To my future children,
I think about you often; you don’t even exist yet, but you have a way of sneaking into my daydreams and unconscious thoughts. I often imagine what you’ll look like, who you’ll take after, and if you’ll have the same interests I did as a child.
I imagine you, small and innocent, running up to me with something to show me, like a drawing or book. As you smile eagerly at me, I imagine your olive complexion, brown eyes, and thick chestnut hair, so different from my pale skin, blue eyes, and thin blonde hair. Yet in those instances where I look into your cheerful face and see unfamiliar features, I also see some that mirror my own. As I imagine brushing that gorgeous hair (which I will always tell you mommy wishes she had) and looking into those soulful eyes (which I will always tell you mommy thinks are the most beautiful in the world), I can’t help but think that you will be anything other than picture perfect children and that, together with your father, we’ll be a picture perfect family.
And when I allow myself to think those thoughts, uncertainty creeps in; like all families, we will have our ups and downs. As a child of divorce, I’m no stranger to trials and tribulations within the family unit. But unlike many other families, we’ll be setting a course into uncharted territory; your experiences will be different than both of your parents because of your unique heritage.
Growing up, I was never made to feel inferior for my race, so I will unfortunately not be able to tell you how I dealt with feeling “othered” as a child. I can relate on a gender level — how boys used to throw rocks at me or say hurtful things, implying that girls were not equal to them. But growing up in the homogeneously White state of Utah meant that I saw myself in others every single day, where diversity was instead drawn on religious lines (Mormon vs. non-Mormon) rather than racial ones. Unfortunately, my future children, I can’t prepare you from an anecdotal standpoint on how to deal with racism.
Additionally, your experiences will be different than your father’s, a 1.5 generation Korean-American who grew up in Hong Kong. Although he will perhaps be more prepared than I could ever hope to be to talk to you about what it’s like to be a minority in a Western society, he won’t be able to tell you from an anecdotal standpoint what it’s like to feel “othered” by the two groups you identify with — Whites and Asians. He may have been one of the few Koreans in Hong Kong back in the 80s, but he was surrounded with Asian friends who never made him feel like he was a lesser human being due to his race.
There are nights where I find myself thinking about this long after I should be asleep. How do we help you cultivate a healthy identity? How do we help you connect to your Korean roots? Do we celebrate holidays that your father and grandparents don’t even remember? Do we watch Korean cartoons and listen to Korean music? Do we place you in a Korean-language school? But then you may feel different than your peers — maybe even isolated for your differences. It’s not like that risk won’t be taken with a public school, either; once again, the possibility for isolation based off your otherness — the side of you that’s different than the majority — makes me concerned for you.
I’m also worried that our not-so-gentle prodding for you to associate with your Korean heritage will mean my beloved Mormon identity will not be a big part of yours. In an effort to prioritize Korean customs, something that both your father and I feel is very important, I fear my Mormon culture will fall by the wayside. The stories of the Mormon pioneers and figureheads in my culture that I hold so dear may not resonate with you as they did with me. I’m saddened to think that this defining factor of my life may be completely irrelevant to you in your world.
But when I think about what your father and I want for you — happy children with a healthy identity — I accept that your Korean heritage will quickly be cast aside if we do not foster pride in it from the beginning. And in a world where your Korean heritage will be as visible as the nose on your face, it makes more sense for you to embrace your Korean lineage and learn the customs, foods, and languages than it does for you to feel like you belong to the seemingly invisible group that is your mother’s heritage. People will always ask you what makes you non-White, and I would rather you answer with pride than with apathy or shame. If it comes to be that my heritage — one where the line between religion and culture is blurred — places second in importance due to your life choices and experiences, then I accept, knowing that we prepared you for the life we wanted you to live.
As I pore over articles, personal experiences, and even my old family studies textbooks from college in an effort to learn how to tackle parenting Eurasian children, I realize that, while I can try my hardest to be prepared, the best teacher I will ever have will be… well, you. You, my future children, will teach me how to be a supportive, open-minded parent.
You may come home upset one day and tell me that another child made fun of you for your looks. Or you were made to feel ashamed because your lunchbox contents were different than your peers. Or maybe your crush didn’t like you because you look “too Asian”, or the reverse — that you receive unwanted attention specifically because you “look Asian”. And while I can refer back to a textbook or an article to help me give you words of encouragement or strength, I can’t learn from those words like I could learn from your hearts.
Teach me, future children, what it means to be you. Teach me what you need to hear in order to have the courage to face the fears I’ve never had. To take on challenges that I’ve never experienced. To walk the line between two groups of people who would say you’re “not truly one of them”. To forge your own path, your own identity, and to carve out what that even means in an ever-evolving world.
Teach me, future children, what it means to be both — not half.
Both Korean and Mormon. Both Asian and White. Not half a human, half an identity, a lost and lonely ship hopelessly trying to sail two seas, but instead someone who is enriched by two parents from two cultures full of history, warmth, and love.
Teach me, future children. I am listening to you. I don’t want you to grow up angry at the world for not accepting you for who you are; but even if you do, I will help you work through your emotions, always listening, and forever providing you with a space where you feel loved, supported, and safe.
I want to understand you, future children, and the best way I can do that is to listen to you.
I will strive to do what’s best for you, even though I am currently at a loss for what that is. I will work hard to give you the tools you need to understand your heritages, and I will do my best to ensure you have a healthy sense of belonging to both.
Future children, remember that you are not the sum of your parents’ identities, assigned by birth to forever and only be Eurasian. That is not the entirety of your being. Other people will spend your entire life trying to put you into one box or another, but that doesn’t define who you are.
You are you, future children, and I love you for it.
Your Future Mother