Belated Chinese New Year (#275)

My husband is Chinese-American.

I’m so white looking, I make a point of assuring any new neighbors of color that I did not vote for Trump.

Our son took after me.

Occasionally, an Asian-American woman would ask me if Baby D’s father was Asian, but no one ever appeared to be surprised that I was his mom.

It was different for my husband. He took Baby D to the grocery store when Baby D was about 2. An old white man got in Andy’s face and asked, “Is that your son?”

Andy said, “Yes.”

The old white man snorted and said, “He don’t look a thing like his daddy!”

Andy replied, “That’s because his white mama traded up races.”

(Okay, no, he didn’t really say that. Or even think it. That’s just what I wish he’d said. Maybe the guy would have had a heart attack and there would be one less racist in America. Andy, of course, just wishes he’d decked the guy.)

Like many first generation Americans, Andy turned his back on all things from the old world. He wouldn’t speak Cantonese. He cooked American/ European cuisines, only buying his first Chinese cookbook after we got together (when he learned I loved hot and sour soup).

Between Andy’s disinterest in Chinese culture and the fact that Baby D was raised by an uptight, white, stay-at-home mom, it’s probably not surprising that Baby D grew up feeling “white”—even though his last name ended in Wong.

In preschool, when Baby D’s diverse class discussed heritage, Baby D’s best mate Nate said, “And you’re Chinese.”

“No, I’m not!” Baby D replied. On the way home, Baby D told me how funny it was that Nate thought he was Chinese.

“But you are,” I told him. “You’re actually genetically more Chinese than white.”

“What?” exclaimed Baby D. “I’m Chinese?”

I sighed. “Yes. And I am a parental failure.”

*****

Now, you can argue that Andy should have been the one to teach his son about his Chinese side of the family, but that’s asking a lot from someone who learned early that survival depends on assimilation. Plus, Andy never cared about American holidays, let alone Chinese ones.

If Baby D was going to learn anything about China, it was gonna be up to me.

Well, me and all the AMWF bloggers in Asia–Jocelyn Eikenburg, Marta, Mary, Susan Blumberg-Kason, and many others who no longer post. They taught me about Chinese traditions like Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn festival.

I found and bought mooncakes in September. We ate them by moonlight on the patio and I told Baby D (and Andy) the different versions of the story of Chang’e.

A selection of red envelopes.

I ordered red envelopes for Chinese New Year and stuffed them with crisp bills. (This began Baby D’s love affair with cash, but that’s another post.)

I persuaded Andy to make nian gao, the one dish he remembered form his childhood.

We found a dim sum place within a few miles that Andy grudgingly pronounced “acceptable.” Baby D discovered nai wong bao and pronounced it “awesome.”

I showed my son lion dances. He loved them.

I got him training chopsticks. He hated them.

Last year, I ordered a few decorations for Chinese New Year: a red tablecloth, some double happiness trivets, a lantern, and a flag. Hopefully the characters on the flag and lantern don’t say, “Ha! Stupid white people will buy anything!”

I told Baby D stories about his great-grandmother, fleeing the communists with her lead-lined teapot.

I tried to get Baby D’s Nai-nai to tell him more about the ghost festival and other superstitions, but she protested that their family was Christian and didn’t do any of that nonsense.

Some parents put their kids in Chinese school on the weekend, but my kid threw a fit at the idea of school instead of sports.

He did eventually announce that Mandarin would be his elective in public school.

I hugged him and exclaimed, “It’s so awesome that you want to learn more about your heritage!”

“Uh-huh. The older kids told me that the teacher has parties for all the holidays! With treats!”

Not exactly the rationale I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.

Perhaps someday he’ll be able to tell me what the characters on my lantern mean.

The Ballad of No Baby Brother (#274)

I have a lot of relatives with Asperger’s and Adult Residual Asperger’s. Same for my Chinese-American husband. I was prepared for our child to be, at the very least, a little introverted.

Baby D was not. Baby D craved human interaction. He never liked playing with toys by himself. He was fascinated by other children. Once he was mobile, he enjoyed swim classes with other kids, playdates, and even Childwatch at the local YMCA.

