I’m not exaggerating when I say my 7-year-old son is obsessed with China. I’ve never done anything to encourage or discourage, it just seemed to happen as a result of a handful of his best friends being Chinese. I’ve taught him Spanish since birth, but once he discovered that people speak Chinese he began disrupting my Spanish lessons – asking me how to say everything in Chinese instead. So I bought a Chinese Dictionary, but when we looked things up, I would always end up saying, “well you either say this, or you say that, or you say this something else, or maybe this other thing – depending on how you pronounce all these letters in Chinese I guess.”
So that hasn’t been a big help. Last week he asked, “Mama, did we miss Chinese New Year?”
“No,” I told him, “I'll take you to the festival this weekend.”
“OK!” he boomed as he fetched red construction paper and scissors, “Now! Who in our family is Asian?”
I had no response except to look away and laugh. I do appreciate his post-modern definition of family, and not wanting to ruin it, started thinking, what is wrong with all my relatives – for Confucius’ sake, is there no one who could have married an Asian?
He suggested his godparents might be Asian, and I had to explain that, no, they just live in Taiwan. But thankfully I remembered that I do have a very close Asian friend, I just don’t think about her Asian-ness all that often - unless she’s telling me a hilarious story, imitating her English-challenged mother. “Aunt C is Japanese,” I said.
“Oh good!” he said, proceeding to make a Chinese lantern.
Because I know he’s at a sensitive age for learning languages I have half-heartedly tried to help him learn Chinese. Last weekend we took a trial class, and when I asked him how he liked it, he answered, “Why did you sign me up for Mandarin lessons, I wanted to learn Cantonese!”
I didn’t even know he knew the difference, but evidently the few phrases his godmother taught him in Mandarin are not understood by his Cantonese-speaking friends. There's no end to my bad parental decision making.
After school we passed a store that had a bunch of international flags, and J begged for one.
I half ignored him, “What for… you don’t need one of those… of all the dumb things… wah wah wah wah…”
“I want this one!” he shouted, showing me the Korean flag, “it’s the only Asian one I can find.”
Then he looked some more and waving the Chinese flag said, “Ah! Here it is, can I get it?”
“WHY do you need a Chinese flag?” I huffed.
He gushed back, “Because I love China and I want to live there!”
He’s cute and all, but if he gets any more demanding I might just put him on the next flight out.