I was adopted from China as a baby by white parents in America. I have six great siblings and have loved all the fun that comes from growing up in a big family. I am still firmly in the pro-adoption camp at age 15, but there are definitely things I think parents should understand about growing older as a transracial adoptee.
Like all kids, I love the idea of becoming a young adult. I'll soon be able to drive, go out on dates and one day go to college. But there's one part about growing older that is difficult for me. I have found that as I age, it's harder for the public to acknowledge me as being a part of my family. It's much easier as a transracial adoptee when you are a little kid, because when people see you with your white parents, their brains click to, "Oh, that must be their adopted daughter." But as I grew into my teens and started to become a young woman, that definitely changed.
Now when I'm out and about with my mom, people don't automatically make the mother-daughter connection like they used to. For example, if we go out to a restaurant like Qdoba where you order in line, I'm always asked how I want to pay, as if I am there by myself. The staff never puts the Asian teen together with the white woman behind me. Or if I am out with my mom and one of my friends who is white, then she's always assumed to be the daughter, and I'm just the girl tagging along for the day. I find myself loudly saying the word "Mom" when we are out in public, to avoid being labeled as either the foreign exchange student, the at-risk teen being mentored or just a random Asian girl standing next to a white woman. But this is nothing compared to the changes in how people view me now when I am with my older brothers and dad.
Last year, I went to a special event dinner evening with my father. I had worn a nice dress, heels and make-up, which is pretty rare for me. I was so excited to be out with my dad at a formal event, but all of my happiness and excitement was crushed when two of his colleagues assumed I was his Asian date. I seriously wanted to dig myself a hole and not come out the rest of the night. The same kind of assumptions are now made when I'm with my older Caucasian brothers. Sadly, most people assume I'm the girlfriend and never the sister. It's in those moments that I wish I could shout, "I AM RELATED TO THEM!" -- especially when I see the male looks they sometimes give my brothers which seem to say, "Way to score with the Asian girlfriend." Coming to terms with THAT stereotype is the subject for another day, of course, but when I see our photos together, I only see big brother/little sister.
It's true what they say about life being simpler and easier when you are young. It's wonderful to be a girl when your world is filled with fairy princesses and knights in shining armor. It's a lot harder to get older and no longer be seen as a member of my own family unless I have a neon sign above my head telling the public we're related. Since I can't have that sign with me 24/7, I am learning to ignore those who look at me and make quick, decisive judgments which are often incorrect. So to all the parents raising little kids of a different race, just know this is a real possibility of what they will face in the future. You might want to loudly drop those "Hi son!" and "I love you daughter" comments a lot more frequently when you're out in public. Or I'm thinking of starting my own T-shirt company which just might help a bit too!
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