Sometime around Valentine’s Day I was chatting with my 5 year old daughter about what the holiday means. I can’t recall how we got onto the topic of marriage but I was teasing my daughter. Now my mom is very traditional who wants all her kids and grandkids to marry Chinese (well she got 1 out of 3 for her kids). So I playfully ask my daughter, “Grandma will want you to marry someone Chinese, so when you grow up are you going to marry a Chinese boy?” She replies, “No.” “Why not?” I ask. “Because they’re not normal,” she replies matter of factly.
Huh? That wasn’t the response I expected.
First of all, I don’t have any problems with interracial relationships based on mutual respect of the individuals and I grew up in a pretty mixed family. And neither will I pressure my children to marry a person of a certain race or ethnicity. IMHO, it’s all about the individual. However, we know Asian men are unfairly represented in American society and myself, my fellow Ricedaddies here and many other individuals are working to counter that. But I didn’t think I already need to start doing that with a 5 year old.
“Because they’re not normal…” What could possibly be going on in the mind of a 5 year old to cause her to say that? Did grandma already start pressuring her? (My mom’s insistence only served to push me away from Chinese girls when I was growing up, rebel effect if you will.) Was it something someone told her? Something she saw? Did William Hung come to Arizona???
“Why are they not normal?” I finally decide to ask her. “Because they aren’t…” Gah, typical 5 year old response, got to change strategy.
“Are your brothers normal?” (Oops, took a risk, maybe normal wasn’t a good term to apply to my sons, hehe.) “Yes.”
“But aren’t they Chinese?” “No.” “Is Daddy Chinese?” “No.” OK, now I am really confused. I need reinforcements. “HONEYYYYYY!” and I explain it to my wife when she arrives.
“What type of boy do you want to marry?” And without hesitation she names her oldest brother whom she absolutely adores.
OKAYYYYY… As my wife and I discussed it later, she concluded our daughter wasn’t identifying herself as Chinese because we don’t speak Chinese at home and the “real” Chinese people are the ones she meets at Chinese school. And my wife thinks the “not normal” part comes from the Asian boys she has had contact with. To be fair, I don’t think they aren’t normal at all. But they are her age and in my daughter’s perception just aren’t as good as her gold standard oldest brother. (Argh, I think her standards might be pretty darn high because her oldest brother really did a good job of playing with and caring for her. Maybe I should feel sorry for her future spouse… Or [evil laugh] I could do more damage by having her watch My Sassy Girl!)
But that leaves the question open about her own self identity and I wonder how my sons view themselves. (My guess is that they feel they are just who they are at this point.) My wife and I have never directly brought up the issue of identity before because we didn’t feel the need to at this age. But without any real domestic Asian American culture around where we live, maybe we ought to start planning a strategy to show that Asian Americans aren’t foreign and foreign Asians are normal.
The kids have some exposure to some foreign language media, are learning Chinese, etc. But what is lacking is unbiased media with Asian Americans speaking English and doing what Asian Americans do. (The last time they had that was watching Survivor: Cook Islands with me, LOL!) So I guess it’s something we need to work on.