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Monday, July 21, 2008

Proud to Be...

TONGGU MOMMA: Look, honey, (pointing to the TV screen) he's Asian-American just like you.

TONGGINATOR: No. He's Chinese-American.

TONGGU MOMMA: Well... we don't know that for sure. There are lots of Asian people who aren't from China. Maybe he's from South Korea or Vietnam or Japan. So we say that he is Asian-American unless we know for sure exactly. You are Chinese-American, but you are also Asian-American.

TONGGINATOR: No! I'm not Asian-American. And I'm not Chinese-American! I'm just like you.

TONGGU MOMMA: You are like me in a lot of ways, honey bear, but you aren't Caucasian like Momma. You are Chinese-American because you were born in China to Chinese parents and then Momma and Daddy adopted you, so you became American, too. You are a Chinese-American. You are also Asian-American.

TONGGINATOR: I don't like being Chinese-American. I want to be like you.

TONGGU MOMMA: But you aren't, honey bear. You're Asian-American. And it's a wonderful thing to be. Who else do we know who is Asian-American?

TONGGINATOR: I don't know.

TONGGU MOMMA: Yes, you do.

TONGGINATOR: Cinnamon and Spice... and all my China cousins... and Peaches and Cream.

TONGGU MOMMA: Yes! And how about ShanghaiSweetie and Beijing Boy? And what about Mr. Shortcake, Peaches' and Cream's daddy? And Ms. Mai, who cuts your hair? And HanBlue? And Mr. Pak... he gives you lollipops, doesn't he?

TONGGINATOR: Yes. I like lollipops. But Momma, I don't like being Chinese.

TONGGU MOMMA: There's lots of special things about being Chinese, Piglet. You have beautiful black Mulan hair that Momma will never have. And what are some special Chinese things we wouldn't do if you were Caucasian?

TONGGINATOR: I don't know... maybe we wouldn't go to Chinese New Year. I like to wear my beautiful Chinese New Year dress there, but we have to put the rat shirt over it so it doesn't get messy when I eat.

TONGGU MOMMA: That's right! And we wouldn't have red envelopes... or know about dragons.

TONGGINATOR: Or make lanterns. And we wouldn't dance like Mei Mei dancers or speak Chinese.

TONGGU MOMMA: What else?

TONGGINATOR: We wouldn't drink Bubble Tea at Moon Festival. Or see the dragon boats. And maybe we wouldn't go see the kites.

TONGGU MOMMA: That's right, honey bear. There are lots of special things we do because you are Chinese-American.

TONGGINATOR: I guess so. Momma, I'm hungry. What's for lunch?

This struck me to the core, y'all.

What could I have done better?

Advice, please.

23 comments:

Aunt LoLo said...

Hmm...I'm sure I'll get these questions soon! You know we're trying to raise BBJ to be....both. It's hard.

I asked Lo Gung's opinion, since he's Chinese-American (like Miss T). His profound answer was, "I don't know." I think he's still a little groggy this morning.

I don't think you did anything wrong. At her age, I would totally expect her to rebel against something. I'm sure BBJ will announce to me at some point that she doesn't like being...something I've raised her to be. I think you handled it very well. At the same time, nobody wants to feel like they're "different", so it's fabulous that you're doing all these "Chinese things" with her.

Lanxi said...

What could you have done better? Unless I missed a tone or inflection, I think you did awesome. The fact that she was ready to switch to a completely different topic suggests to me that she was comfortable enough to be done with the first one.

It's important for kids to understand their heritage (whether they are 3rd generation Italian, like my kids or born in China). There are things people do in every family because of their heritage. For her to see all the things that are unique to only her culture? That is huge. And maybe she didn't get it today, but she will.

TAMI said...

Done better?
Rest in the beauty of your conversation. Rest in the love of your relationship. Don't steal away from the goodness of what happened by assuming you should've done something different.
REST in the beauty of it.

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

I think you handled it very well! I am glad I am still waiting...I can take lots of notes from all of you BTDTs, so I am prepared when I get these kinds of questions!

Don't second guess yourself....your doing great!

Mom to 5...Daughter of the King said...

You did great!! I love the new layout of the blog! Gorgeous!

Janet said...

What are you talking about, DONE BETTER? You did REALLLLY well! I am dreading the days when Adam and Jeane tell me they don't want to be African!!!! I only hope I will have half the wisdom that you had!

Gotta GROW with it said...

are ya kidding?! i for one thing it is so fantastic, selfless and important that you are teaching your sweet girl about her heritage. she will love you for if not know, later on.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Thanks so much, y'all.

I guess what I felt terrible about is that she even thought it in the first place. I've grown concerned that we don't have enough Asian-American ADULT role models in her life. And I worry about what else we should be doing, in addition to what we do.

