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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Not Mrs. Moe!

A couple of weeks ago, little Squirt and I ran into a woman I know from church.  I've chatted with her a few times and like her as a person, but we are no more than acquaintances.  I'm hoping to grow the relationship into a friendship of some sorts, mostly because I like her, but also because her daughter and Squirt will end up in the same grade at school eventually, and - if I'm honest with myself - maybe even a tiny bit because she is Asian-American.

Anyways, back to the day two weeks ago that we ran into her.

Squirt took one look at her and shouted, "Not Mrs. Moe!"

Mrs. Moe is a friend of mine who lived abroad this past year but returned to our neck of the woods over the summer.  She is Chinese-American and has three children (Eeny, Meeny and Miney), the youngest of whom was adopted from China.  Squirt and Miney belong to a playgroup of four girls, dubbed the Fearsome Four, all adopted from China and with just 13 months separating the oldest (Miney) from the youngest (Squirt).  Our four families live within 20 minutes drive of one another, each also have a third grader (three girls, one boy), and all feel pretty darn blessed to have these connections, both for ourselves and our children.

Anyways, back to the day two weeks ago that Squirt took one look at my acquaintance from church and shouted, "Not Mrs. Moe!"  Like, five times.  Five! times! she shouted it while I quietly sank through the floor.  I finally had to come clean and just say it... "I'm sorry.  My friend Mrs. Moe is Chinese-American and we saw her last Friday.  I think Squirt is realizing that you are both Asian-American, and that you are different people."

My acquaintance from church took it in stride.

At least, I think she did.

(I was too busy sinking through the floor to notice.)

Later I couldn't help but acknowledge that this would not have happened if Squirt had more daily contact with the Asian-American community.  I've tried to make conscious decisions about diversity, choosing Asian-American professionals often (such as our dentist, hair stylist, etc.), and seeking out different activities and events that lend themselves to a more diverse crowd.  And I know I'm in a better place than I was six years ago - that's for sure - but this incident with Squirt has me questioning if it's enough.

I don't know the answer.

This past weekend, I repeated the "how diverse is your world?" exercise the Husband and I took five years ago at a transracial adoption parenting seminar.  The results were much more diverse this second time, but I have to admit that most of my close friends are Caucasian; only three of my close friends are non-white.  Then again, I'm pretty introverted, so it's not like my friends list is all that long anyways.  But still...

Squirt shouting "Not Mrs. Moe!" showed me that I still have a long way to go.

How about y'all?


Andrea said...

Move to Hawaii! That'll fix the diversity issue. ;-)

3cmum said...

It is all about trying. 5 years on from our adoption, I am "closer" to my only good asian friend than we were and we have a much larger circle of mixed race friends. However, as importantly the kids go to a school that is very ethnically and culturally diverse (we don't live in the USA and the school has 77+ nationalities) which is helping in loads of way. Plus then there is Chinese school...tho' I haven't integrated there. But what stood out for me was how much my daughter loved the Chinese Summer School she went to because of the older kids. Thus the need for her to have more of these role models (baby sitters/friends) is now huge on my agenda.

Aus said...

Well, maybe I'm screwed up on this one - but aren't we all just American? ;)

If we did away with the hypen all together and became our own culture then we wouldn't have to worry about all the diversity!

Don't get me too wrong here - we celebrated chusok for our Korean daughter last weekend, and we will be going to a lantern festival for our Chinese kids in a week or so, we belong to the Korean Family Connection locally as well as the Families with Children from China group locally too. We shop at KAM (Asian "super store") freqently enough to chat with the owners and for them to ask where the kids are if I stop on the way home. We're sensitive to our kids 'first culture' and always will be.

But we've also experienced a little racial bs from folks too...

And maybe that's why I'm just wishing we were all simply 'americans' - and then we wouldn't have to worry about it...

And TM - you don't need to be sinking into the floor - our kids jobs are to keep us 'humble'! ;)

hugs - aus and co.

Jamey... said...

We have the same issues. After we got home our circle which wasn't very big, but was still new shrank to just about zero. We left our church and it shrank to almost actually zero. Then add in a family headed by two introverts and sometimes it's a stretch for us even to care. lol. We are in the process of purposefully broadening that circle and broadening it in specific ways, but it's hard for sure.

Anonymous said...

Just wrote a long comment which Blogger ate. So I will leave you with this image... white mother with white daughter who frequently shouts out in public, "Look Mom, she/he is from Ethiopia." I think this is a little less embarrassing when Little Dude is with us, but not necessarily. We are doing what we can to build legitimate relationships in our community with families of every race and color... but no one wants to befriend people who act like stalkers.

