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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Chinese Food Email

Y'all are just too amazing. Thank you so much for feeding my ego writing such kind things yesterday. I surely missed blogging this past week. And I fully expected to spend all morning yesterday replying to emails and catching up with YOUR lives, but something happened during breakfast yesterday that just wiped out my whole day. I feel like I sound like a Drama Queen Of Major Proportions lately, but sometimes crud just seems to happen all at once.

Call me crazy, but I think it's the pile of snowy what-not that's causing all of this.

Anyways, I don't even know how much to share about my recent morning conversation with the Tongginator, but I know y'all will probably face this at some point during your Momma Years, so I feel like it's important to share at least some of it. I've talked with two friends and my momma already and I STILL feel upset when I think about it.

I guess all of us mommas feel that way when our Momma Bears come out.

I'm afraid I'll overshare or inadvertently demonize two little ones, so I guess the best way to tell you what happened is to just cut-and-paste (with a few edits) the email Tonggu Grammy helped me craft for the Tongginator's teacher. Whom I still adore. Just so you know. Sending the email was one of the toughest things I've done as a momma. I know I should expect things like this to happen, seeing as how I am a parent who adopted transracially, but knowing to expect it and actually being prepared when it happens?

Two very different things.

Anyways, I sent this carefully worded email to the Tongginator's kindergarten teacher yesterday. I actually think I navigated the conversation with the Tongginator fairly well... I focused on allowing her to express her feelings, walked her through some coping strategies and asked her how she wanted me to respond. And I empathized a ton, while still keeping it together. I only fell apart AFTER the bus drove away. Anyways, here is an excerpt from the email I sent...

Hey there, Ms. Confetti. I have to say this spring feels much different from the fall, when I was in the classroom most days. *grin* It's been nice having a small break, but I also feel a bit disconnected. I have a couple of things...

[... unrelated news and classroom business ...]

Last... something happened during lunch yesterday that very much upset the Tongginator. While she was sitting at the lunch table, M1 and M2 told her several times that the food she brought from home "was Chinese food and looked like throw up." The Tongginator said that she asked them to stop, but they didn't and kept repeating those same words and variations of the comment. The Tongginator didn't tell me about it until this morning, as I was getting ready to pack her lunch.

I know that it's common for five- and six-year-old girls to experiment with power, and that I am assigning adult values to words from young children, but the Tongginator truly internalized what they said and responded in a way that many would respond to racism. She could not understand why they were attacking her for who she was, via the food she ate. This morning she literally sobbed in my arms for at least five minutes. We talked about it for a good fifteen minutes: we talked about how it felt... and what she could say and do if it happens again... the ingredients of the foods she typically brings for lunch.... and then she said "and Ms. Confetti didn't DO anything." When I reminded her that you weren't there - and asked her if any other adults were around (she said no) - she realized that "probably none of the teachers know about it" - and then she asked me to tell you about it.

If you have any more questions about this, please feel free to call me at home or to send me an email. You can also talk with the Tongginator about it if you wish, although I'd like a heads up if you do, so that I can follow-up with her at home. It's important to me to handle this well. I don't want to blow it up out of proportion, but I also know - from listening to the voices of adult transracial adoptees, most specifically my two cousins who were internationally adopted from Korea - that it's important for me to not sweep this under the rug either.

Thanks so much ~
Tonggu Momma

And yeah, I did use the word racism when I talked with the Tongginator. I told her that what the girls said was unkind and that they probably didn't understand just HOW unkind it was. And that words like that are called racist. And that they are not okay. (And... as to why I felt it was innocent, yet racist, please read this follow-up and more thoughts.)

We talked about her feelings and about how to handle it if it happens again. And - y'all will be so very proud of my little gal - I asked her if she wanted to start bringing in different food for lunch... you know, the more typical sandwich, chips and apple combo. And do you know what my little girl said? She thought for a minute, then replied, "NO. I LIKE my food."

Despite sobbing in my arms just minutes earlier.

