This post is in response to a wide encompassing question from a reader in the Philippines, asking about how we've handled the fact that the boys were older when they came home and therefore had their own set of established personalities, practices and beliefs. I'm going to cover this question over a couple of posts. I learned my lesson with another article.....too much info for such a short frame work.
One of the big things that we spoke with our agency about before and after the boys arrived home was what their cultural and religious differences might be from our own and how we would deal with those differences.
One of the blog readers who is also from the Philippines, wrote to ask the question about how we've dealt with those differences. I must say in all the talks we had and all the books we've read, an adoptive parent could receive a hundred different responses in how to incorporate, honor and perpetuate those beliefs and customs. Unfortunately, as with a lot of advice, we've found we've had to adapt those wonderful ideas to our situation and have found that the advice really didn't meet our situation.
I really thought that with the boys being older they would have some idea of their culture, traditions, food, celebrations and history of the country. In our situation, I was really wrong. Lucas and Eli knew very little of customs, traditions even the types of food that we'd thought were staples of the Philippines. Those were not part of their lives in the orphanage.
The brief time we were in Manila, we wanted to make sure that they got to see and learn about the cultural and historical things the city offered. We did cover a lot of ground in 3 days of touring but it was more than a little difficult to explain a history and the significance when we didn't speak the same language. Our guide was wonderful. She interpreted and told all of us so much. We took a million pictures and documented everything and those items are pulled out and talked over when the boys have questions.
We have taken most of our ques from the boys in regards to what they are interested in about the culture and their birth country at any given time. At first I wasn't sure if this was the "ok" thing to do....we were always afraid we were not doing things right....all the pre-adoption educational stuff tends to make you doubt yourself. Over time we have shed that feeling and learned to trust our instincts.
We do have a wonderful parent in the school where I work that is from the Philippines and moved here in her late 20's. She really relates to the boys adjustments and is a wonderful source for information. There are certain times throughout the year; holidays, birthdays, Christmas and such that Lucas especially will ask, "what did we do in the Philippines for (whatever we are doing)" that is when we start digging for information if it is something we don't already have the answer to.
I think that the life they led within the orphanage encompassed so little physical area and extremely limited outside involvement with their culture that they did not have opportunity to learn about that aspect of themselves. Basically they are having to learn about two cultures simultaneously, American and Filipino.
I really believe as we see them getting older, they are asking more questions and with greater frequency about the Philippines. Their questions are more involved and the answers are better understood than if we had tried to force the issue with them. Everything we do is at their speed. Everything, that is what has worked best for us.
They know we value the Philippines and the people there who helped to bring our family together. They know that there is no question that they can't ask us, whether it's about the Philippines, the orphanage, their foster family in Manila or their biological family.
As far as answering the question of, have we tried to change any of their beliefs or practices. I'd say we have introduced them to how we do things within our family. Some things they have chosen to adopt for themselves, some things they continue to do as they were taught in the Philippines.
I'll close part one of this answer with, Lucas and Eli have probably taught ourselves and our extended families as much about how things are done in another part of the world as we teach them. I think of it as a blending, a mixing, a sharing of ideas that make for a recipe of a new type of family that happens to be made of American and Philippine cultures.