When I hovered while dropping him off at his first day of preschool, my three-year-old waved a dismissive hand and said, “You go now, Mommy.” Continue reading The Ballad of No Baby Brother (#274)

Pretty Binary (#267)

My son got a ton of hand-me-downs from his older girl cousins before he was even born. My Chinese-American husband’s frugality warred with his old-fashioned views on gender when those boxes first arrived.

“You’re not gonna dress him in pink, are you?” he asked.

“I dunno,” I said with a shrug. “We’ll see what fits in which season. Would you rather he wear pink or we save money?”

I let Andy wrestle with this dilemma for a while—because I am cruel like that—before telling him he wouldn’t have to choose. Continue reading Pretty Binary (#267)

Parental Expectations: East vs. West (#263)

My husband had Chinese-American parents. Mine were white, uptight, and Anglo-Saxon Protestant/ Atheist.

Andy was expected to obey his parents without question. If his parents said his curfew was 10 PM, Andy was home at 10 PM. If Andy’s father wanted to sit on the couch and watch TV, Andy could forget about participating in Little League or any other sport.

I was expected to obey, but not without question. My mom was an attorney. Dinner table discussions in her house ranged from abortion to capital punishment. Everyone was encouraged to express their own opinions and defend them. If I could present a good argument for a curfew change or pierced ears, these items might be considered. (Lost on curfew, won on pierced ears.) Continue reading Parental Expectations: East vs. West (#263)

Lost in Translations (#254)

I find names and the naming process fascinating. Giving someone a nickname is often a way of expressing affection—or dislike. My parents divorced and remarried so much that we sometimes had as many as three different surnames in our households, but God help the poor classmate who referred to my stepfather as “Mr. Ashbough,” (the name of my mother’s ex-husband).

God also help whichever sibling my father hollered at using their full name—middle name included.

When my husband and I married, we put a lot of thought into hyphenating both our names. Andy’s Chinese-American parents objected. Their arguments were illogical, hypocritical, and downright ludicrous, but I was forced to concede.

Years later, I was still pissed. Continue reading Lost in Translations (#254)

Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

I was raised by a liberated woman and a man who believed his daughters should mow lawns, change tires, and have the same curfew as their older brother.

My sisters and I crushed in academics no less than my brother. We were better singers, better dancers, and better athletes. Also more popular. (Sorry, Big Bro!)

NASA came to my schools seeking women astronauts. They told us women had better reflexes than men, handled G-forces better than men, and coped better in close quarters better than men and please could we girls consider being astronauts?

I never understood why a person should be more valued because they were born with a penis. I mean, having a penis means you’re kind of fragile and likely to die earlier than a woman.

Continue reading Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

Weary of Boys (#235)

I always knew my husband and I would have a boy. An ultrasound at 21 weeks proved I was right.

Usually I love being right.

Not this time. Continue reading Weary of Boys (#235)

Oh, Boy (#232)

My Chinese-American husband grew up to be a successful engineer with two advanced degrees — and a disappointment to his parents. If he got a 4.0, his father Jay would grunt and his mother Sunny would mention a cousin graduating with honors. When Andy got a job at large company, Sunny told him that a government job would be more secure and have better benefits. Continue reading Oh, Boy (#232)

Gender & Preference (#231)

Parents always say they don’t have a favorite child.

Everyone eventually learns that’s bullshit. I knew it earlier than most. I have four baby siblings, born anywhere from 9-12 years after me. And hell, yeah, I had a favorite.

Pretty Space Cadet Sister spat up on everything as a baby. She was not my favorite. Continue reading Gender & Preference (#231)

Calls From the Dark Side (#152)

img_0958Two weeks after our honeymoon, I made the mistake of answering the landline. (Yes, we had a landline. Yes, we didn’t pay for caller ID. Yes, my husband is sometimes a cheap bastard.) A gruff, low, male voice I didn’t recognize barked something about a son or a grandson.

I said, “Wrong number,” and hung up.

Ten seconds later, the phone rang again. I answered again.

The same voice muttered, “….my grandson?”

“Look, dude, there are no kids here, I’m not a kidnapper, and you have the wrong number!” I hung up.

Continue reading Calls From the Dark Side (#152)