When my husband and I started to consider international adoption, we did not look at a world map and wonder to which point, on which continent, our journey would take us. We considered a part of Europe where I knew children were waiting: in the small country of Moldova, where they would share my Romanian heritage and language.
My family came to the United States from Romania when I was 12 years old. Our heritage has always remained a big part of our lives in America. I feel blessed that I am now able to share those same ties with my adopted children. Like them, I also know how it felt to immigrate to a new place, learn a new language, and adjust to a new life.
AnaKaterina and Daniel’s adoptions were only about a year apart, but it has been a unique experience with each of them. Sharing their native language has been a huge comfort to both of them, but it has helped us grow together in different ways.
For AnaKaterina, her physical development was somewhat of a challenge to overcome while she was in the orphanage. On my first visit with her, she was a year and a half old, yet she still did not know how to walk. She had weak muscle tone, and it was obvious that a bit of work was required to help her with her first steps. At the orphanage, the nannies were attentive and there was a good ratio of caretakers to children, but with so many competing priorities, it must have been difficult to give each child the individual attention needed. Because I was able to speak with the nannies in their language, I was able to learn a bit more about my daughter’s habits, routines, and development. I asked them to help her with her walking, and they were kind to assist her with her first wobbling steps.
A few months later, my husband and I returned to the orphanage to bring AnaKaterina home. The nannies were very proud to show off how well she had begun to walk! Talking with the nannies about her routines and comforts allowed us to help her settle in with our family- communication which was easier given my Romanian heritage.
For Daniel, it was more difficult for him to master his emotions than walking or talking. For the first two years of his life, it appeared that he had grown up in a large room with several boys, all tussling over the same toys or battling for their nannies’ attention. He had learned to get what he wanted through fighting, not negotiations or compromise. With Daniel, I repeated the same words of discipline at home that he had probably known in the orphanage. The communication was not only familiar to him, but comforting also. Speaking in Romanian played an important role in his transition.
Now, we continue to bond by speaking Romanian and learning about the culture. At almost four and almost five years old, both AnaKaterina and Daniel are bilingual, and know the alphabet and numbers in Romanian and English.
Adoptive parents do not have to share the same culture as their children, but it would be a wonderful opportunity to
embrace it. Their child will always have an unbreakable tie to their birth culture. Whether it be through music, art, food, community, and language, or simply by virtue of their birth, there is always something parents can do to help their child feel close to their heritage and to celebrate their multi-cultural life.