- My husband and I have a 3-year-old daughter who’s Chinese and white.
- My husband feels he’s too American for his grandparents and not American enough for Americans.
- We want to weave traditions into our daughter’s life so she can celebrate and be proud of who she is.
It’s almost Lunar New Year, and my family is in a pocket of strife and celebration.
It’s been nearly two years since the “Stop Asian Hate” slogan began in response to violence and racial discrimination related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and just a few days since Michelle Yeoh won her first Golden Globe for best actress in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Our 3-year-old daughter, who is half Chinese and half northern European (read: White), mainly requests to watch “Turning Red,” “Over the Moon,” or “Raya and the Last Dragon,” all of which showcase strong female Asian protagonists.
And while I can only imagine and try to understand how hard and complicated it must be to be Asian American right now, I feel lucky, at least, that our daughter is growing up immersed in a media culture that celebrates and champions Asian and Asian American young women.
We want her to celebrate and be proud of her identity
It’s important to me that we, as a multiracial family, weave new-to-us traditions like Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival into our daughter’s early life so she can continue to feel pride and confidence in celebrating who she is.
So we’re learning to make mooncakes together (thanks to my ever talented baker mom), learning the legend of Nian, and talking about the importance of family, close friends, and togetherness — all alongside some really good takeout food, red envelopes, special candies, and good company.
But things weren’t always so easy for my husband, Ryan, who is Chinese American. “Being a third-generation Asian American, you can feel far removed from the identity and culture of your parents and even further from your grandparents,” he told me.
My husband wants our daughter to treasure her memories of these traditions
His mother was born in Illinois and grew up in a house speaking Mandarin, while he was born in Wisconsin and only ever heard Mandarin being spoken when his Po Po and Gung Gung were visiting.
“I am very much American — too Americanized for my grandparents but not Americanized enough for other Americans,” he said.
And I feel for him, knowing his past — bullies he’s dealt with, slurs that have been hurled at him.
“You can often feel the hybridity of occupying this liminal space,” he said. “And now that I have a daughter who embodies this space even more than myself, it becomes increasingly important to include her in some of the cultural and heritage experiences I had growing up, such as celebrating Lunar New Year.”
His family, he says, never celebrated the holiday for the whole 15 days but would often have one big dinner with extended family where his Yeye and cousins would fight over the fish eye, where the grandchildren would get a hongbao (red envelope), and where they’d spend time with one another creating memories that would last forever.
“It’s memories like these,” he said, “that I want to be a part of my daughter’s memory. I want her to be a part of the complex tapestry of identity that is hers and for her to find out, for herself, what it means to be Asian American.”