year of the snake

This year the actual start of the lunar new year slipped by quietly in our house.

For the past several years we've celebrated by making homemade ~ if you count using pre-made wonton wrappers homemade ~ dumplings with friends.  But this year it just seemed like there was a lot going on.  So we had grilled cheese sandwiches and soup for a quiet night at home.

And so we let our time at the local CNY festival count for welcoming in the year of the snake.  

My crew spent several hours making paper lanterns, cutting coiled, paper-plate snakes, and coloring snake pictures that day.  In addition to the crafts, we ate lots of yummy food, and the stage constantly had dancers showing their talents.

The highlight of the festival though, to my children, was seeing our neighborhood friends.

As the kids get a little older, we seem to be learning the waltz of giving them encouragement to explore their heritage or the space to *just be* American.  We desire for them to be proud of who they are and where they come from, yet want to allow them to be who they are as Chinese Americans, with their own emphasis on whichever part of that they desire.

It all seemed easier back when I made most of their decisions for them.  Haircuts and new silks, yes; making dumplings, of course.  But a decision as simple this year as asking them if they wanted to sport their silks brought indecision.  

All quickly said yes for the day we attended the festival ~ to a place where Mommy and Daddy were out of the majority.  But only three initially chose the festive wear of their birth country for the actual first day of CNY when we were going to church ~ a place where *just American* is the norm.  The fourth waffled back and forth until realizing that all siblings were indeed wearing them.  

Some days I wonder what it is like for them to grow up looking like they belong to one culture but living another.  The girls like to watch the ethnic dancers, but would rather take ballet than Chinese dance.  The boys don't seem interested in language beyond knowing the Mandarin words for noodles and dumplings so that they can eat.  

I often can't decide if I should back off and let them decide how far to investigate their birth culture or if I should push them toward exploring it more fully.

And then there's the whole superstition and ancestral worship thing...

It's a dance Ian and I are learning, following the lead of our children instead of taking it on our own.

As it ended up, we did follow a few lunar new year traditions without even trying.

I get out the broom daily ~ there are four kids and a large dog tracking dirt and goodness knows what else across our floors all the time ~ so we did sweep out the bad luck on Lunar New Year's Eve.  We may not have found time for any haircuts, but each of the kids wore a new ~ at least different than what they wore to the festival ~ silk outfit to church that day.  And we consumed most of a three pound bag of mandarin oranges that day, that's got to count for something, right?

What I do know is that I have four of the most precious Chinese American kids living under my roof.  I'm open to how much or how little they want to embrace their birth culture.  We'll dive into ethnic dance or ballet, language lessons or not.

What is certain is that I couldn't love them more!


Amy Murphy said...

Sounds like you guys are dealing with some of the stuff we are here. Lately, Ewen has been uninterested in the Chinese culture. Oh, sure, he said "Xin Nian Kuai Le" to the lady at the Chinese restaurant, but that was after much prompting. I don't have silks that fit him anymore, but last year, it was a fight to get him to wear them to church. He did wear them to the Chinese restaurant where we were meeting friends (2 boys also from China.) He was "star of the week" at school last week and was allowed to bring in a show-and-tell item each day. I practically begged him to take something in from China (his stamp, Chinese money, something..,) but he was more interested in showing them his remote controlled car and his Ninjago characters. He never did take in anything from China; he even took in coins from Peru (where his dad had gone on a missions trip the year before.) I feel that he's ashamed somewhat of being from China (or just being different,) and maybe I haven't done enough to make him feel proud of that. So, for now, as you say, I just let him decide on how much we emphasize being from China. But, still, I feel sad in a way.

Heather said...

I think you right on track with allowing them to figure out as they get older how much of the Chinese Heritage they'd like to have a part of them. Sometimes I feel like a fail miserably at being a "good adoptive parent" whatever that looks like these days. We have both boys learning Mandarin as I think it could be very useful for them. I too go back and forth with both boys trying to balance the picture I paint for them of their birth countries. Not all good, not all bad. Just matter of fact. (Off topic, One of them asked the other day if I was "absolutely sure" if he was born on the day that his certificate said. Painful question for me to answer. )

Traci said...

Brooms and oranges definitely count!!! I took my kids to the library's Chinese New Year party... LAME!!! She read a book that I guess could be related to the holiday and then they figured out what year they were born and drew a picture of their animal on the a paper plate... that was it. :( Not much of a "party". And they were the only Asian kids in there! :/

Grandma Shultz said...

My sweet kiddos, you look great in your beautiful Chinese silks. What wonderful friends you have - you all look great together! I love you.

Nancy B W said...

I think you & Ian are doing such a fabulous job as parents. The kids look so adorable. Happy New Year!