Oh my lands, y'all, I am taking lessons from a five-year-old.

And I simply adore her. She is one VERY special little girl.

40 comments:

Heather said...

Of course you're upset. How could you not be when when your child is hurt like that?

For what it's worth, I think you handled it wonderfully. I hope I can be as eloquent as you if (let's face it: when) something like this happens to my daughter.

And the Tongginator rocks. But we knew that already. :)

Buckeroomama said...

She is a very special girl indeed and you are a very special momma. Bravo for you and the T on how you handled it. As if navigating the waters of kindergarten and grade school is not hard enough, some children these days would have to be prepped on how to handle racism --deliberate or otherwise. As a parent, you just hope that you won't ever have to go there, but that's like insisting that man can survive on bread alone.

Aus said...

TM - if I might be permitted to scream - YOU WERE BRILLIANT!!

OK - I feel better now! Our oldest adopted daughter was referred to as a 'gook' by one of her classmates last year (She's Korean by birth) and we had that same 'adventure' with her teacher and school. At the time she menitoned it to me - she didn't feel insulted but whated to know what a 'gook' was - what the word meant. Tough one....and the rest is unimportant.

I deal with many victims of abuse in my job - kid victims - and have become very aware of 'bullying' and 'cyber-bullying'. I deal with their parents too - and the one thing that I have learned above all - is that a response from the parents / caregivers / teachers / coachs / whomever that returns the power and control to the kid - that's the proper response.

You asked her "what do YOU want me to do the help you" - absolutely the best thing you could do - you gave T her power back....and you gave her power over her mom....very cool!

Loved your letter too - good work - maybe even GREAT work.

We all should be taking lessons from our kids - they'll be the ones making our world a better place...

hugs - aus and co.

Elouise82 said...

I did mean to comment yesterday, telling you how glad I was you were back, really I did ... but I have this nasty sickness and a baby who's not letting me get much more than four hours of sleep a night (hence the sickness), and, well, I forgot.

Excuses out of the way!

This just broke my heart. Why - WHY do some children have to be so cruel? The Tongginator is very blessed to have such a wise and loving momma, who both comforted her and let her know that it was absolutely okay to have hurt feelings. And I think the email you sent was very well-written, very composed and calm while still getting the message across.

And the Tongginator most definitely has wisdom and maturity beyond her years, and I am proud of her too - and I don't even know her!

Praying for her, and you, and those two little girls who need someone to teach them in a loving manner (as in, not a punch in the nose) that bullying and cruelty is never, ever acceptable.

bbmomof2boys said...

Kids can be mean and cruel little boogers! You hit it on the head when you said M1 and M2 were experimenting with power. They saw how T reacted to their comments and continued. She must have thought about that for the rest of the day and all night! Poor baby! Its amazing what their little brains pick up on, isn't it?

Bravo for the way you handled it. Tell T thanks for the lesson!

Hugs,
Carls

bbmomof2boys said...

Carls? Didn't you know I changed my name????

happygeek said...

Ah the joys.
Don't you love how kids can zero in on a difference and exploit it? And by love I mean want to throw something.

I'm so glad she told you. And I'm praying for a few of her friends to stand up with her next time.

While I didn't experience racism I was different (large hearing aids will do that to you) and having friends stand with me made all the difference in the world.

autumnesf said...

Made me want to throw-up just reading it. A is going through some stuff too but she's not as straightforward about bringing it to me. She just internalizes everything and gets quiet. Makes for a whole lot of extra work to try to get it out of her...without being obvious.

Jboo said...

Oh my -- it is so hard when our little ones are hurt and upset this way. You did a great job with your teacher letter! So proud of TM for still wanting to take her food!!

Janet

Patty O. said...

You know what? I wish I had your daughter's courage. I am so proud of her decision to stick with the food she likes despite what other people say. Good for her.

And good for you, too. Because you could have handled this situation in a way that might have made T feel insecure (my dad always called me a crybaby, when I was upset, no matter what the situation was. I grew up thinking all my feelings were crap). Or you could have encouraged her to take different food, as many moms would have.

