Expanding the Audience

 

Dear Blue,

 

Writing has a peculiar habit of shrinking time. Seconds, minutes, days, months and years have no distinction in the spaces between words. Not coincidentally, it has now been over six months since I wrote you anything, and in that time, so much has happened.

 

This includes moving into a new house and starting a new job, which are considered to be two of the four most stressful events in a person’s life. It’s been absolutely crazy around here, and I hope you’ll forgive me for not writing as much. I’m sure you will, because to you this will just be the next post and nothing more.

 

I do intend to write more letters to you, Blue. Maybe I was wrong in saying that writing shrinks time. Maybe it just forgets that it exists. Because here I am, imagining a teenage Blue reading these for the first time. I hope you find these letters all that I intend them to be: insightful, profound and illuminating. If nothing else, I hope you at least find them worthy of an occasional chuckle and only slightly embarrassing.

 

If that is accomplished, then I consider this a success. Because no matter what, you are the only audience that matters. Well…you and one other person. I neglected to mention earlier that in addition to moving and starting a new job, your mother and I are about to experience the third most stressful event in life for the second time.

 

Your sister arrives in June, Blue.

 

 

 

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Passing Tests

 

passingtests

 

Dear Blue,

 

It was test day for our family last Saturday. While your mother was taking part I of her licensing exam, you and I had our own little tests on the playground at the mall.

 

There are two playgrounds at our mall. The first is what I call the varsity playground. It’s outside next to the turtle pond. It has a padded snake slithering in between igloos and a climbing net. It’s where the big kids go to play, and coincidentally, it’s also where you fell into a bed of flowers and scratched your knee.

 

So I failed that test, and on Saturday, I decided that we were going inside to the JV playground. The inside playground is more our speed. Nothing is higher than three feet and there are no rose bushes in sight.

 

It has walls on all sides, about the same height as the sides of a hockey rink. Parents line along the edges, their elbows propped up on the rails. They are there to watch and make sure no one escapes, because inside those walls, the playground is more than just a playground.

 

It’s Fight Club, and the first rule of Fight Club is that parents don’t interfere with what goes in Fight Club.

 

This is a phenomena I completely do not understand, Blue. I get that parents feel comfortable knowing their kids aren’t going anywhere once they’re inside the walls, but there are other kids in there, and they need parents to monitor what’s going on. Otherwise, it becomes Thunderdome.

 

Which is what happened on Saturday. I completely ignore standard parent procedure and follow you into the mayhem. There are kids everywhere. They’re four deep on every climbing apparatus in there, burrowed like barnacles underneath in the tunnels.

 

We take off your shoes, and as soon as I put your feet on the ground, you’re off. Like a rocket. A tiny, slightly drunk rocket.

 

You’re big for your age, Blue. And your motor skills are exceptional as well. Unfortunately, though, your ability to accurately estimate your abilities is not up to par, and so you often run into situations where you try to do what the older kids do, and you can’t.

 

In this particular instance, you wanted to play with a series of spinning bats on the wall. An older kid was playing on one of them. Even though he was slightly smaller than you, I could tell he was older because of the way he moved. It was crisper, more assured, and this assumption was confirmed when he abruptly turned to face you, grabbed the bat you were trying to spin, and stopped it from spinning. He frowned at you and kept his hand on the bat. The message was clear.

 

It was, Hello baby. I am a giant douchebag in training. Please do not use something I might use in the future, because it is mine even though we are in a public playground. I will live a miserable, lonely life, but this bat is mine. Go away.

 

To which I reply, “It’s okay, dude. You can spin the bat. We’ll wait until he’s ready to share.”

 

To which you reply, “Dadadada,” and then you drunk rocket run over to the nearby ladybug etching on the other side of the wall.

 

To which douchebag in training replies by running over to you and shoving you to the ground.

 

Thus began our tests.

 

For me, it was simple. In the briefest of brief nanoseconds after he shoved you, the words MURDER HIM blared in my mind. Bound by the constraints of society and parental duty, I decided to not follow through with my base instincts.

 

I knelt down to pick you up off the ground, and said, as calmly as possible, “That’s not very nice.”

 

I passed my test. No kids were murdered and I did not end up in jail.

