a button, he did not have his debating skills finely honed. He enjoyed food and bottles, clean nappies, his crib and Tylenol. He did not like vaccinations, people leaving the room and loud noises. He did not give his opinion in spoken Chinese or English; we could tell by his actions. I am not saying that your children were not speaking in full paragraph form by the time they were 10 months old but Ox was not. He was less than a year old. He was making baby noises and learning how to walk. I am proud to say that he has developed a fine temper-tantrum at 22 months and he jabbers more than my oldest did at his age. He babbles to little cars and Fisher-Price people in toddler-ese. No, I do not think he is speaking Chinese. I seriously doubt I will need a professional to evaluate his Chinese language skills.

He looks Chinese. Not so much of a question; more like stating the obvious.
Mostly he looks Chinese because he is Chinese. He was born in China and one can only assume his birth parents were Chinese. I am going to guess, at this point, that he is Chinese. But, he is 100 percent American.

Does he like Chinese food? Ironically, our Ox loves Chinese food. In fact, he loves all food. He prefers rice and oatmeal in his hair (I can only assume it’s a special treatment), but most other things taste best in his mouth. Oh, I lie; he does not seem to like yellow cheese and raspberries. Throwing those two things from the highchair is great sport though and if they land straight in the dog’s mouth, it’s even better. He is a great eater for now, but he’s not yet two and has not yet become overly finicky. So, yes, he likes Chinese food—and Mexican and Indian and American and Thai. Frankly, it has nothing to do with his heritage.

Boy, he is probably going to be really smart because all Asians are smart. I like that stereotype. I am not sure if it is true. I hope our Ox likes books as much as food. Everyone hopes their kid is smart, but assuming that he will be smart because of a cultural genetic predisposition is tiring. When he stuck a waffle to his left ear and started talking into like it was a cell phone, I shook my head and thanked my lucky stars that it wasn’t pizza. A friend who was with me proclaimed his brilliance and said he had a perfect imagination (same incident, differing viewpoints). Our oldest son thinks the baby will be smart because Ox will be copying his brother. (Obviously he has self-esteem issues.) I hope he has manners. But, since I am writing this, he will end up being like a rude Einstein—who has straight hair…and is Chinese.

Do you know anything about his real parents? Yes, in fact I know a great deal about his real parents. His real father and I have been married for almost 13 years; we actually met in college. If you are referring to his birth or biological parents, then no, I do not know anything about them. I think they are Chinese because I have been told he looks Chinese.

Does he have any disabilities or is he developmentally delayed? He looks normal. I know why I am asked; often children are placed up for adoption if the parents feel the infant may have too many challenges or medical problems. Hey, I’ll tell you if you tell me about your kids! Let’s compare them side by side, and then let’s talk about our own issues… Wait, this is an FAQ about our Ox, so I’ll just answer the question. No, I don’t think he has many issues. If he does, we have not yet figured it out but we are watching him carefully. Thank you for your concern. I think. (Your child, by the way, does not look normal.)

I am not sure what type of questions I expected to answer. I can certainly continue with this list because I had no earthly idea that people were that curious…or strange. By the way, he has flat feet because he is a baby, not because he is Asian. His arches will develop in the next year or so. These comments keep popping up.

Our Ox is cute and funny and mischievous and active. He climbs and runs and torments the dog and his brother. He says words, is demanding and loves to chew a good board book. Oh, and although he has been in the United States and with us longer than he was with anyone in China, I do want to say thank you to the person who said the Chinese have done a great job raising him. Basically, I think he is developing without a problem so far.

He does not speak Chinese and does not need a professional. Yet.

DeeDee Corbitt Sauter is a resident of Prince William County. Her column, “Tambourines and Elephants,” appears monthly in Prince William Living.

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