Consider this part two of the controversial topics, the one everyone dreads because it is incredibly delicate: Religion.
I was obviously born into a Buddhist culture, not doused with it but some of the customs still stick. I have a morbid problem with people touching my head, and for a while I thought it was because I had personal space issues. It turns out, touching people’s heads in Thailand is the lowest form of respect you could give someone, right under there with pointing and using your feet to do certain things. Ahh, that makes sense why I would feel this way. Now, because Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion I think a lot of people don’t think it counts as way of..worshipping? or…living? Something like that. Anyways, for my life’s sake, it counts. Of course, I was not formally taught Buddhist faith because I was flown to a mysterious land known as Canada before any of that could happen. That is what I am going to talk about, how I incorporated Buddhist faith into my life here and how I have benefited (or not benefited) from it.
I read so many blogs and articles by adoptive parents about how they plan on incorporating (or not incorporating) their child’s native faith in their current day culture. It is a hard one to juggle, and from what I have learned about religion (and the book, “Life of Pi”) to have two religions is sort of out of the question though I do not see why not. I cannot say that I took particular interest in any religion when I was younger but my parents went to the temple with me, my mother took up meditation and we know a few chants. All three of us call ourselves Buddhists, even though Dad was clearly raised in a more Christian setting. Thinking about it, their avid interest in my faith (or philosophy) embarrassed me a lot. Firstly, I was an Asian kid with two white parents (the first set-off), secondly my mother spoke of Buddhism very passionately which is OK but in a kid’s eyes it was incredibly humiliating. Today, I see this differently of course because I realized that people celebrate whatever they want, no matter who they are and what they look like.
In High School I went to a Catholic High School. What?!? Yep, but trust me, I did not go there for Ash Wednesday or monthly masses. It was a self-directed school with alumni ranging from Olympic athletes to honoured politicians. It was the kind of school where if you had a goal, and regular schooling got in the way of it, you could do whatever you needed to on your own time with the guidance of a TA. It was my kind of school, as it was for my team mates too. I think going to a Catholic High School after having been in a relatively multicultural charter school previously shocked me a bit. I won’t even discuss what it was like attending my first mass, I needed a “How-To” guide. As part of the school graduation requirements you had to complete Religion Studies in order to walk the stage at your graduation ceremony and while this seemed tedious and useless I had to remember that this is a Catholic school after all. But my thoughts on religion and how they changed I can I owe thanks to this study because without it I would have been completely unaware of Catholicism, or any religion for that matter. By the end of High School I had thoughts about what it would be like to be Catholic but never pursued it much further-it seemed like a lot of work to try and switch!
Maybe it is because I read blogs written by people who did not get a chance to be immersed in so much culture that I get a bit peeved when they discuss how they plan on raising their adopted child. Or maybe it is the way people write about it, they make it sound so forceful. “We plan on raising our kid with our faith and no questions asked”, “It is my child, my choice”. I am eighteen, and clearly have no idea how to raise a kid but I do know that kids have minds of their own, perhaps we have forgotten. But what I do know is that you can take the child out of the culture, but you will never take culture out of the child. If you try to, who are you trying to benefit? A lot people have this idea that by stripping a child of their native culture and influencing them as much as possible with their current customs and culture that their child will grow up just fine. And while some do, some don’t. No amount of cleansing or culture-stripping will prevent that. Yes, some children resent their past, does it mean you should too? For me, there are parts of my past that I resent but you will never hear my mother agree with me about it. If it weren’t for the past, there would not be a me. I think people have this idea that adopting a kid from a different country will be exactly like bringing home a newborn, a fresh slate present, and a fresh start. But it is not.
Long story short, maybe I just read a bunch of really harshly written, almost brainwashing type articles, maybe they were written by lunatics (sorry to those who qualify), but to hear that parents will be forcibly removing all previous native cultural aspects from a child in exchange for their “new life customs” makes me want to cry. I am not saying that one should remain Buddhist like I did, or have their parents learn Buddhist philosophy as well. I guess I am just saying that while it may be your child, your choice, one day the kid’s going to wake up and wonder who they are, where they came from, and why things had to change. Just be ready to answer that.