The Atlanta massage parlor shootings happened last week, and since then, #StopAsianHate has been trending on social media.
Last night, Leon looked over my shoulder and saw “STOP ASIAN HATE” written in large letters on my phone. He said, “Stop… Asian… hate. What’s ‘Asian hate’?” And my heart just broke.
I escaped into my own mind for a while as I contemplated the proper answer for a four-year-old who not only doesn’t understand the concept of race but especially not the fact that some people commit hate crimes because of race. I lost myself in the innocent brown eyes staring up at me.
By the time I was able to blabber something about how some people are mean to other people because they look different, Leon had lost interest and shifted his focus back to The Magic School Bus. I don’t think he even heard my answer.
Minh asked me the other day how and when we want to approach the subject of race with Leon. I’ve thought about it lately, especially since the racist anti-Asian Dr. Seuss characters made headlines, and honestly, I planned on deferring to Minh about the most appropriate time and way to go about it. I obviously have no idea what it’s like to grow up as a minority.
As Leon has learned about body parts, we’ve set the stage that some people have brown, curly hair (Mommy and Leon), some people have black hair (Daddy), some people have blonde hair (his friend at school), some people have something else — but all hair is pretty. Similarly, our family has light skin, but some people (like a couple of his teachers and friends) have darker skin — but everyone’s skin does the same job.
Similarly, we’ve done our best to expose him to a variety of cultures, foods, experiences, etc. And he identifies well with the foods from his own Korean heritage (he and Minh ate gimbap yesterday, and the other day he called Halmoni to tell her how much he likes Spam and eggs). I really have no doubt that we can teach him to be respectful, appreciative, and proud.
But, like I’m assuming most parents feel, it just hurts my heart to introduce the concept that sometimes this world is unfair, and some people do horrible things for no reason other than the fact that they’re hateful. And there’s really not a whole lot I can do about that to shield him from that ignorance. And that sucks.
On a lighter note, we took Leon to the natatorium yesterday, and he really enjoyed his first real swimming experience. He was all smiles.
If you won a million dollars, what would you buy?
“Um, I will have a butterfly.”
How long does it take to get to the beach?
What do I always say to you?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
“A pumpkin. Spooky pumpkin! A jack-o’-lantern pumpkin.”
Who is the strongest person?
Where do babies come from?
“The baby room.”
At what age do you become an adult?
What wild animal do you like?
What would you do if you couldn’t find your underwear?
If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
How much does it cost to buy a house?
“A toy house: Four.”
Who do you hang out with all the time?
“Mommy and Daddy.”
What are you scared of?
“Um, not scared of shadows anymore. I’m just scared at the Grover book.”
What is your favorite game to play?
*points into the game room* “Anything I like to play at the dining room table.”
What’s your favorite color?
“Red and blue. Red paint, blue paint.” *dances*
How old am I?
“I think you are four.”
Where do you want to live when you grow up?
“At school or at home.”
What’s the safest place in the world?
“Not the street.”
Who is your favorite old person?
*points at me*
What’s your parents’ favorite thing to do?
“Play with me.”
Who loves you most?
*points at me and giggles*
Minh: *showing Leon that we have more Spam in the pantry* Do you want eggs and Spam?!”
Leon: “YES! Daddy, [new friend at school] doesn’t know Spam.”
Me: “… Do you talk about Spam at school?”
Me: “Yeah, I don’t know if any of your friends would really know about Spam, bud.”
Leon has officially been potty-trained for two years now, so we don’t pay too much attention when he goes to the bathroom unless he asks for help. But tonight during our bedtime routine, I watched him dribble on the seat, get up, pull some toilet paper to wipe up the dribbles… then carefully roll the toilet paper back onto the roll and walk away. 🤦🏻♀️
Despite taking all possible precautions, I got COVID-19 several weeks ago. Thankfully Leon never tested positive and we’ve all completed our quarantines, but I was pretty sick for a while and had to spend a lot of time resting and sleeping. At one point I got out of breath from talking or sitting up too long.
Anyway, fast forward to today. Leon moved up to the Junior Kinder 1 classroom on Monday (his first day post-quarantine, and also his 4th birthday!), and I got a picture from his new teacher saying that, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Leon said a doctor.
To make conversation at dinner tonight, Minh asked him why he said he wanted to be a doctor.
He said, “So I can take care of Mommy.”
Leon told me he listened to a song today called The Leaves Falling Down.
When I watched the video of his class dancing to it I realized the song he was referring to: Feliz Navidad. 😂
Leon, as soon as he got home today: “Mommy and Daddy, I said **** in the gym today because the green ball got STUCK!”
Minh: “Aw, sh*t.”
Leon: “Daddy, you can’t say sh*t.”
Minh: “You can’t say it either. Only grown-ups.”
Leon: “But I’m going to be a grown-up…”
Today I had Leon’s parent-teacher conferences with Ms Patty! She said he’s doing great academically – and she quickly added that he won’t hesitate to tell her if she gets something ‘wrong’. The example she gave was when she asked, “Basketball starts with… hmm… P?” And he immediately shot back with, “Ms Patty, basketball doesn’t start with P. That’s puh-puh-puh. Basketball starts with B, like buh-buh-buh. And also butterfly and balloon and…”
Truly like his mother’s son, she said he enjoys structure and rules. She said sometimes she even has him lead circle time, because he knows exactly what to do – and if they say the Pledge of Allegiance wrong, he’ll say, “Uh-uh, start over!”
She did mention Claudia by name, and said the two of them always play together but get on each other’s nerves; Leon will get frustrated that Claudia isn’t following the rules (“Ms Patty, Claudia isn’t using restaurant manners!”) and Claudia will get annoyed that Leon keeps telling her what to do. But she said whenever she tries to redirect them and have them do separate things, they get upset because they want to play together.
She mentioned that sometimes she’ll notice that he’s isolating himself and not engaging with his friends. When she asks him what’s wrong, he’ll say something like, “[Friend] took a toy from me.” So she’s trying to prompt him to communicate a little more. This goes hand-in-hand with us trying to convince him to speak up if he’s hungry and needs an extra serving, rather than starving all day until he gets home (and then eating nonstop until he goes to bed).
She also said he’s doing great with his art. She said he’ll draw scenes where she can clearly tell what he says is happening in the picture, and he’ll often try to draw from something else as a reference. When I told her I spend a decent amount of time making photorealistic drawings from reference photos, she didn’t seem surprised and actually said that makes a lot of sense.
All in all, nothing surprising!
Me: *on a step-ladder vacuuming the top of the kitchen cabinets, sweating, trying to pull the hose up high enough without flipping the vacuum over*
Leon: *desperately calling for me*
Me: *climbs down from step-ladder, turns off vacuum, asks him what’s going on*
Leon: “Hey Mommy, I’m thankful for my water bottle!”
Me: … 😒