We’ve pulled the scooters out now that the weather has been exhibiting Spring-like tendencies. Claudine was barely able to ride it when we put it away 4 months ago, but something must have happened during those few months. Maybe she’s grown into her body a bit more (or her “big fat head”, as she likes to call it), or maybe she’s a bit more coordinated. Whatever it is, she hopped right on there and started zooming down the street like she’s been doing it for years. Have to admit, it sort of makes me nervous seeing her go down a hill so fast. I mean, we didn’t have scooters when we were her age. We rode around the sidewalks in Big Wheels and that ride was looow to the ground. If you fell, you didn’t have far to go. But what we didn’t have were helmets. We rode around on Big Wheels, bikes, rollerskates, and skateboards, all without helmets. Hell, we didn’t even ride in carseats. The 70s were dangerous, I tell ya.
The girls and I had an interesting conversation the other day. They were pulling their eyes with their fingers like the way people do when they want to make fun of Asian people. I kinda just shook my head like, what? I asked them why they were doing that. They said it was because it looked funny and they were making funny faces. I told them that when people did that to me when I was a kid it hurt my feelings. They did it to make fun of me because I was Asian and I didn’t look like them. They got kind of serious and I didn’t see them do it again.
This afternoon on the walk home from school, Claudine randomly blurted out loud, “You shouldn’t pull your eyes with your fingers”. I asked her why. She said, “Because it makes fun of Asian people”. I was sort of surprised that she remembered. But then I paused and thought to ask her, “Do you know what an Asian person is?”. She replied no. Huh. I asked her, “Do you know any Asian people?” She just shrugged her shoulders. I told her that I was Asian, that Grandma was Asian, Grandpa, Aunt Jeanie, Uncle, and Aunt Dorothy. She smiled and laughed and said, “ohhh”. I told her she was Asian too and she giggled. Ok, so really, why would she know what Asian meant if I never explained it to her? She knows what Korean is about, but it’s not like we really discuss race issues, or maybe I should say, race really isn’t an issue in our lives for the most part. Most of her friends in the neighborhood are of mix race and that’s been a big reason why we choose Brooklyn to raise our kids.
I remember when Mia was this age and noticing that her nanny had darker skin color than our family. She was noticing a lot of differences in people at this age, actually, and I would pray that she didn’t blurt out something offensive in a public place, like say, the subway. I know kids sometimes state the obvious and it’s all done innocently (mostly), but sheesh, talk about prime opportunities for embarrassment. Then you feel like an ass because it looks like you don’t teach your kids about racial sensitivity, but in your defense, it might not be until these moments happen that you even realize that they notice and are able to articulate the differences in people. Mark sort of had that moment with Claudine the other week. They were in Chinatown when all of a sudden, she started looking all worried and walking with her head down. Mark asked her what was wrong and she replied that she was scared because everybody looked “strange” and was speaking in a different language. I was sort of surprised by this given that we go to Chinatown a lot, however, it made me realize that we needed to talk about it.
I don’t know if Claudine really gets it yet in the way that Mia now understands that she’s half Korean. Claudine’s been saying around the dinner table all night that she’s Asian-American and that daddy is just American. I was going to correct her and say that we’re all American and blah blah, but I got tired just thinking about all the explaining I’d have to do. I’ll put that off for another day.