November is National Adoption Month and November 19 is National Adoption Day. ONCEKids author Eileen Wacker celebrates both as she is the Mother in the “Blended Family”. Below is her story:
There are many kinds of families – traditional, divorced parents, single parents, adopted kids, step children, biological children, etc.. Our family is a “blended family.”We have four children – two are adopted children and two are biological children. They range in age from 7-12 years old.
My husband and I met and got married while working for the General Electric Company in Europe. We lived in Paris, Milan, Brussels and London. Our passports were full of stamps from different countries. We would travel by bike, train, plane and car every time we had the chance. We were both from families with five children yet thought maybe we would pursue careers aggressively, live in some different places and see how it worked out.
After our whirlwind tour of living and working across Europe, we were relocated to the suburbs of Connecticut. Suddenly, we started watching television and one night we saw a documentary about orphanages in China. We looked at each other and said, “Let’s do that. Let’s adopt a little girl from China.” We immediately began the lengthy process of paperwork, background checks, home studies and waiting.
While we were waiting, our agency identified a domestic opportunity to adopt a little boy who was to be born two months out. Surprisingly, we threw our hats in the ring and got selected as the prospective parents. Our son, Christian, came directly from the hospital to our home and we fell in love with him immediately.
Six months later, we received a photo of a little Chinese girl in the mail – our “assignment” should we choose to accept her. We were overjoyed and looked at our 6-month old son. We would soon have two one-year old children who were not twins and both adopted. We both still had very demanding jobs and we were going to do our best to balance everything.
When we arrived back to the US, we discovered Olivia had pulmonary artery stenosis. After three angioplasty procedures and endless appointments and tests, there was no option – she needed surgery. Without any conscious decision, our priorities shifted dramatically. Family was becoming everything and careers (especially mine) were coming in a distant second. On the day of her surgery, I asked my husband, “What would we ever do without her?”
Right around this time, I discovered I was pregnant and we were all excited about a new baby. When Ethan was only 4 months old, I was pregnant again. We had gone from no children to four without ever really having a long-term plan. A month after Natalie was born my husband came home and asked me to move to Seoul, South Korea for an exciting job opportunity. We thought it would be a great adventure for the family and an excellent way to absorb Asian cultures and meet some wonderful lifelong friends. Our oldest was in kindergarten and our youngest was 5 months old when we moved to the big city of Seoul.
One day, Olivia asked me, “Am I Korean now?” She knew she was Chinese by birth and became a US citizen when we adopted her. Now living in Korea, she wondered if she became Korean. I asked her, “When someone asks you what nationality you are, what do you say?” She replied, “I tell them that I am Irish and Chinese American but now I live in Korea.” I said, “Where did the Irish come from?” and she replied, “well, from you, of course.” I loved her answer.
In Seoul, we were a blended family living in a country with almost no diversity. Being “westerners”, we were the minority, and, even more of a minority with adopted children. In many countries, there is still a huge importance placed on bloodline. So adoptions are few (but increasing) and they are usually not openly discussed. As foreigners, we were a tight-knit family that did everything together and traveled a lot. We exposed the kids to many different Asian cultures, languages and people. On one trip to China, all of our kids were able to climb the Great Wall and witness the building of Beijing’s Olympic Bird Nest. Olivia felt especially proud of her Chinese heritage.
All of our kids went to school with kids from around the globe. They absorbed world geography by identifying where all their friends were from (but could not identify the US states and capitals)! After four years in Seoul, we moved to Honolulu to get the kids settled into schools. They have now learned their states and capitals but more importantly hold a great view of the world and people.
When we first arrived to Honolulu, Ethan had a Martin Luther King celebration at school. All the children had to stand up and say their heritage. Ethan said he was Irish and Korean. One of the parents looked at me and him, assumed his dad was Korean and said, ”oh yes, now that I look closely, I can see from his eyes that he is part Korean.” I did not correct him as this is his heartfelt reality.
All my kids want to have a family when they grow up. Natalie wants to adopt a little girl from Africa so she won’t be hungry. Olivia wants one adopted child and one biological child. The boys are not sure what their families will look like and that is the best testament we have that our family is working out great.Because that is we want for our kids – for them to be open to opportunities, whenever and however they may come about.
The kids have a great appreciation for other cultures, people (wherever they come from) and themselves. They understand that people are the same in many ways but each person is also unique. This belief carries through into our family. At the end of the day, our family is the perfect blend for us. We never really had a long-term plan or goal – that is the best part and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Eileen Wacker is the CEO of ONCEKids and the author of Fujimini Island Adventure Series.