I guess I'm a "fixer" and I didn't want this to be an issue for her... but I guess it's nearly unavoidable with transracial adoption. Any thoughts?

Carla said...

I have a slightly different perspective - Katie will be able to say "Well, why do JM and Samuel do the Chinese things if they aren't Chinese?"

I think you did wonderfully, truly I do. I think if I had to pick something...it's thatshe might think you didn't want to do the Chinese things until she entered your life. I would worry (and I'm a worrier) that she would someday think that perhaps I didn't really like them...that there was something about the Chinese activities and celebrations that aren't as good as what you celebrate because you are caucasian (which what DO we celebrate as caucasians?).

I like the answer to physical characteristics - the "black Mulan hair" that you think is beautiful and you can never have (except, what IF she comes back later and asks why can't you color it black like her hair especially if she knows you color to cover grey...my issue for the future with Katie).

Could you validate her feelings of wanting to be like you by saying "I would love to be like you, Tongginator because you have beautiful black hair, are super spunky, very smart, very compassionate, and curious. You have the cutest pigtails, and you are great at doing X that I can not do. But you know, if we were exactly alike then it might be a little boring. I'm not exactly like Daddy or Grandma, and cousin Y isn't exactly like his parents either (he just got elected grouch and his parents are grouchy). I love that you are Chinese-American and Asian-American. I love that we can learn about and celebrate all the special things about the land of your birth."

but then again...she is 4. LOL

Carla said...

oh man! I wrote enough for my own blog post...which gives me an idea! woohoo...blogger's block may be "lifted" again. :)

carrie said...

I think you did fine. You answered her questions and didn't flood her with too many extras - and she moved on, to lunch no less - just like kids do!

You're doing fine, momma! :)

Misty said...

I do not have experience with this subject, but I do think you did a great job. I also wanted to let you know I've awarded you a blog award ... come on by and check it out!

prechrswife said...

I think you did fine, too. We've only had these things come up in 2 year old terms so far, so our conversations have not been nearly so in depth yet.

redmaryjanes said...

My eyes are just watered up. I think you did a great job, I just know that I am going to have to face that conversation. I like how you started talking about all of the things that are special in your lives because she is Chinese American.

Kia said...

I think you had a beautiful conversation about it with her. Sounds like she got all the answers she was looking for, then proceeded to her next concern: lunch. I don't think you could have done anything better. :)

Briana's Mom said...

I think you handled it beautifully. Taking notes...

Carolina Mama said...

Wow, we are close. You know about TriangleMom2Mom.com :) It's fun but I usually end up spending more of my post time at Carolina Mama.

This is a neat post. I think you did really great. I love that you are encouraging who she is.

A dear friend just moved here with her three adoptees from China. She may need to know you. :)

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

I think that you did a great job... it was a cute conversation...

Muthering Heights said...

Wow, for providing an answer on the fly, that's pretty good!

goodfountain said...

Like everyone else, TM, I think you handled it well. Isn't the general rule of thumb to answer the questions they ask? You did just that.

Honestly, when I read your last statement about what could you have done better, I was shocked. I thought you did just perfect!

Dawn said...

I think you did great. You answered her questions and explained why it's wonderful to be who she is.

Cloudscome said...

I came here from your comment on Dawn's blog. I think you handled it well too. It's always such a delicate balance and we are always guessing what they are getting at or trying to tell us in these conversations. On the one hand I think it's perfectly normal for 4 year olds to want to be just like mama, no matter what the complications are.

On the other hand, it's possible that she has picked up some flavor of the racism of our society and has an inkling that it's an advantage to be white. My boys are Black and I am white. My middle son, when he was four and five, has several times said he wants to be white like me. I did what you did, sharing what I liked about his skin and his Blackness.

I also acknowledged that it is often an advantage to be white because many things are easier for white people. I think I've said something like, "I understand how you could feel that way because I've noticed that sometimes in our world Black people aren't treated as nicely as white people. Have you noticed that?" He looked really serious and nodded his head. I talked a little more about racism but not too much. I was just opening the subject up a bit for when he is ready to talk about it more. I don't want to lead him into something he's not ready to talk about. I do want to acknowledge and validate his feelings if he is sensing or experiencing racism though. Young as they are, they start to see it.

I think Asian girls get put in a stereotype and she might be seeing it in the media even if she hasn't felt it personally.

...Or maybe she just wants to be like her lovely mama! :)

Chris and Deb said...

I think you did great...that is a tough one for sure! We have not encountered that one yet. Sophie knows she is Chinese and loves that....however, there may come a day when she thinks like the Tongginator!