The Birth of Wheels

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Dear Wheels,

It’s been almost a month since we welcomed you into the world. I was hoping you could make it to June 10, so your birthday would be number palindrome, but you came a day earlier than that. This means you may have to suffer through some lame teenage boy jokes when you hit high school. We’ll teach you to say your birthday is June 9. You will never say six nine, okay?

You rang out your first cries in the exact same room your brother did two years ago. You came out with the same black shock of hair on top of your head, like the top of a carrot being plucked from the ground. You weighed 6 pounds 6 ounces and measured 19 inches tall. You have long eyebrows, long fingers, long toes. You have what we affectionately call in our family “turtle lips,” where the top overhangs the bottom like a crisp little beak. You have grey-blue eyes, the color of the ocean in the morning twilight. (That might change, but we’re holding out hope.)

You’re beautiful.

You look so much like your brother.

You don’t look anything like your brother.

I don’t know how that juxtaposition is possible, but it is. And you do.

Your entry into the world came at 10:50am. You were originally scheduled to be born on the 17th in a scheduled c-section, but the doctors decided that was too far away. Your mother’s blood pressure was dangerously high and when asked what was the best way to alleviate that symptom, the doctor said, “Have a baby.”

So we went into the hospital on the 8th. The anesthesiologist decided it was better to wait until the morning when they had more support for the c-section, so we waited until the 9th. Unlike your brother, your c-section was not an emergency so I had time to enter the room with your mother. After they had injected local anesthesia and it took effective, they ushered me into the room to sit next to your mom. We couldn’t see anything. Just a blue tarp covering the doctors from view. I was not allowed to stand up until they said it was okay to stand up. So we waited. Then they said okay. I peeked up, and there you were, slathered in a pile of placental fluid. I willed myself not to look at your point of origin into the world, your mother’s open abdomen, but my will is not strong.

It’s a moment of profound humility in a man’s life, when he sees his wife’s internal organs not presently internal. Women are strong, Wheels. I could never make it through what your mom has now done twice.

I met you for the first time at the warming table. I cut the umbilical cord, which was already cut off but you know…ceremony. It’s surprisingly difficult to cut. I blamed it on me being a lefty.

And there you were, and there we were. We spent the next few days in the hospital. Your brother came to stay with us. When he wasn’t trying to climb up in the bed to say hi to you, he was outside in the garden trying to track down rogue pillbugs or roaming the seemingly abandoned west wing of the 4th floor like the kid in The Shining. He did great.

You did great. You’re a nursing whiz kid, Wheels. Figured it out within seconds and haven’t stopped eating since. The double chin you’re now sporting is a testament to that.

I’m going to write a lot to you, Wheels. A lot. I get the feeling that you’ll need a little more guidance than your brother, not because of who you are but because of who the world will try to say you are. In all honesty, I have very little clue how to raise a strong, independent, free-thinking woman who is unafraid to stand up for what she thinks is right, defends her loved ones passionately and wrings out every last drop of enjoyment life has to offer her.

However, I married one such woman. Your mother and I have a lot to teach you.

We love you, babe. Welcome to your family.

-Dad

 

 

Lesson #97: Assume Awkward People Are Awkward, Not Racists. And Other Thoughts.

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Dear Blue and Wheels,

This marks the first time I’ve written to the both of you. Wheels, you haven’t been officially introduced to breathing oxygen yet, but you’re almost there. We cannot wait to meet you, and judging by how you keep pushing on your mother’s pelvis, we think you think the same.

I wanted to share with you both some thoughts on race. It’s a sensitive topic right now, and I suspect it will remain sensitive until you’re reading this. Probably beyond that time, as well.

Being biracial, you two are going to have more than your fair share of questions about your heritage. Don’t be outraged. That’s a very common reaction, and it’s usually one that’s born out of opportunity as much as it is genuine emotion. What I mean by that is outrage, whether real or not, is often amplified when it’s expressed on the internet. Everybody gets outraged about everything now, and there are better ways to handle situations where you might feel offended.

You’ll both probably have people ask the following questions:

“Where are you from?”

“What are you?”

“Can I touch your hair?”

Etc, etc.

Try not to be offended. Unless they’re being blatantly racist and bigoted, but people that go that route tend to not be subtle about it. Hence, blatant. Most of the time, people are one or more of three things: ignorant, curious and awkward. Indulge them. Let them get to know you.

Not only will you gain and maintain friends this way, but you’ll help encourage them in the healthiest way to talk about race.

What tends to mostly happen with talking about race is that people don’t talk about race. And when they do, it always falls along these carefully choreographed lines that follow very conventional rules that distinguish between what you can say and what you can’t. These kinds of conversations usually end up being very shallow and very meaningless. No, the best way to talk is to be open to questions about race. Again, indulge dumb questions gracefully. Don’t make passive aggressive comments. Don’t be snarky. Don’t run to the internet and be outraged. Let them get to know you, and eventually you move past race.

