07 August 2007

As is so often the case, I have no idea how to handle this.

In many ways, I'm settling into my role as a single mom. For the most part, Maddie, Riley, and I have a good rhythm. The only thing—and I mean the absolute, only thing—that seems somewhat easier as a single parent is that when it comes to decisions about discipline, schedules, etc., I don't have to consult with anyone else. Of course, the flip side is that I don't have a partner as a resource or comfort with the hard stuff. But sometimes it can be nice to make unilateral decisions and just move on. Hardly worth the tradeoff, but I have to find some good somewhere or I just can't bear it.

Rachel wrote a lovely post about her hapa daughter Bella's early queries about race. It brought up a lot of fears for me. There are many, many things that I don't know how I will handle as my kids get older. For the most part, I figure we'll deal with things as they come, issues big and small that start in toddlerhood and never end: potty training, the transition to big-kid beds, questions about where Daddy is, when it's OK to see an R-rated movie, where babies come from, questions about sex. One issue I do feel that I need to spend some time thinking about is that of race, and this is one where I acutely miss John.

I can figure out how to talk to my kids about most issues, but race is a tough one. This is an issue on which I wanted to play the supporting role. With John gone, so is Maddie and Riley's immediate link to their Korean heritage. My relationship with my grandparents, the obvious remaining connection, is fragile. My sister- and brother-in-law are good resources that I will draw on, but geography and time prevent us from seeing a lot of each other.

Of course I can read the kids books about Korean culture, cook Korean food, and teach them the few Korean words I know. I will certainly do everything I can to teach tolerance and respect for people of all races, but I would do that no matter what their ethnic background was. I just wish that their direct line to growing up Asian in the U.S. was not gone. I can only make informed speculation on what that's like. I will do my best, but I know their father would have done better.

It's just one of the many, many reasons that I miss my husband. It's not that I can't get by without him, it's just that life was so much better with him in it.


Rachel said...

Yet another reason why cancer sucks. I can see how your inlaw problems must make it even harder.

The question of how to talk to Bella about race and culture is what really drew me to blogging in the first place, but I still have more questions than answers.

It has helped me to be around other mixed-race/ bicultural families at preschool. Right now the Kimchi Mamas are talking about organizing regional meetups. I don't know how many people are in Boston, but maybe you could connect with some of them.

laura said...

I'm so sorry. I'm sure you never thought your life would be like this, but it sure seems (through the computer, that is!) like you're doing an amazing job with those children. Such difficult desisions and issues to deal with. All in good time, right?

Katherine said...

That is not going to be easy because this country is very white-centric. I am the Asian partner in a mixed-race relationship, and our daughter is growing up very comfortable with her Chinese heritage because she is surrounded by Asians. I am her primary caregiver, my mom comes to visit once a week, and we have a lot of Asian friends in our building. We also live 10 minutes away from the Manhattan Chinatown, so we often eat there.

Do you have any videos of the babies with John? My daughter loves watching herself on TV, and if you can burn the videos to DVD, you can play them for the babies once a day to strengthen their sense of belonging both to their father and to the Asian community.

Sarah said...

Since you are in the boston area, you should look into the local chapter of Swirl (http://www.synthscribe.com/swirlboston/events.shtml). It is an org. for mixed race/ culture individuals. Occasionally there are family events and it would be a great way to meet others. There are also many links on the national org. page (http://swirlinc.org/links.htm) that could be useful. It may be a good starting point to find people locally.

soralis said...

Raising kids, not to mention twins is overwhelming enough, I can't imagine the extra things that being a single mom must add. Good luck and I am sure you will figure it all out in time.

The Town Criers said...

That last line sums it up perfectly.

I think this is a case where it takes a village to raise a child or some other Clintonism like that. This type of knowledge may be gleaned from peers. Or a family friend who is also Korean. Or someone you seek out when it comes apparent that they need that connection.

I wish it were easier though.

Rev Dr Mom said...

"It's not that I can't get by without him, it's just that life was so much better with him in it."

That really says it all, doesn't it?
I hope you can find ways to make this part easier.

