I am Your Asian Mother…
If we went back in time. Say 10,000 or 20,000 years ago, we might be surprised that we are made up of the cultures we don’t think we are. That being said, I’m certain we are all related. I’ve noticed recently, our supposedly sensitivity to other’s culture is lopsided on both ends of the spectrum. Follow me.
When I was a teenager sitting in Mr. Ritchie’s Biology class, I daydreamed here and there. He’d catch me daydreaming. He’d never gotten angry. He’d smile and wouldn’t pick on me. He would remark, “You out running in your daydream?” I’d reply, “Uh. Yeah.” He’d smile. Mr. Ritchie never asked me who I was running with. In my daydreams, I was running with foreigners. Who I thought I’d never meet. For I figured, I’d never have the money to visit them in their countries. I didn’t come from much.
So, when in my senior year of high school. I was offered the Non-Western Civilization class for my third required history course to graduate high school. It was perfect for me. I thrived in the class. It was perhaps one of the most relaxing classes I ever took in high school. We studied mostly China and Russia. Too, discussing communism it’s rise and it’s effects on humanity. It also reaffirmed that the democracy we had in the 1970’s may not have been perfect. However, it was a much better form of government (political system) than communism, totalitarianism, authoritarianism and socialism, just to name a few.
Little did I know, I would actually visit a communist country in my lifetime. But it happened. Once more, way before that I began to understand the Asian community. Even here, residing in the United States, it grew on me. I loved their debates. I loved the varying foods of Asian cultures.
I began to reason with and believe in the proper use of Asian medicine, such as Chinese Herbs and many forms of Acupuncture. Which it resolved most of the health issues I had; and injuries that I’d incurred over time. Whereas, the allopathic medical system here in the United States to me was run like a ‘puppy-mill’, when it came to women/girls being properly diagnosed for simple things, and some things not so simple.
About six years ago, our youngest then age eleven commented, “Mom. You’re such an Asian Mother.” I asked, “How so?” Knowing full-well I was doing my best to run an Asian ship for our two adopted Chinese daughters. I was studying Chinese long before they were born, on my own. I’d adapted to much of an Eastern way of thinking concerning medicine ten years prior to becoming an Asian Mother.
Before becoming an Asian Mother, I went out for tea and soup with friends of Asian descent for lunch here and there. Not knowing of my life’s direction. They were usually at places where the owners and servers were from China. It allowed me to practice my speaking in Chinese.
My curiosity remained peaked on Asian culture, primarily Chinese culture. I had no clue what lie ahead for my husband and I, over thirty years ago when it came to becoming parents. As well, of the two of us I knew I’d be pegged as the ‘bad cop’ when it came to raising children. It sat well with me.
As we were finally to become parents, I worked on adopting their culture within my home. As I had my husband’s religious culture. My husband remarked, “You know, we will be an interfaith and interracial family?” Giddy, as he thought it was a cool combination. I tilted my head, “I never thought about that. I just want to raise children.” We nodded in agreement.
From September 2006 till May 2017 I involved our daughters in some Chinese dance for a year. Chinese Art for a few years, which was taught by a Chinese man, named Ming. A man ‘right off the boat’ from China. The amazing scissor art Ming taught them, is what they’d do every other Friday afternoon. It was stupendous. Something I could have never accomplished. They were able to do at ages five and seven with proficiency.
At first, our daughters had Chinese language every other Friday. Then by the summer of 2009, I decided they should have private Chinese language lessons once a week. That, we continued till May 2017 as our daughters would be turning ages thirteen and fifteen just months away. They were having more homework from regular school studies by then. Too, they were at karate three to five days a week. Our youngest wanted to paint and draw all day on her time off as well. Our oldest was busy with her first job at age fourteen and began her social life that she had been too shy to have in our mostly white community.
In May of 2017, I bemoaned to my husband that the children were not always doing their Chinese homework. As well, our 2nd private Chinese tutor was retiring at age eighty-eight. Both Chinese tutors we had, ran their Chinese households as if they were in China. It was a great cultural lesson that our daughters may have not appreciated. Yet, they were exposed to at ages that were impressionable. I surmised it was all I could muster without turning our daughters off to their culture.