I think the way you always handle these moments is what helps T to be the special little confident girl she is. This kid? Yeah, she is going to do big things in this world. I can already tell!

Myrnie said...

I think you handled this well. It's hard, though, when "racism" is involved. I'm not sure that the little girls KNEW they were being biased against Chinese food, and who TM was. They were mean and out of line, but do you think kindergarteners know what racism is? They were being racist, definitely, and unintentionally...which is kind of more sad :(

Little girls made fun of my shoes on the playground, little boys made fun of my name, big kids threw pine cones at us... and I'm European American. School is a rough place :( I hope TM can navigate it well, and that she can feel comfortable talking to her teachers and parents!

The Vinyards said...

I just recently started following your blog. Thank you so much for posting about this. It helps me prepare when that happens to our Sydney. Breaks my heart for your little one & also Sydney knowing she will experience this sometime soon.

Pickel said...

You need to read Kristen's post. SO Like your's today. http://thehowertons.blogspot.com/2010/02/little-bigots-at-basketball.html#comment-form

prechrswife said...

I dread the day when this happens. I don't think MJ's preschool friends have even noticed she is Chinese yet. I know the day is coming, though. You responded very well.

Logical Libby said...

My heart drops every time I realize I will eventually have to talk to Meg about mean kids and racism. It makes me want to never go out of the house again.

Good job addressing it head on!

The Source said...

Kids are just as vicious as adults...adults just aren't necessarily as blatant about it. Children will pick out any difference, no matter how big or small, and capitalize on it. And discrimination HURTS.

I'm glad you were able to handle this situation calmly and rationally, giving Miss Tongginator the tools she needs to deal with experiences like these. Remind her, too, that now she knows how painful such remarks are and she's learning how to respond to them...she'll be able to stand up for her friends when they're picked on, too.

Last night my boys came home from church furious about the treatment of another child. We have three or four 6th grade terrors in the kids group at church and they make life miserable for my Pip Squeak on a weekly basis...knocking him to the ground, shoving him, mumbling under their breath about him if he happens to end up om their team at game time. (Or rather, they DID pick on him until he began fighting back, literally, and took a few of them out. But that was a last resort.) Anyway, last night they zeroed in on a 10 yr old with Down Syndrome. Calling him a looser and a retard among other things. Making fun of his speech. Generally harrassing a very loving and light-hearted little boy for things he has no control over. I can never figure out exactly WHERE the adult leaders are when these confrontations are going on. Naturally, when Pip stood up for the boy, they turned on HIM. He came home livid and I spent the rest of the evening wishing I could clobber some 12 yr olds AND their parents. There's no explaining the meanness that some people thrive on. Hugs to you and Tongginator! Hope she has a much better day today, and good for her for eating what SHE likes!

Johnny said...

Fight the good fight sista!

Chris said...

why oh why?????

First off, your daughter is truly amazing!!!

Secondly, I think you handled the situation with grace and dignity!!!

I only hope and pray that I will be able to do the same when a situation like this occurs for us!!

Patricia/NYC said...

I'm starting this where you left off...YES! She IS one VERY special little girl & YOU are one VERY special momma!!

I applaud how you handled this & am so grateful that you shared this experience with us! I applaud the T's courage! I love how she decided to continue to bring in the food SHE LIKES!!! YAY for her! YAY for you!!

No doubt we will be going through this as well...I can almost see it coming with a certain classmate in K's class now. So, you have no idea just how much I appreciate your candor here...THANK YOU!!!!

Carla said...

Oh I'm so sorry she had to experience that, and I wonder if M1 and/or M2's parents have made that comment in front of them. Perhaps M1 or M2 told their parents that your daughter brought Chinese food for lunch and they'd like something besides the typical sandwich, and their parents responded by how they thought it looked that way.

Sooo terrible! But, I love how she wants to continue bringing that food! Katie would love to always bring noodles, so I can certainly see me facing this one day.