Yankee T said...

There's also an organization called New England Alliance for Multi-Racial Families. There are lots of Asian/Caucasian families in the group-at least there were when I lived there. That might help.
I know you miss John, for a million zillion reasons. I'm sorry.

ccinnkeeper said...

There are some very good resources for Korean-American children in the Boston area due to the large number of Korean children who were adopted into American families in the late 1970's & 80's. I know this because my mom ran the agency that placed most of them in the New England area. She left the agency in the late 1980's, but it still exists.

You can find some of these resources here: http://www.whfc.org/postadopt/cultural.htm

Most of the programs are noted as being for adoptees because that is a fairly large group and it's what the parent website focuses on, but I would think they might be open to your situation as well. Contact information is given. Good luck.

Amy said...

"It's not that I can't get by without him, it's just that life was so much better with him in it."

I have to agree this says it all. I am so sorry for your loss...

Denise said...

I worry about this quite a bit, too. My kids are Korean but my husband and I are both white. It's not so much "how to be a mixed-race family"--in his preschool class alone there are are 3 other families who are what I call CaucAsian--but how will they feel really Korean if their parents aren't? I don't know too many Korean adults and where I do it feels awkward to approach them with the equivalent of, "Will you help socialize my kids?" There is a Korean church about 45 minutes away, and that is one place to start, I guess, but we are not Christians and I feel kind of like an imposter attending church.

Amber said...

I'm hapa (Chinese/Portuguese), my husband is Mexican/Irish. Our kids are a beautiful amalgam of all of the above. I love seeing the mixture in them -- one son had almond shaped eyes, round nose, and blonde hair. Another son has round eyes, flat nose, and brown skin. My daughter looks just like me --only with hair on her legs. My kids know they are Chinese, even though their dad is not, and know that they are Mexican, even though their mom is not. They love talking about it, comparing the different cultures. We try to keep in touch with all of it, with books and talking and language. You'll be able to keep their awareness of their heritage intact, even by doing little things --- books about Korean children, buying them a hanbok, etc. Show them pictures of their dad and grandparents, pointing out how an eyebrow looks like his, or whatever little echoes of him you see in them. Also, just telling them stories about the family history. My kids feel connected to ancestors they never knew because of this and love talking about it. You are a great mom, and very aware and in tune with your kids. I think you will do great, going with whatever your instincts may be.

Lisa said...

I don't have any words of wisdom myself, but I thought I might recommend another blogger for you.

Amber at american-family.org is a white mother married to a Chinese husband and they have one biological hapa daughter and one daughter adopted from China. She has written extensively about dealing with race matters in her mixed family. And she also has a difficult mother-in-law as well.

I've learned a lot from her. Oh, and she writes for another blog, a professional one that might help...let me see...I think it is called 'anti-racist parent' or something like that.

I am still contemplating how to handle some of our tough issues as well. Father issues, disability issues, MIL issues, etc. Oh, my head hurts. Parenting's HARD!

Anonymous said...

I have had the opportunity to expand my own knowledge of cultural diversity when my mom, shortly after I left home, became a foster parent. My mom's foster daughter (I refer to her as my sister) is half Mexican. She has not lived with her Mexican father since she was 2 years old, so her knowledge of her heritage did not come from actual lineage.

However, my mom has always wanted all her children to feel proud of their heritage- biological, step, and foster - and has encouraged my sister to expand her knowledge. We love the nights when she cooks the few Mexican dishes she had handed down from her biological mom's memory of her father. We encouraged her to learn Spanish and explore this part of herself.

You are in a more difficult position, but I do want you to know there is hope. There's nothing wrong with doing some of the more cliche things like books, videos, cooking, etc. Teaching them and learning with them will make them very proud of their heritage. I think far more important that telling them stories of the culture in general is telling them stories of their father, how he grew up, what dishes he loved, how his culture influenced him...the list goes on and on.

What makes for the best "schooling" is not always a formal understanding, but a personal one. I think that, in that respect, you have much to offer.

- A

Robin J. said...

