I rarely blog about my kids for fear of embarrassing them and/or inadvertently violating their privacy. Maybe that’s where the adoptee in me comes into play, because I feel their lives will be theirs, not mine to interpret and convey (or not) when they grow up. Once in a while, however, the proud mom in me can’t help but think out loud and even brag about my kids.
As part of a community service project, my daughter volunteered to be on the Kids Vote staff. I took her and her friend to their assigned district in the afternoon and being my typical photo-hungry self, immediately started taking pictures. I was proud of her. What can I say?
Her assigned district just happened to be right down the road from the Vietnamese store where I regularly shop. After taking several photos and letting my son vote, he and I ran off to pick up our monthly supply of Aloe Vera water, pho noodles, soup bases and whatever else we thought might be interesting to try. I’ve made a habit of picking out a new item every time we go. That way, we always manage to add at least one new experience each time.
Sometimes, we “research” items first then buy them, but sometimes we buy them and then try to figure out what they are. We’re just weird like that. I considered the thorny, football-sized durian fruits for a few seconds before quickly deciding it wouldn’t be a good idea. I’d done my research on those ahead of time, thank goodness. My son decided on some little green rice cakes we’ve never tasted before. We’ll look those up later.
It was strange watching my youngest son skipping through the isles pointing at this or that and commenting or asking what they were. At least seventy percent of the time, I had to tell him I didn’t know. Seeing my son strolling comfortably among all that Vietnamese-ness, enthusiastic, curious and totally comfortable with his lack of knowledge touched something in me.
He doesn’t care about what he doesn’t know or what he should know. He just picks an object of interest and checks it out. If one of the store employees happens to be close by, he has no problem walking up to them, pointing at something and asking, “What is that?” Mind you, this is the same son that use to scream, “Mom, look! Asians!” barely three years ago.
With our grocery shopping done, we thought it would be a nice idea to eat lunch there. My son wanted a chicken sandwich, but all they had was pork. “If you want chicken,” the store owner’s son replied, “go to Chick-fil-A. They’re giving away free sandwiches to kids who have the “I voted” sticker.” Dude was obviously missing the point. That was suppose to be our day to eat Vietnamese food.
The idea of a Chick-fil-A sandwich, however was already firmly implanted in my son’s head. So off we went to hunt down the nearest Chick-fil-A to get his sandwich. Unfortunately, the one Chick-fil-A we went to wasn’t participating in the free thing. *grumble How can you be a chain restaurant and not do what the rest of the “links” are doing? Whatever. We headed off to Burger King which has become a once-a-month “treat” for us anyway.
By the time we’d finished, it was time to pick up my daughter and her friend. As I walked in the door of the church that doubled as that district’s voting location, I saw my daughter in the middle of a group of about six or seven Asian kids. They were waiting to take their turn monitoring the Kids Vote booth. It always takes me by surprise when I realize just how alien seeing my daughter surrounded by her Asian peers feels to me. I can see her rolling her eyes and telling me to get over that, but the TRA in me can’t seem to adjust.
Enter youngest son who gets to vote again and ends up hugging all of my daughter’s friends.
That day was just one of many instances where my children become my teacher instead of the other way around. Watching them navigate their identities with such obvious assertiveness and comfortable curiosity is something I was never able to experience as a child. They remind me that sometimes, you just have to let yourself be. While I struggle to define the strangled part of my identity, it’s my kids who keep me grounded. Their constant example serves to remind me that I can acknowledge that struggle without letting it color everything I see.
Most of what I do is for them, but they never let me forget that there’s a difference between giving them access to part of their ethnicity and suffocating them with it. Had I been more aware and had access to a Vietnamese tutor when my kids were younger, I would have made them go to Vietnamese classes just as I made them go to public school. It was one of a long line of mistakes that I made as a young mother. However, I would not have forced my idea of what it meant to be or act “Vietnamese” upon them. In the end, it would be up to them to decide how and how much they would incorporate into their identities.
My children also remind me of the incredible resilience of which children are capable. Watching them, I better understand how I and others survived and sometimes even thrived in those tricky waters of mixed identities and adolescence. My kids still have their difficulties and will run into new ones as they grow, but I think they’ll be alright.
They’re way more aware than I was at their age, more confident and assertive in who they are and want to become. Being young and still exploring, that can change on a weekly basis. The trick as a parent is knowing when to take my hands off the wheel and when to steer them back onto a productive course.
I often wonder how my children view their nutty TRA mom, how they’ll look back on our life together and what they’ll take from it. What are the lessons that I’m unintentionally teaching them? Is what I’m trying to teach them coming across the way I intend? One of my biggest fears is that my TRAness and the choices I’ve had to make in my life will negatively affect them in ways that won’t become apparent until they’re adults. I’ve often expressed this fear to my daughter.
We’ve established strong communication lines between us. Though that sometimes results in heated verbal debates, I’m glad she’s confident enough in our relationship that she can express herself so honestly. That’s something my parents never established with me. It’s through my relationship with my kids that I began to realize I was never truly at ease around my parents. Neither of us knew each other the way my kids (especially my daughter) and I know each other.
Then again, that’s the way I see things. My kids may disagree. I’m sure the day will come when one of them, (probably my daughter) freaks me out by expressing her difference of opinion on one of my posts. Hopefully, my blog is way too boring to be of interest to any of my kids for the time being.