Friday, March 30, 2012

How important is Cultural Identity?

Quinn's new baby doll, Qiao Qiao.

This is Quinn's new baby doll, named Qiao Qiao.  ( Quinn's nickname, sounds like Chow Chow)

My good friend, Sara, found this doll at a specialty toy store in Sioux Falls.  She was so excited that she called me from the store, squealing "I found a baby for Quinn!"   and we all did the Happy Dance.

We were excited because up until now, we had come up with nothing.  Squat.  Zippo.

Chinese Barbie?  Forget about it.  Just a brunette with a fancy Asian outfit.  Once her clothes are off, she just looks like Cindy Crawford.

Ebay or Internet sites that advertized Asian dolls weren't much better- they assume that if you put straight black hair on a doll, you can call it Asian.  How can they ignore those beautiful almond eyes??!  That is one feature on Quinn that I want her to be proud of and to be able to identify with, even if it's only on her doll.  It's one of my favorite features on her, and I wanted her to see it mirrored in her baby doll.
I was naive in thinking it would be easier to find a doll that Quinn could identify with.  I started my hunt while in China, sure that I would find plenty of dolls, but I was in for a surprise.  Everywhere we looked, we saw blonde Caucasian dolls lining the shelves, with the occassional African American doll, but NO ASIAN DOLLS!  At first, I thought that maybe we just weren't looking in the right stores, but the more stores we visited, the more we realized that it was the same everywhere.  When we asked our guide about our doll dilemma, she told us that she too, had a blonde doll when she was a child. 

Hmmmm. Don't Asian children want babies that look like them?  Don't Asian parents want to give their children dolls that look like them?  I just don't get it.  Then again, maybe with the One Child policy, there just isn't a market for toys that promote mothering.

How have Chinese parents missed the Barbie/Cabbage Patch/Bratz/Polly pocket/ blitz that have provided American parents with oodles of gift ideas and filled our children's toy boxes?  Mattel apparently hasn't been very aggressive in their Asian markets, I'm telling ya.

Anyway, back to Quinn :-)

What I do know from much of the reading I've done on adoptees is that it's important for a child's self esteem to be able to identify with their ethnic heritage using positive examples, role models, and exposure with toys that reflect their looks, skin tone and hair type.  I know I can't provide Chinese role models for her to hang out with, don't have access to a Chinese Schools and churches like they have on the East coast, and it will be a challenge (but do-able) to find other Chinese adoptees within driving distance so that she can have a friend that resembles her. 

I might not be able to provide her with an Asian sub-culture here in South Dakota, so I will have to do my best to provide her with the things that I can- family, mothering, lots of love, life in the country, siblings that already adore her, a community that embraces her, and maybe even a pony. :-)   These are the things that I CAN give her.  

And also, a little Asian babydoll that looks like her.

Thanks Sara :-)

Quinn's sharing her sippy cup with Qiao Qiao 

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