Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Are You My Mama?

Here is what is on my mind today.  Two of our childrens' picture books are: "Llama, Llama, Are You My Mama?" and P.D. Eastman's "Are You My Mother?"  Both books were gifts from family, and one was a particular favorite of my husband's brother.  I have always enjoyed reading them with the children.  They have cute illustrations and not too many words--critical when reading to Sunflower since getting a whole sentence out before she turns the page is a minor miracle.

Here is the thing.  I've always viewed them as stories that teach about different animals and what they say and do.  It also teaches one other message that until today I didn't even think about--that families have to match.  The cow, horse, and sheep can't be the llama's mother, and the cat, dog, and scoop cannot be the mother of the bird.  What message will this convey to our child from China?  Obviously a different skin color is totally different from a different species, but will that be clear to my child?

I cannot decide if I am over thinking this or if it is a valid concern.  My bio children know they are getting a sister that will look a little different.  They don't have any trouble understanding and believing that is possible though they heard these stories over and over as children--the Llama one is a particular favorite with SnapDragon since he could read it himself fairly early on.  However, they feel pretty secure in our family because they have not lost their first family.  How will our daughter feel?

We can certainly get rid of these books and err on the side of caution if nothing else.  "Are You My Mother?" seems particularly sad as the bird wanders around truly lost.  We have been thinking about and slowly adding to our book diversity, but until today I never thought about the books we might want to remove from our shelves.  Do we keep the book about how animals and babies are born that always kind of creeped me out anyway or is it a good way to start the dialogue that she has a birth mother in China?  What other books do we own that will send our daughter the unintentional message that she doesn't belong?

I know we cannot protect her completely, and we certainly cannot anticipate which aspects of grief, culture loss, adoption, etc will have the greatest impact on our child; what areas she will be the most sensitive about if not all.  Her personality will have a lot to do with that.  I NEVER took things personally as a child (a little more sensitive now).  If someone did not say directly this means you than I did not care.  I would not take a childrens' story and internalize it.  My sister took EVERYTHING personally, even things not meant to be.  However, our home should be a safe place for my child.  She should not receive a hurtful message in her bed time story.  So we will read all of our books again with a more critical eye and debate and decide.  But...what else are we missing?


Julie said...

Perhaps you need to get "Flap Your Wings" also by PD Eastman which is about a mama and daddy bird who raise a crocodile. :) We love that book.

Julie said...

Oops, I meant to post a link to it: http://www.amazon.com/Flap-Your-Wings-Beginner-Books/dp/0375802436/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1291251562&sr=8-8

a Tonggu Momma said...

Actually, I think this is an excellent point, one I had not thought of as it pertains to those books. Personally, I think it would be fine to keep them around if you also added some other books to your library. The one mentioned above, and maybe also "A Mother for Choco" and "Guji, Guji." Then you'd have several books that depict both themes using animals - looking like your parents and NOT looking like your parents. Reading both types might help teach that what is typical is typical... but being atypical doesn't mean something bad. If that makes sense?

Cedar said...

Great ideas! That means I have some books to buy, not ones to discard. That makes me happy; much more fun! Plus I know anticipating all unintentional messages is impossible. I think it will be easier to build up by giving intentional messages than to spend my energy on guarding against unintentional. We'll still read our books with a critical eye, but I'm glad there is another solution than discarding everything potentially hurtful (clearly hurtful is another story). I'd rather my children learn the facts of this world from me than on their own. Thanks! My husband will be glad. He says none of our children match each other but that the loss bird is just really sad.