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It's oh-so-fashionable!

It's the latest thing, apparently: "To Give Children An Edge, Au Pairs From China".  This was passed on to me by OmegaGranny via email, and also happens to be being discussed on one of my (too numerous) email lists.

I have such mixed feelings about this trend.

First off, it seems that there's a certain amount of "Yellow Peril" feelings hiding behind it.  China is exploding as a world financial player.  If you look around, you find all sorts of articles hinting or outright stating that We Have To Watch Out, because otherwise those sneaky Chinese will steal our show.  Or those sneaky Indians.  Big populations, moving quickly forward on the economic front, jobs being farmed out there...

So you've got some folk who will want their kids to be able to compete in the global financial marketplace of the future.

Now, I don't know about you, but me?  I'm too busy worrying about whether OmegaDotter's recent ability to stay dry at nighttime will be derailed by a few accidents to worry too terribly much this early on about her competitive position vis-a-vis global domination.  Hell, I just want her to be happy, find something she loves doing as a job, find a partner who fits her like a glove (if she wants), and all that stuff.

But there are some folks who think like this, and, I guess, more power to them.

There's one line in there about parents of kids adopted from China driving the market for Chinese au pairs.  Now this I can grasp much better.  How cool to be able to give OmegaDotter a daily caregiver who can give her a background not only in the language of her birth but also in the culture!  I had a little wist about it when I read the story--wouldn't that be nice, I thought.  Then I thought about our checkbook, thought about how well she's doing in her preschool, with all her buds...about how, in her preschool, she has Navajo kids, Hispanic kids, black kids, and (of course) blonde curly-haired Caucasian cherubs.  (Well, hell, they're all cherubs, frankly, except for X. and J., who, I understand, are "mean" and get sent to TimeOut a lot.)  I like the diversity she gets at preschool, the social interaction with kids of varying backgrounds, the fact that the gals who teach there are mostly from the early childhood education program at Small Mountain University.

Now, a babysitter with that background would be cool.  And, since SMU has a rather lively exchange program developing with a coalition of Chinese universities, this might be more likely for me to accomplish.

How do my readers who are adoptive parents approach the question of finding adult Asian role models for your kids?  I have a failing:  I am a social klutz.  I do just great on my blog and on lists--it's nice and cozy for me because I like writing.  But how does one find and make friends of a particular ethnicity without feeling like a leech?  (Let alone the difficulty of finding and making friends in general...)  There's a Chinese church group--but we're not churchgoers.  NOT.  We both have very dim views of organized religion of any kind.  OmegaDad and I have tried to make overtures with the couple who owns a local restaurant that we frequent a lot, but those overtures seem to have fallen flat (splat!).  Now that the dotter is past her initial rejection of all things Chinese (trust me, it was serious--she would have delayed hysterics at home after being amongst the Asian folks at the local restaurants or at any of the festivals we went to), I want to have her branch out, get some sort of connection going.

(Editor's note:  This is a dreadfully flabby post.  It seems to dart off into a variety of tangents.  I wanted to make some cogent point, but all I can do is flail around.  Bah.  I blame my raging sinus infection, which has me stuck at home, just wanting my mommy and my hubby.)

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posted by Kate @ 9/07/2006 11:05:00 AM  
  • At 9/07/2006 12:43:00 PM, Blogger Space Mom said…

    I read that article too and thought, how odd to think that China is going to be such a global player...

    Anyway, I also have trouble in real life. I just signed S up for a pre-gymnastics class in town. She will actually go to this class with kids that will be in her graduating class in our town. Most of her (and my) friends are from other towns.

    We do have a connection to her Jewish identity via our temple. That IS important to us...

    Hope you feel better. Sinus infections are terrible

  • At 9/07/2006 04:07:00 PM, Blogger MomEtc. said…

    Your social skills sound exactly like mine, making it hard to make friends in general. I understand what you mean about feeling like a "leech" or maybe pushing your nose in where it doesn't belong. It's hard because essentially we are using race as a criterion for making a friendship with someone....and that's super-awkward to begin with.

    For us, I think part of the answer will be in sending Pippi to Chinese school. I'd like one run entirely be Chinese people, if possible. We are going to stay in a diverse area, so surely the Pip will have friends who are Asian and have Asian parents. We have thought on and off about choosing a church expressly for the community it will provide and we would choose a diverse congregation. I've even though about maybe joining a Buddhist temple that has a substantial Asian/Chinese population. I'm trying desperately to learn Mandarin partly because I really am hoping to make that connection. I think Buddhism (as kind of a life philosophy) we might be able to swing.