I really like Amber's comment. I think in some ways, our family is just like her comment. There is lots of talking. (I don't want to minimize how very difficult it is for you in comparison to me since my husband is still with us ..)

We live in a highly cultural diverse area which makes culture something we talk about often. My son, 17, with his curly fro, big round eyes, and at 6'3", no one knows what he is. He is getting a lot of questions these days though. And we find humor wherever it lurks -- whether it is in others' comments or in their actions.

With difficult grandparents (on both sides!), we talk a lot. We eat all different kinds of foods, delve into languages, embrace differences, and laugh a lot about things we find odd. But we talk and talk and talk.

Being open I think is an excellent way to start the whole process of understanding who we are without getting caught up in who we are supposed to be.

I'm sure it is harder than I can even imagine for you. I find your willingness to meet these thoughts head-on now admirable.

halfmama said...

I feel a little bit like this (though, of course, I can't and won't compare my situation to yours). Losing my mom sometimes feels like I lost a guide to my race since I am so Americanized and don't really know too much about Korean customs. Thankfully, I still have my aunts and my dad (although he is vague on details and communication at times) but sometimes I just want to be able to call my mom and ask her directly.

I am so glad to have found others online who can help me and who seem to be seeking the same thing as I. It's not the same, but it does help.

Tiffany said...

As a single parent you are going to have sooo many decisions, issues and questions that you will wish John was there to help you make the right one - you already want this. The best thing is to do what you think is best and what you think John would have said.

Alice said...

I like Amber's comment.

My husband lost his dad a long time ago and even at 52 he loves to here stories about his dad from his older siblings and mom.

I also think you are ahead in the fact that you are "thinking" about making your little one's culturally aware. I grew up in a Korean immigrant household in the 70s and we didn't have many traditions and spent a lot of time trying to assimilate into US culture. We were encouraged to speak "English only" at home and my parents tried to feed us "American" food like spaghetti, chef boy ardee and tv dinners so we could relate to our friends. My cultural education occurred at Korean church as an adult and by meeting others like myself (Korean immigrant kids). I'm not saying that my parents did anything wrong, but I think because you have a level of awareness, you are not doing too bad.

We have a lot of non Korean parents who attend our Korean English church service and love it because it exposes their kids to Korean culture and other Koreans. Is that an option for you? Most Korean churches have a "Korean" school which teaches language and korean culture to kids on Saturdays too. The Saturday programs are usually secular. Also I think the Boston areas have many Korean cultural events put on by "korean student orgs" and "churches".

And I agree, books and videos are not bad. Yumi Heo and Ginger Park have written some cute Korean American kid books. It is something you can have fun with.


Vanessa said...

I just asked my own hapa daughter if she feels more Filipina or more white. She said, "I feel mostly like me." And that's probably how Maddie and Riley will turn out -- knowing that they're part one thing, part another, and it all adds up to make them unique.

Angela said...

Hi Snick, I am so very sorry you're feeling stressed about this. I know you will find the right answers for you and the twins. The fact that you are blogging and in contact with other parents of hapa kids will help keep you aware and informed as is asking for advice like you're doing right now. As Rachel mentioned if there are regional meetups they might help the twins keep the Korean connection. When they get older you might want to enroll them in a good language school. You're doing all the right things and going in the right direction, you always continue to amaze me.

AMH said...

I am sure, since race is such a "hot button" at times here in the US, there was some comfort in knowing John would be there to guide your children through the many race-related obstacles that life can throw at us.

Our daughter was adopted and she is African American. Both hubby and I are Caucasian. Race is always an issue, every single day, and we are constantly learning how to deal with it. I know she will probably struggle at times, figuring out where she stands in society, as a black woman... with white parents.

I have learned to take things as they come. Do what you can to immerse your kids in Korean culture, and start now, so it seems natural and not too contrived as they get older.

Know that just like all those other "growing up" things... you will figure out how to approach this one too.

Geohde said...

It sounds to me like you have some good strategies in place for the cultural thing. In fact, you've handled some very difficult tims with tremendous strength, and I am sure that you will negotiate future obstacles just as well.