Andrea said...

Kids can be cruel. My friend's daughter was teased about her food. I think you handled it very well!

Love Letters To China said...

It sounds like you handled the situation wonderfully. It is so hard to listen and stay calm when your child is hurting. My daughter is dealing with similar issues in first grade and I too have spoken to the teacher. I try and find the right words to explain why other children say/do hurtful things. It's difficult for children to understand.

Give yourself a great big pat on your back. Your an awesome momma!

Donna said...

Just curious... what was the food? I can think of several of my favorite Chinese food dishes that my girls won't even touch because they look funny. And I'm pretty sure they're not racist. ;)

Regardless, nobody likes to be teased and there's never a good excuse for it.

Donna
Our Blog: Double Happiness!

Aunt LoLo said...

I'm just curious - what DOES she take for lunch? When I pack lunches (just for the hubs right now) it's always leftovers from dinner the night before....which can range from pizza to pig tongues. I've wondered, a few times, what I'll pack for BBJ when she's older...and how kids will react around her. Already, when I serve more exotic foods to our Joy School group, one of the little girls will turn to a friend and say, "What IS this? It's gross!!" (That was her reaction to seaweed. heh.) I get that it looks gross to her - like edible paper made out of grass. ;-) It hasn't fazed BBJ yet, but....I can see that it will work its way through soon. Help?

Lisa said...

Hey,

For what its worth I think you did all that any of us can do....listen, really listen and respond in a way that both validates & empowers our child(ren).

I'm so sorry that TG was so very upset by this ~ its heartbreaking to even hear about, so I can imagine how it felt for you and of course, her.

And in no way am I nullifying or minimizing this experience or the actions you took in response....

but....could you tell there would be a but?? LOL :)

Kids do this. I have eaten lunch 2 times a month with L and her buddies this whole year ( following the mornings I help out in class) and the teasing about food selections happens.

One child is teased for being the only one to select white milk...or the only child with hot or cold lunch on that day...or so and so has a pickle and ewwwww....no one likes pickles! A burrito?(yes this child was Hispanic) Yuck! And so on......

L does not do this and has rarely been the target......when I sit in with them it always stops...pronto.(smile) But L tells me it goes on consistently......and most of the kids just shrug it off....some do share it with the teacher.....and she responds in kind.

Then guess what? The next day its not food, but clothing that is teased.....or a folder with a character on it and so forth.

Sad yes....but it does happen and handling it does build resiliency. I also do not think it comprises the whole day ~ most of these kiddos genuinely adore one another and do stand by each other when needed. But it does happen and that's hard sometimes.

I think you took the steps this a.m. to assist TG in handling/coping with it.

I hope it doesn't happen again and no for the record, I do not condone such behaviors.....and was most surprised myself, despite having taught school for 6 years.

Hugs!!

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

aw. I love how strong and independent she is. I feel for you. I'm anti-confrontational 99.9% of the time. THE thing that morphs me (and probablly most other moms) into a mother bear trying viciously to protect her cub(s) is ANYTHING that hurts my babies. Those girls were mean. They hopefully did not understand the full extent of the pain of their words, but that's precisely why you did the right thing. It's not ok and they need to know it's not ok. Hang in there, Mama Bear.((hugs))

LaLa said...

this breaks my heart...if I were more patient I would home school LOL Of course it wouldn't matter..we can't protect them all the time.

HUGS to all of you and I think you handled it beautifully!

jen@odbt said...

Oh TM :( You responded well. The world is a tough place. As far as I know my kids have not been teased in this way and I dread the day it happens b/c I remember what it was like.

Wanda said...

I love that she is still proud to be who she is. This is a tough one and one most of us will have to handle.