  • At 9/07/2006 04:34:00 PM, Blogger PunditMom said…

    I read the NYT article and, as a mother to a 6-year-old daughter adopted from China, I was excited. I had thought for a long time it would be great to have a Chinese au pair so Rachel would have someone around all the time from her birth culture -- not that we need an au pair since I work part-time from home.

    We have been sending Rachel to a great Saturday Chinese language and culture school for three years that is run by wonderful, native Chinese-speaking women. She'd rather do soccer, but at this stage of her life we're approaching this as non-negotiable. This summer, our local YMCA had a four-week Chinese culture and language day camp that she attended and really liked. We have some Asian friends we try to socialize with as much as possible. Some say we're still not doing enough, but there are only so many hours in the day.

    Having said all that, sometimes she's more interested in learning French at school than in Chinese.

  • At 9/07/2006 06:29:00 PM, Anonymous Theresa said…

    I just want to say "Yay!" to Omegadottir for being able to stay dry at night! Woohoo!

    We are not quite there yet;)

  • At 9/07/2006 07:38:00 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    I've failed miserably at exposing my Chinese daughter to Asian culture. She's nine now, and desperately wants to move someplace where there are more Chinese people. That would be... anywhere. Although she has a Brazilian boyfriend, an Egyptian best friend, and an Indian sister, she's looking for an anchor of her own.

  • At 9/08/2006 12:09:00 AM, Anonymous LizC said…

    I think about this a lot, even though we live in a small city with a fairly large Asian population. I dont know if we are doing enough or too much or stupid things, but we have a lot of options at least.

    E goes to a Mandarin immersion preschool, entirely run by Asian women at this point. I love that. I feel very very spoiled to have it. Very spoiled. While we do have some Asian friends, I like how authoritative it is to have female Asian teachers-- role models, authority figures, the whole shebang. And that she's starting to speak some Mandarin? Wowza.

    One of our local elementaries does a Mandarin immersion program for 3 hours a day. We are so hoping we can get her into the program (done on a lottery). If not, I think panic will ensue. And real pissiness, for sure.

    So we are lucky and have lots of resources and a strong Asian community- from all over Asia, actually. Without those accessible, I'd be afraid we'd end out with mostly, um, Mulan. Yeech.

  • At 9/09/2006 11:05:00 AM, Blogger Kate said…

    Spacemom--the connection with the Jewish identity is, in many ways, easier for you: it's *you*, and your heritage.

    MomEtc--You nailed it exactly. You're in a good area for diversity, so that helps a lot.

    PunditMom--Wow--a four-week Chinese camp?! That's fantastic! Maybe when the dotter is older, we'll ship her off to something like that. The heritage camp weekend was great, but it's over with pretty quickly. (And welcome!)

    Theresa--Yeah, we're all up in the air about the dry-at-night! Took a while coming, but I had an opportunity to say, "Oops! We've run out of pullups!" and that was it. Woohoo!

    Miss C.--That's very interesting...it shows that there *is* a need for some connection, something, like you say, "anchoring" the girls. Ahem. NYC would be a good place to go?! Are you still considering it?

    Liz--You've got a really good thing going there, with the Chinese preschool and the immersion school. As for Mulan--well, it could be worse. At least Mulan is a vivid, take-charge kinda gal, eh? A female hero. I like that.

  • At 9/09/2006 06:42:00 PM, Blogger Carol Anne said…

    I don't know if I can "give" my girls an Asian role model. I don't know if parents can pick role models -- at least ones that will stick.

    It's funny but I'm starting to stress about my girls not being in a bunch of Chinese stuff. We do go to language classes (me too), but that's about all we can handle financially and schedule wise. There are other parents that do Chinese dance, and there's a Chinese immersion school in our district now.

    And while I start to stress that I'm not doing enough because so many people are doing so much more, another part of me screams "That's too much for a child to handle!"

    Do I want to raise well-rounded, educated, and confident girls? Or do I want to raise well-rounded, educated, and confident Chinese girls? Are these mutually exclusive?

    I think of myself, and my German heritage. My parents did nothing overly German. I learned my German cultural heritage from one of my grandmothers. My parents chose not to practice it. My sister chooses not to practice it. My brother lives it daily (he lives in Germany now), and I share it and incorporate things into our family.

    And that's what I feel I should be doing for my kids -- teaching them the history and customs of China, like my grandmother taught me the history and customs of Germany. If they are interested, they will take it to heart and explore more on their own as they grow up. Like I did. Or they will decide to ignore it.

    But I don't think au pairs, or language class, or dance classes can make my children any more Chinese or that they will take to the "role models" I have put before them.

    Shit, this is long. Forgive me, OM. I think about this alot, and I am very conflicted. I worry I don't do enough, but I worry that if I do more, it will be too much. As it is , the 7-year-old is starting to push away from being Chinese.

    Feel better. Drugs are wonderful.

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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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