Molly said...

I'm a white, Jewish girl who had mainly black and Indian friends in college. I found my people in college, and they happened to be a very racially diverse group. That was easy because I lived in NYC. Now that I'm in New Hampshire, there is NO ONE of color here. NONE. It's why I'm not going to live here forever... because I can't handle the lack of racial diversity. I like being in a diverse city!!!

Shari said...

Amelia asked if there would be any Asians kids in her high school, she's in 2nd grade and already sees the lack of diversity in her school:(

1001tears said...

I have a long way to go too! Lots of close friends, but they are not diverse! And not one of them has adopted. I served lunch at my kids school today with a woman who adopted twins from China (they are few year older than my daughter). But I decided she had to be my new best friend! : ) She doesn't know that yet...

But I am trying to expand my circle, too.


Anonymous said...

As an Asian American woman who also is a mother to adopted twins from China (as well as biological kids), I'd really like to stress that the "we're all American" sentiment in the comments just doesn't work. Like it or not, American = white in many (most?) circles. If you are a white parent of a child of color, YOU may think "hey, we're all the same," but you speak from a position of privilege. Meanwhile, your child may grow up without seeing anyone who looks like him or her in his/her daily life. Please (and this is not to Tongginator Mama but to one of the commentators) keep in mind that it is not your child's problem to seek out role models that look like him/her. Please realize the asymmetries in our world. Just because you are part of the majority and love your child in a color-blind manner does not mean that your child is perceived by others in a neutral manner, nor does it mean that your child doesn't feel bad/strange/like an outsider because s/he is not part of the racial majority.


Asianmommy said...

The people who you spend time with are often a function of the place where you live. When we chose the suburb where we live, we considered the proximity to work and the quality of the schools, but also the amount of diversity in the community. It's not always possible to create the ideal environment for raising your kids--all you can do is the best you can do.

Anonymous said...

Your conscious of it and you've made progress - that's great. We just moved to a city were we are the minorities, I'm hoping we'll expand our circle a bit.

BR said...

An older woman scolded my (Asian) daughter for being rambunctious at church the other day, which was fine, but then followed it up with "why can't you behave like an American child"?

My daughter was just stunned - and when she told me about it I did my (Caucasian) best to help her process her feelings - but it was her (Asian) babysitter who really came through.

It sure would be nice if the world embraced diversity, but wishing it were so will not help my child NOW. It is so important to show my child that I have her back - but it is just as important for her to have peers and role models with similar experiences who can help her navigate the world when she is not with me. When she is with me, she benefits from my white privilege by proxy. But when she runs down the hall of her church to Sunday school, the intolerant cranky ladies of the world can still get to her before I do. :(

Anonymous said...

Zoe - thank you. I am also an Asian American woman with both bio and adopted (Taiwan) children. While I am trying to give the commenter the benefit of the doubt, I am very glad you stepped in because I am not sure I could have said what you said so well.


Kimberly said...

My situation is a slightly since my daughter (adopted domestically), my husband, and I are all Caucasian, but I relate to this post because I worry about her not having enough adopted acquaintances growing up. My SIL was adopted and I have one friend whom I met along the adoption road whose daughter is only a few months younger than mine, but I want to make sure that she is around other adopted children with different adoption stories throughout her childhood. She is only one, so I have some time, but as one of your other commentators said, I'm not sure how to make these friends without asking inappropriate questions and/or stalking them.

Aunt LoLo said...

@ Zoe - thank you for sharing. I'm a white mama with a Chinese husband, and two (gorgeous ;-)) "mixey" children. (That's the common term in Hong Kong.) We made a very conscious decision a few years ago to move our family to Seattle, and to a specific elementary school, because I was CERTAIN there would be other children in the school who shared a near identical make-up to my children.

That said, my children BOTH called every single Asian woman they saw "MahMah" (grandma) when they were babies. Because they all looked like my husband's mother. And my son called every Asian man (especially the ones who happened to be playing tennis at the time, Daddy's favorite sport), "Daddy." I have no idea if they called other white women "mommy", because I was with them constantly. And that was growing up in Seattle. (We moved to the East Coast for a short time, hence the move BACK to Seattle for elementary school.)

I would say good on Squirt for recognizing the difference!! It can be hard to vocalize the similarities you see between people...and it's hard to guess how children are going to segregate people they meet into their various spots. Does that make sense??