Dahlia had a boy in her Grade 1 class teasing her for quite a while last fall. He would say things like "chinese girl, chinese girl" or "you have small feet, they're chinese feet" and more. She had not told the teacher about it and took several weeks before she told me. I knew who this boy was so at first I wanted to go straight to him (mama bear exposed) but instead spoke with the teacher who was mortified and said she would handle it and she did. The teasing stopped. But it made Dahlia realize she is different (the only Asian in her class and only a handfull in the whole school). And she would cry about not wanting to be different. But the teacher really highlighted the whole Chinese New Year celebration. She began right after Christmas and asked Dahlia to participate in some of the discussions. And slowly I could see Dahlia's Chinese pride returning. She went to school the day after CNY with red envelopes for everyone. Pretty cool! The class and the teacher loved it!

Now just today, another boy called her "a Chinese gorilla" - Dahlia went immediately (with another little girl)to the teacher and told her. I got a note in her agenda telling me the details, that they had been explained to Dahlia and they would handle it immediately. Again I was impressed.

I'm grateful for this very sensitive teacher and I'm so glad my Dahlia stood up for herself and immediately told the teacher instead of internalizing it. But, I'm also very aware that this is just the beginning.

You handled this beautifully!

Magi said...

You both handled that so well. I'm impressed. I also need to remember this when I have to deal with a similar situation. I guess it's too late to wrap 'em up in cotton batting and keep them from ever being hurt?

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

You said it, she is one special little girl!! I am so happy that she is sticking with her usual lunch.....that speaks volumes!!

I am so sorry that you both had to deal with this situation......I can only imagine how upset she was.....and you too!! You handled it all so well......just as I would expect. Not onlye is The Tongginator a very special girl.....her Mommy is an AMAZINGLY STRONG AND SMART WOMAN!!!

xo,

Lisa

Sharie said...

Nice work! I wouldn't call that being a momma bear. I'd call that being a good mom, who listens and responds appropriately.

Annie said...

She is a very special girl and you are a very special Momma Bear!!!! I think you handeled that perfectly and I think TM is one lucky little girl and not because she was adopted but because she has one fabulous Momma:)

Suzy said...

I know kiddos do mean things intentionally - I guess trying stuff out to see how it feels, what they can get away with, etc, hopefully not because they REALLY want to hurt someone. I so hope the situation is handled in such a way that the perpetrators learn WHY what they did is wrong, how to avoid doing it in the future but without feeling resentful. And the Momma Bear? That can be incredibly powerful and overwhelming, can't it? I remember storming across a playground ready to "correct" the little boy who pushed my son down. Thank goodness I had a few moments to compose myself and realize he was just a little kid doing what little kids do. Bless your hearts! Hang in there.

anymommy said...

She truly is. I learn so much from you. I mean that. You handled this so beautifully, with your daughter and with her teacher.

Colin and Jill Canada said...

You know I save your posts in my favs for possible reference later, because you are a fab mummy and I learn important life lessons from you ALL! THE! TIME!

You never deal with stuff under pressure, you are patient and kind and I wish I was more like you.

And is she ever special. Bless her little heart.

Jill

Jill said...

Classic response from a CLASSY mama! Well done girl!

Dita said...

The fact that she is determined to continue to eat the food that she LIKES rather than cave to peer pressure at this age just speaks volumes, TM...VOLUMES...about who she is in her core, about the mother who continues to champion and empower her and about the people in place who are gently guiding and protecting her (Ms. Confetti) when you are not there.

I am amazed at her strength and courage. I don't know if I could have done the same at her age.
I am inspired by your ability to navigate these uncharted waters with your daughter and leave no stone unturned in events that shape her life.

Excellent email!

thegypsymama said...

That kid is destined for greatness! GREAT-NESS!

Anonymous said...

Have you considered even for a moment the possibility that the comments may not have actually been racist? The term "Chinese" may have legitimately been referring to the food. Yes, the kids were being unquestionably cruel with their teasing and it was entirely right to contact the teacher to put an immediate end to it. But immediately leaping to "racist" is attributing meaning to the event which may or may not have been present. And in the end, the motivation for the teasing is entirely immaterial, since the behavior is unacceptable regardless. So why tar the offending children with potentially incorrect accusations of such deeply malicious intent?