 

Now it was time for your test. I kept talking to you as the mom of the d.i.t. chided him for assaulting a toddler for having the audacity to play with a ladybug. You stood there calmly as I told you, “Do you want to play with the bat? You can go play with the bat.”

 

I wasn’t about to just walk away. You had every right to be there and spin that bat. I watched proudly as you stood up, unfazed by the d.i.t.’s attempts to intimidate you away. You walked right over to that bat, and you spun to your heart’s content. Test passed.

 

Meanwhile, Cobra Kai decided that he still did not want you to be spinning that bat, so he came over AGAIN to let you know you were not welcome to be there.

 

To which I replied with subtle but firm hip check into the wall.

 

Not this time, dude. Blue’s gonna spin.

 

-Dad

P.S. Your mom passed her test, too.

 

 

The Problem Of Half

half

Dear Blue,

Before you were born, your mother and I looked up mixed race babies on YouTube, just to get a preview of what we could expect. We had no idea. At this point, all we had to go on was a grainy ultrasound of your profile that turned out to be amazingly accurate. We saw a bunch of really cute babies doing cute things, and then, invariably, our search led to videos of teenagers griping to a webcam about their problems, because this is where every YouTube video jamboree eventually ends up: Self-obsessed adolescents drowning in their own comment-riddled angstalogues.

We watched and we watched and we watched, simultaneously repulsed and fascinated, because for all the self-absorption, there was a valid concern streaming through loud and clear. These kids didn’t know themselves. They were mixed and mixed up, half and nothing, bicultural and barren. We resolved to never let you make one of these pitiful videos, because if you do, it will mean that we have failed you as parents.

The question they were asking was simple on the surface: Who am I?

It’s exceptionally easy to get tripped on this question and solely focus on a different question altogether. This question gets asked too long and too often, and it eventually becomes, ‘Where do I belong?’

For most people, the obvious answer to this is, ‘I belong with people who are like me’, which sadly, usually translates to ‘I belong to people of my own race.’ People want to talk about how they like diversity and they like being multicultural and blahdeblahdeblah. The truth is that most people stick to their own. Here’s where it sucks for you, Blue. Being biracial, you might never have the experience of being a part of the majority anywhere. You might ALWAYS be the minority. I say might because being half Asian and half white, there is a small army of your kind in Southern California, but that’s no guarantee.

The funny thing is, being half Asian and half white, you have black, shiny Elvis hair, olive skin, fat cheeks and big brown eyes. You could pass for Mexican, if you really wanted.

But nah. That’s where I don’t want you to be, Blue. I don’t want you having to pick a filler race to try to figure out who you are, so what we’re going to do is foist that question of ‘Who am I?’ against a much larger and complex backdrop that allows you to BE the answer and not just look for it. These aren’t just fluff words. It’s a shame when people get stuck on their roots when trying to figure themselves out. There is so much more to it. I like to think of personhood as three parts, one for each of that question of ‘Who Am I?’

The Who part of that we’ve already covered. The other two are also key. I don’t think anyone of these are any more important than the others, but it is important to know each of them.

The second part of that question, the Am, is how I see a person’s engagement with the present. That is, their choices in any given situation begin to affect how they view the world, and how the world views them. For you, this is beginning now as your personality begins to take shape. It will become even more important down the line when you start socializing with others. Your personality is kind of like a rough sketch at this point. As you grow older, experiences will start to fill in the details.

The third part of the question, the I, is the one that will take the longest to figure out. When you’re young, it won’t be as important. You’ll mostly just want to get along with peers and do whatever your friends are doing. But as you grow older, figuring out your uniqueness will dominate your time. If knowing where you come from involves understanding the past, and knowing your personality involves understanding your present choices, then knowing what makes you special will involve figuring out who you want to be. Yes, believe it or not, you do have a choice.

This is the job of the parents. In fact, it just might be THE job. Getting a kid to that third part of the question as quickly as possible is a job well done. It is here where we forget about fractions and hyphens. We forget about narrow definitions of personhood and upbringing. We forget about all of this, Blue, because you are not half anything. You are fully you.

Well, that is until you find your better half, but that’s a separate discussion altogether.

-Dad