On the Road to Discovery
At two and a half, my daughter is too young to wrestle with her identity as a Vietnamese girl being raised in a white family. And yet, as she is starting to discover her appearance and the appearance of others, Elise is beginning to make some observations.
As a surly ogre, Shrek has a hard time fitting in with the rest of the world. I hope my daughter, as a Vietnamese kid being raised by white parents, feels more comfortable and accepted.
“I want my hair long like Mommy’s!”
Awww, how cute. But it doesn’t stop there.
“He has a big tummy!”
That one is a little awkward, but we can laugh it off. And then there’s this one:
“She has a big bottom like Shrek!”
Clearly, physical appearance is becoming part of my daughter’s world. She’s discovering all kinds of things — marveling at my arm hair and lingering in front of reflective surfaces to study her facial expressions. Soon, she’ll discover race and ethnicity, and then it’ll be on.
Of course, we’ve already been talking to her about being born in Vietnam through books and songs and casual conversation. But even though she can repeat the phrase “born in Vietnam,” we know it doesn’t mean anything to her just yet. And at two and a half, it just can’t mean anything to her yet.
In the meantime, it’s undeniable that she has started down the road of discovery, and it feels like we’re doing what we can to provide her with a bunch of puzzle pieces — pictures, books, and vocabulary. When she starts to put those pieces together, things could get interesting.
Honestly, thinking about it makes me anxious. I start thinking, “What if she feels angry? What if she feels alienated? What if she acts out or tries to bite me?” I’m the kind of guy who likes things to be serene and non-confrontational, so I don’t love the idea of some potentially difficult conversations on the horizon. But there’s no denying that our family has started that journey. I guess we’ll just have to work through it as a family.
And if we ever need to ease the tension, maybe we could giggle at people with large ogre bottoms.