The World My Kids Live In

My husband texted me a few nights ago about a conversation he had with our oldest son. It made my heart drop. Our son told him that he wanted to be an American. He is an American, so when asked what he meant, our son said that he wants to look like his friends.

This made me think. My husband and I both grew up in traditional Asian-American homes. We want to raise our kids to know our cultures, but at the same time, we want them to understand that they are first and foremost Americans. Did I do something wrong? Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I thought I was with him. Then it hit me. Even though we could have told him he is an American, he still looks different from his peers. The fact that he knows this at five years old reminds me how smart kids are and how observant they can be with what is around them.

It doesn’t matter if we tell him what we think is right, differences are still things our kids will notice because not everyone looks  alike. I can’t help but wonder what more I can do to make sure he feels like he fits in. America is the melting pot of the world yet differences still divide us all the way down to the color of our skin.

It doesn’t matter if I was born and raised in Minnesota. It won’t matter if my sons are born and raised in Minnesota. We’ll always look Asian, but I want my kids to know they are Asian-American. This is their home and they should not have to feel they are a visitor. Just because your skin color is a different tone, does not mean you are not an American. As parents, we can’t let our kids continue to use this as a divider. Kids are innocent. They depend on the adults at home, in public and at school to help them understand what makes us who we are. Differences shouldn’t mean we are not Americans.

I never thought twice about how my kids would see themselves out in the world. I want them to be the best they can be in whatever they want to do as kids and as adults. Hearing about what he said the other day to my husband broke my heart a little. I don’t want him to feel this way. He says it so innocently not really knowing what it really means. How do I respond?

I asked my husband that exact question: “How did you respond?”

And I love him for his response. “I told him he has the best of both worlds! You are an American and you have your Asian heritage.”

Can we approach it like this all around the United States? You are first and foremost American. You have the best of both worlds. Every single one of us has other cultural heritages to be proud of. Being an American is about embracing the diversity here in Minnesota and across the United States.

The World My Kids Live In | Twin Cities Moms Blog

{Photo Credit: Whims and Joy Photography}

When I came home and saw my boy, all I could do was stare at him and smile. I love him even more. Even though I felt shock and concern initially, I think his comment opened my eyes. I want him to understand that he is an American. Yes, he may look different from his friends at school, but not everyone looks the same. This should not come as a surprise in our world today.

Let’s teach our children to see the best in themselves and to love their differences and appreciate them in others. Being American should not be about the way we look but how we feel. As an American, I am proud of where I live and work. Don’t let those who are close-minded say otherwise. Embrace everyone around you because learning about differences makes us better people. What kind of world would we have if everyone looked the same? What a boring place that would be, don’t you agree?

My approach to raising my kids has changed. As a parent, be more vocal about how different everyone is and how cool that is. I don’t want my sons to think they have to look or be a certain way to fit in.

LOVE who you are and be proud to say, “I am an American.”

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