I often think that the experience of the older child adopted is like the adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”
I thought about this while having soup with my friends.
When I first came home I ate with my elbows on the table, head in bowl slurped up the soup with noise that annoyed the bajesus out of my parents. “Get your elbows off the table, this is not a horses stable” ring in my ears still. “What band do you play for?” Was the other oft remark. This was meant to be humorous at times and sometimes it was. Mostly, though, it wasn’t funny at all to me. It felt unnecessary and ruined the meal, the intention of why we were having family dinners at all. The quest? I was to eat silently. It was not so easy, thus constant “reminders”.
Fast forward, to the year I spent in Korea. I am sitting in the cafeteria of the orphanage eating and I was struck by how noisy it was in the room! Not because there were 50 kids, metal chopsticks on metal trays, but because of all the slurping and chewing that was going on. I would often hear the staff cluck like mother hens, “he makes eating sound so delicious.” Really, eating can SOUND delicious? It was just a matter of weeks living in Korea that I realized I could resume my life with elbows on the table, slurping and with my head down and it would all be ok. When in Korea, do as the Koreans would. If you have a chance to watch the Korean drama, ‘Let’s Eat!” you will totally get why eating sounds delicious.
In remembering these memories, I think about the young boy I worked with who got “rehomed” by his first adoptive family and told me, “I just didn’t understand the rules of their house.” His words hit my heart; that a 7 year old would have such wisdom. The “rules” were what I focused on with this kid as a novice social worker. Now I also get that he didn’t “understand”. Of course.
In Korea, it makes sense to show you enjoy your meal by making sounds. In America it makes sense you show enjoyment with lip service. In Korea you show you loved the food by how you eat. In America you show you loved it by using words. Neither is more meaningful. Now that I’ve got the rules straight, both seems just right in my head.