Don’t let anyone tell you they don’t see skin color or race when they first meet you. They’re lying. Everyone sees race, and that’s okay. How else is the cashier at the Latino grocery store going to know to speak to you in Spanish or English after looking at you for a millisecond?

Race only disappears after you know a person for a long time. I can honestly say that there are times when I forget your mother is Asian, and I know there are times she forgets I’m white. But we only got to that point because we struggled through a lot of assumptions about the other person we didn’t know we had. So see race, because it informs you about culture, and culture always informs you about a person you want to get to know.

And Wheels, I can guarantee you that you will receive more dumb questions than Blue. People will probably think it’s flattering to ask you questions about your appearance. You’ll probably think it’s invasive and horrific after you hear the same question for the thousandth time. Try to be patient, but if a boy ever tells you that you look exotic, you have my permission to drop kick his molars into the back of his throat. Set a precedent. That sort of thing cannot stand.

Love,

Dad

Lesson #96: The Slide

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Dear Blue,

One of the cooler things about being a parent is I get to say things like, “I knew you when…” and that “when” can be pretty much any point in your life. No one else gets to say that except me and your mother.

We know you, Blue. It’s something I think about every time I sit down and write to you. Someday you’ll read this and learn something about yourself and your family. There will come a day when you’re searching to find who you are, and I consider it a parent’s sacred duty to help their child figure this out, even if at the time you’ll probably be in full-blown adolescence and won’t want to talk to us.

So, assuming that…listen up, kid. We knew you since you came into the world, and if there is ever a time you’re confused about the person you are, here’s what we know about you.

You are sweet and kind.

Gentle, but not dull.

Reserved, but sharp and observant.

Quiet, but forceful when you have something to say.

Easy going, but aggressively determined to have things go easily your way.

Cautious in new situations, but fearless when you know what you want.

We saw all of this in full clarity when you found The Slide.

It was just past the petting zoo and the bounce houses. We tried putting you into one of the bounce houses, one of the ones meant for toddlers, and you were not having it. You stood there at the gates and refused to enter, crying when I lifted you over the edge and sit you down on the encapsulating air bubbles.

“Nope. Nope. Nope,” you said, and I picked you up, walked you back to the stroller to go back and buy some more tacos. But then, you saw The Slide.

It is duly noted here that the bounce house in question was the residence of Hello Kitty. You made it abundantly clear you were not a Hello Kitty man. You are, however, a Cars man, which clearly explained why you were dragging me to the 10-foot tall balloon of Lightning McQueen, perched over The Slide like a spider ready to devour its prey.

At least, that’s what The Slide looked like to two anxious parents. To you, it looked like a party.

I still don’t know how this happened, but somehow there you were, with your shoes off and scrambling towards the ramp that led to the top of the slide. I don’t know what we were thinking. I guess, maybe, the thinking was that a good way to raise your kid to not be fearful is to let go of fear yourself.

Or maybe I’ll just chalk this one up to fatigue. Just complete and utter exhaustion at the neverending torturescape that is raising a toddler.

We had plenty of fears. The Slide was twenty feet tall balloon. To get to the top, you had to climb a steep ladder that ducked under Lightning McQueen. We would not be able to ascertain your fate on the ascent until you reached the top. And to think, up until this point in your life, you had never climbed anything without one of us holding your hand. Clearly, that was more for us than it was for you.

We figured you had made it since we hadn’t seen you come tumbling down the ramp, but what did shock us was how aggressively fearless you were in scooting right up to the edge, and then plunging down like it was no big deal. No crying, conflict or hesitation. Down you came, smiling, and then you went back to do it again.

I made the moment into a gif, and I watch it whenever I need a little brightness in my day.

It was one of the most thrilling moments of being your parent, because in that moment we saw one of your best qualities start to manifest, Blue. Nobody could have predicted what you would have done, because nobody, not even us, knew you well enough. I don’t even think you knew yourself well enough, because ‘yourself’ is still this nebulous mix of personality, experience and bumbling guidance from two well-intentioned but often ignorant parents. I think…I hope…something began to crystallize in that first time on The Slide, though. Something that will forever be a part of your fabric.

You became brave.

Or maybe not…Just a few weeks ago, you cried when we tried to ride ‘It’s a Small World’ at Disneyland. Nobody becomes brave, and certainly no one becomes brave after one time doing one brave thing. Bravery is a virtue, a trait that knits itself into a person over time and continued practice. Nevertheless, bravery is something you exhibited at a very young age, and whenever you have doubts about whether or not you can face a situation, I’ll remind you of The Slide.

Love,

Dad