Children are influenced by the specific culture they grow up in. The family cultural values are ingrained in their minds, which can have a positive or negative effect. Families have spoken and unspoken norms and children learn to conform to these teachings or risk becoming an outcast. Being adopted is hard on a child, especially when they find out through the grapevine or they see differences in how they and other kids in the household are raised.
An adopted child often has to be assured that they are no different from the rest of the kids in the household, otherwise their value in life is shaken and it affects them mentality, emotionally and physically. There are varying reasons children are adopted and at different ages.
I was adopted at two months old. It was between my birth mother, her aunt and my mom. My mom at that time was married to my grand uncle from Peleliu, who is my birth mother’s uncle. My mother is my everything, but I often heard whispers from other Palauan women about my hazel eyes, red hair, fair skin and freckles and one thing is always mentioned “ngmeral diua kser tirkel bebir rar chad.” This caused me to develop a complex when people look at me a certain way or make some remarks related to my biological lineage. At age six, I found out from my birth mother that I’m adopted. I confronted my mom, which broke her heart. After that, I grew fearful that my mom wouldn’t love me anymore. I felt like I was walking on egg shells or thin ice around my mom and her family. It gave me a sense of insecurity. My mom had to constantly reassure me that she was my one and only mom, but as a child, I could not help, but wonder. I made sure I was doing good in school and even started working at age twelve at a convenience store to help my mom out. I wanted to do my best to please my mom in every way, fearing that she might someday return me to my birth mother, if I misbehave. My kids did not know I was adopted, until I joined the military and they had to live with my uncle for a while. Often times they heard “kemeral di ua -naming my birth mother-” when they are being naughty or ornery.
They did not know who she was. I had to eventually explain everything to my kids. My kids felt the same detached feelings I felt growing up, like they did not belong. Luckily, with my mom’s strong love and affection, we weren’t too scarred.
I often distanced myself from my biological side, worried that my mom might get hurt, even though she told me to embrace them. When my mom passed away in 1992, I felt orphaned, due to tradition. I left Palau and have not been back.
When children are stigmatized, it scars them for life and they develop mental health illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and behavioral issues. The controversial term is known as adopted child syndrome. Children are precious and are heavenly gifts. Adopted children need nurturing, extra love and assurance in order to develop healthy relationships with their adopted families and become strong members of society. My kids used to ask, what family do we belong to? I tell them both families.
My kids and I are blessed to have a healthy relationship, but it took a lot of work, love and patience. My mom rocks and I miss her a lot…