By early 2009, our oldest daughter had an obsession with certain winter sports on television. Too, the people that performed them. Her favorite downhill skier was Lindsey Vohn a blonde haired woman of the USA Ski team. And one of her favorite sports was curling. Yes, curling. Her introduction was watching team China compete in curling on a world stage. That caught her attention. When the USA would lose, she would then root for China.
As our daughters were tweener’s not quite teenagers. They would stay up and watch the original Kung Fu series from the 1970’s with my husband and I on a Saturday night. They were sort of ‘Trekky’s by ages ten and eight. Our dinner times, were maintained even with my double work schedule. Having a full time business; with having an athletic career. Training quite often at one or two in the morning. My husband a Math teacher, who also did other school oriented work. We coupled together on my insane charitable runs.
We shared our athletic interests with our daughters. My husband introduced them to downhill skiing and summer swim team. I introduced them to the fight world, track and field. In the winter, when they weren’t skiing with hubby, I’d take to a local outdoor pond when frozen over, skating and then teaching them hockey. Yes, I bought them skates and hockey sticks. They never got hurt, neither hurt anyone else on the big pond.
Many times, at our dinner table we would discuss math and sometimes science. Quite often we would pull out a piece of paper and pen and rehash as to why one of our daughters got a problem wrong on their math tests. My husband of course was the tackler of the math issue. And as our oldest became more math savvy, she’d consult him to help correct her younger sister’s math. My place was science/biology and religion.
In the mornings, I usually taught them my husband’s religion four days a week. To the point that to this day they still bless their food before dinner in our home in two languages…ehhhh hmmmm, before taking a bite to eat. For about ten years I grilled them on nineteen of the twenty-seven amendments, the ten commandments and being grateful every day. Four mornings a week before school for ten years, I had them read medical books for three minutes or so out loud. Mostly so I could listen to their pace of reading and their speech. Yet also to make certain that they had good body awareness and knowledge of how to care for their bodies, when I would no longer be around.
However, the one thing I have tried to convey to them. In a gentle sort of manner. Yet, there is no gentle way to deliver certain messages to your children. I’ve become more vocal over the last few years to our daughters. Especially, since their father, my husband died. They’ve heard me speak of racism aimed at them and others who are minorities. As well, not just the bigotry aimed at their culture(s), but bigotry aimed at other people of color. Moreso, towards women of color in this country, and particularly in our county. Our county is well-educated, most wealthy compared to other areas not only in our state. Yet, in our country too.
So here we have a county, a community with a high education level. A monetary comfort zone compared to most. Yet, the old majority is still willing to make excuses to not recognize that racism is wrong. In fact, the majority refuses to discuss the notion of its very existence. To the point, declared to me recently by a white man my age, “I’m sick of hearing about racism. It’s too much.” I was bewildered by that comment, for I have seen it quite to the contrary. We don’t address it enough. Especially, in our homes. Why? It’s uncomfortable. Or it doesn’t seem to effect the majority. Too, the majority could feel the guilt, which may make them rectify their thinking. For me, I don’t want my children, now nearly both adults to feel hatred towards their culture at every turn. Yet, as a parent it’s my responsibility to discuss uncomfortable things. I willingly have done and do so.
This brings me to last night. My daughters and I were discussing a person in town who is ill. Seemingly, many people know about this person. They haven’t harmed anyone. They act goofy, wear goofy get-ups and such. Too, the person is mentally ill. That is not the issue. The issue is what I heard the young adults and some other adults in town refer to this woman as. I won’t repeat the word, because it is unkind, off-base and scathingly, more than likely untrue.
In my expressing that, I told my daughters to never refer to that person with that slang term. Tonight, I will address why at the dinner table. The slang term that some use in our town referring to this woman, has a stereo-typical, often racist implication. It’s aimed at Asian women in general. As well, it appears it is aimed at this woman because she is Korean. The slang is not harmless. ---Jody-Lynn Reicher