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)

A Tree-mendous Christmas (#272)

As children, my younger sister and I used to lie under our Christmas trees. We had minimal Christmas decorations, and no outdoor lights, but we loved our small trees. Not only were those colored strings of light magical on their own, they were also a visible reminder that parties, presents, and the North Polar Bear were coming.

When I got my first apartment, I got a tree. It went…poorly. Not only did my roommate JM have allergies (sorry, JM!), but we had cats. 5 pound Bat Cat raced delightedly up and down the tree, ornaments flying in her wake. At 25 pounds, Shamu Cat was incapable or climbing any tree. Instead, he pulled branches down and sat on them, almost as if telling Bat Cat, “See? I am also in the tree!” Continue reading A Tree-mendous Christmas (#272)

Dirty Baby, Healthy Baby (#270)

Unless it’s in his garden, my Chinese-American husband doesn’t notice dirt. I’m the one who notices when there’s pet hair piling up and hauls out the vacuum—usually every few days. I like my house neat, especially if we have company coming over.

But once our high maintenance, non-napping Baby D arrived, the vacuum disappeared into the hall closet, sometimes for weeks.

We soon had two dozen dust bunnies to go with our two dogs and two cats. Continue reading Dirty Baby, Healthy Baby (#270)

Food Fight, Part II (#269)

I am a picky eater with a sensitive gag reflex. My parents learned that trying to force me to eat Hamburger Helper would result in puke all over the kitchen. They turned a blind eye when I fed it to the dog.

My Chinese-American husband, on the other hand, is literally the embodiment of the Chinese saying, “The Cantonese will eat everything on four legs except the table.”

Andy is also immune to food poisoning and the stomach flu. I have spent days on the bathroom floor with both while he whistled and continued on his merry way. Never mind that we ate the same food and commingled bodily fluids.

Andy’s uncle has a theory that weak stomachs were weeded out of the Chinese gene pool ages ago, possibly because the Chinese eat quite a bit of undercooked food. If your stomach couldn’t handle it, you’d never survive to reproduce.

There is only one food so horrible, so hideous, that my husband gags at the very thought of it.

Are you ready?

It’s… Continue reading Food Fight, Part II (#269)

Taste Test (#268)

I am a picky eater. Take onions. I’ve hated onions with a passion since biting into my first McDonald’s burger and recoiling in horror over the raw, diced bites of bitterness wrecking my burger.

Unfortunately, onions are everywhere. No burger, sauce, or burrito is safe.

I’m normally a people-pleaser. Not when it comes to onions. I will quiz the wait staff before ordering a new dish. I will send that dish back if an onion shows up (very nicely and apologetically). And then I am NEVER going back to that restaurant.

My Chinese-American husband can and does eat anything. Animal brains? Check. Animal testicles? Check. Bitter melon? Check. Fish eyeballs, jellyfish, chicken feet? Bring it. The guy could have killed it on Fear Factor. Continue reading Taste Test (#268)

Hand-Me-Downs & Halloween (#266)

There were two great things about being taller than my older sister by age five.

  • She couldn’t beat me up anymore.
  • I didn’t have to wear her hand-me-downs.

Instead, I got a new dress for the first day of kindergarten. My parents actually asked what color I wanted. I wore that dress at least twice a week until my growth spurts made it into a crop top. Continue reading Hand-Me-Downs & Halloween (#266)

The Hard Way: East & West Parenting Manual (#265)

When Baby D was an infant, my husband thought he was the easiest baby. Baby D was content to nap on Andy’s chest while Andy lay on the couch and watched TV. Entire seasons were binge watched during his family leave.

Once Baby D figured out how to move, it was a different ballgame. Baby D learned to crawl–solely for the purpose of cat-chasing.

Baby D learned to walk at 10 months. For five seconds. After his first three steps, he ran.

This was a rough learning curve for Andy. His once-lazy weekends were now about chasing his son, usually with food or band-aids. When Baby D wasn’t running, he was probably arguing. Continue reading The Hard Way: East & West Parenting Manual (#265)