The Chinese Food Email (Part I)

Written by Love Isn’t Enough guest contributor Tonggu Momma; originally published at Our Little Tongginator. Tonggu Momma blogs about parenting her daughter, nicknamed “the Tongginator.” She calls her ”a six-year-old firebrand who stole our hearts AND earned her Tongginator nickname five years ago, a half a world away in a nation called China.” [Note: This is the first part of a three-part series.]

Y’all are just too amazing. Thank you so much for feeding my ego writing such kind things yesterday. I surely missed blogging this past week. And I fully expected to spend all morning yesterday replying to emails and catching up with YOUR lives, but something happened during breakfast yesterday that just wiped out my whole day. I feel like I sound like a Drama Queen Of Major Proportions lately, but sometimes crud just seems to happen all at once.

Call me crazy, but I think it’s the pile of snowy what-not that’s causing all of this.

Anyways, I don’t even know how much to share about my recent morning conversation with the Tongginator, but I know y’all will probably face this at some point during your Momma Years, so I feel like it’s important to share at least some of it. I’ve talked with two friends and my momma already and I STILL feel upset when I think about it.

I guess all of us mommas feel that way when our Momma Bears come out.

I’m afraid I’ll overshare or inadvertently demonize two little ones, so I guess the best way to tell you what happened is to just cut-and-paste (with a few edits) the email Tonggu Grammy helped me craft for the Tongginator’s teacher. Whom I still adore. Just so you know. Sending the email was one of the toughest things I’ve done as a momma. I know I should expect things like this to happen, seeing as how I am a parent who adopted transracially, but knowing to expect it and actually being prepared when it happens?

Two very different things.

Anyways, I sent this carefully worded email to the Tongginator’s kindergarten teacher yesterday. I actually think I navigated the conversation with the Tongginator fairly well… I focused on allowing her to express her feelings, walked her through some coping strategies and asked her how she wanted me to respond. And I empathized a ton, while still keeping it together. I only fell apart AFTER the bus drove away. Anyways, here is an excerpt from the email I sent…

Hey there, Ms. Confetti. I have to say this spring feels much different from the fall, when I was in the classroom most days. *grin* It’s been nice having a small break, but I also feel a bit disconnected. I have a couple of things…

[... unrelated news and classroom business ...]

Last… something happened during lunch yesterday that very much upset the Tongginator. While she was sitting at the lunch table, M1 and M2 told her several times that the food she brought from home “was Chinese food and looked like throw up.” The Tongginator said that she asked them to stop, but they didn’t and kept repeating those same words and variations of the comment. The Tongginator didn’t tell me about it until this morning, as I was getting ready to pack her lunch.

I know that it’s common for five- and six-year-old girls to experiment with power, and that I am assigning adult values to words from young children, but the Tongginator truly internalized what they said and responded in a way that many would respond to racism. She could not understand why they were attacking her for who she was, via the food she ate. This morning she literally sobbed in my arms for at least five minutes. We talked about it for a good fifteen minutes: we talked about how it felt… and what she could say and do if it happens again… the ingredients of the foods she typically brings for lunch…. and then she said “and Ms. Confetti didn’t DO anything.” When I reminded her that you weren’t there – and asked her if any other adults were around (she said no) – she realized that “probably none of the teachers know about it” – and then she asked me to tell you about it.

If you have any more questions about this, please feel free to call me at home or to send me an email. You can also talk with the Tongginator about it if you wish, although I’d like a heads up if you do, so that I can follow-up with her at home. It’s important to me to handle this well. I don’t want to blow it up out of proportion, but I also know – from listening to the voices of adult transracial adoptees, most specifically my two cousins who were internationally adopted from Korea – that it’s important for me to not sweep this under the rug either.

Thanks so much ~
Tonggu Momma

And yeah, I did use the word racism when I talked with the Tongginator. I told her that what the girls said was unkind and that they probably didn’t understand just HOW unkind it was. And that words like that are called racist. And that they are not okay. (And… as to why I felt it was innocent, yet racist, please read this follow-up and more thoughts.)

We talked about her feelings and about how to handle it if it happens again. And – y’all will be so very proud of my little gal – I asked her if she wanted to start bringing in different food for lunch… you know, the more typical sandwich, chips and apple combo. And do you know what my little girl said? She thought for a minute, then replied, “NO. I LIKE my food.”

Despite sobbing in my arms just minutes earlier.

Oh my lands, y’all, I am taking lessons from a five-year-old.

And I simply adore her. She is one VERY special little girl.

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