Tonight, my son shared a video with me. His struggles with being happy in his own skin and his need to be accepted has been worrying me. He’s entering the age where one questions oneself and often takes on the attitudes of those around him.
As a parent, I know he must make the journey, but having gone down the same road, I know the conflicts he will face. He has faced some in the past … being called “Chinese” (not that China is bad, but it is often said in a very derogatory way). I explain that such references only means that the speaker is uneducated about the different Asian races. While I say this as neutrally as possible to him, I cannot deny that it puts a pit in my stomach as it did when the same was said to me as a young girl.
I was called “Chinese” as well as “Cambodian Refugee,” and children would pull their eyes into slants to mock me. In gym, I was paired with the only other Asian child, a boy, during square dances. While I struggled to just fit in, I was always reminded that I was different. I was not white, nor did I have a plain Jane name. I wanted to blend into the background; I wanted to be white or black, for those were the two races in my hometown. I wanted desperately to fit in.
Before our decision to become parents, my husband and I talked about my childhood and what we could do to save our children from the heartaches I had felt in rural Tennessee. We decided that we would always live in a racially diverse community. We chose the Wisconsin home we did because of the racial make-up of its public schools.
As my boy entered middle school this fall, we felt we had done all we could to make sure he would blend in. But in reality, we have learned that no matter what we do, there will be children who want to belittle others. No matter what we, as parents, have done, we cannot protect them fully from the growing pains of bullying and belittling.
What we have done is made sure that he knows that he is well-loved and that he is beautiful just the way he is. Tonight, I realized as I watched this video with him that he not only knows he’s special in his own way, but that he sees that he is not alone. He understands the lyrics of this Lady Gaga song, and he felt a kinship with this little girl.
This is just the kind of performance I needed to see … shared by my boy.