School Lunch, Take One

My school-lunch-making career has begun.

Two weeks ago Lia started daycare at the school where she’ll go to kindergarten. She jumped up and down when she saw the pink Laptop Lunch case I bought for her (a purchase I’d been looking forward to ever since I discovered the blog Vegan Lunch Box).

So far I’ve had great fun filling the little containers the night before with blueberries and mini-muffins, looking up the best way to keep apple slices from going brown (toss them with orange juice) and cutting out heart shapes from tortillas with melted cheese.

We’ll see how long it takes before I’m throwing in random food from the fridge five minutes before she leaves for school.

The last six weeks feel like one long transition. The kids did great while we were away in Prague but they were anxious when we got back – for the first time ever, Nico cried when we took him to daycare, and Lia got upset when she woke up and I wasn’t in the house (I go to a nearby food court to write in the mornings).

Nico has mostly settled down, but we keep throwing changes at Lia: first Mandarin language camp in July and now a new daycare. She has good days and is happy to be there, but her resistance comes out in the mornings when she doesn’t want to get dressed or eat breakfast or go out the door.

And in a few weeks, kindergarten. We’re holding our breath hoping all goes well. Choosing a school was a challenge. There are three public schools in our area: one with French immersion, one with an alternative program, and one with more diversity. We had to weigh all the factors – educational program, busing, daycare, student body, test scores – and figure out what our daughter needed most.

In the end we chose the more diverse school (I’ll call it Kaleidoscope ). It may not be the “best school in the city”, as one parent described the alternative school. At Kaleidoscope, test scores are lower because many of the kids are new Canadians and still learning English. But Shawn and I felt like the one thing Lia needed most was a classroom where she would be surrounded by children of colour.

A recent discussion at a Chinese adoption website confirmed this decision. The Rumour Queen has two children from China, and here’s part of what she wrote in this post on Identity:

From what I’ve been told, if you put a child into a classroom where they are the only non-white child, or one of only two or three non-white children, then they will see themselves as being “different”, and the process of figuring out who they are gets derailed. But if you put them into a situation where diversity is a fact of life, where they are just one of the diverse and multi-cultured crowd and aren’t seen as being “other”, then they can explore their individuality from a much better place.

That’s a terrific explanation of what we want for Lia and Nico. The whole post is worth reading, including the comments.

I understand the defensiveness some parents betray in these discussions. They want to give their kids the best. They want to believe that their kids will be okay with what they’ve got – which may be a mostly-white school or town. They can’t fathom moving to a different neighbourhood or city. They’re hoping it doesn’t matter too much.

But adoptees tell us it does matter.

I feel clumsy and ignorant when it comes to helping my kids develop a racial and cultural identity – ick, that sounds so clinical. What I mean is to help them know and feel good about themselves as Chinese Canadians. We can’t do that on our own. It’s been my privilege not to think much about race for 30-odd years. Now I’m grateful for people who write and share their experiences so that parents like me can get something of a clue.

Be Sociable, Share!