Our fall favorites are here! 🍂

When my son was just six months old, it happened. I decided that he would learn Chinese. Seems like a logical decision to make for any Millennial parent, right? Well, it would be if I was Chinese, but I’m not. I’m Black, and my son’s father is a very fair-skinned redheaded White guy with freckles. Not the exact genetic combination you’d think of for the next English and Chinese speaking mastermind, I know!

To be honest, I knew very little about the Chinese language or the culture for that matter. Other than the local take-out menu my Chinese expertise only extended to egg rolls and shrimp fried rice.

But, nonetheless, I made the decision, and I was sticking with it. Over the next three years, I spent hundreds of hours searching for language resources, schools, and tutors – digging for any and everything I could get my hands on to get my son immersed in Chinese.

But, I was the only one excited for my son’s new bilingual journey. His dad, not so much. To him learning another language was downright un-American, a slap in the face of everything our English language represented. A crime, worse than burning the flag!

So, I did what any strong-willed, open-minded, future-thinking mom would do – I listened, nodded my head, and then taught my son Chinese anyway.

Everything seemed on track. My son was reading Chinese characters, responding to his teacher in Chinese, even teaching me a few things.

And, then I got a text from a friend and everything changed…

It read, “Hey! How’s the China man?”

“The China man? Who’s that?” I thought. Was the text meant for me? I’m Black, so I can’t be the “China man.” And then it dawned on me. They were referring to my son. To tell you the truth, while I did see a funny side to it, I also found it vaguely inappropriate. Actually, more than vaguely. It made me completely uncomfortable.

My son is biracial, but he’s not Chinese, and could never be mistaken for such. But her text did make me wonder how others view him. In my mind, his bilingual ability would be a huge asset as he grew up. But, would others see it in the same light? After all, there’s enough discrimination in the world, as it is. And, to think that I had unwittingly made him more susceptible to discrimination made me sick to my stomach. Even worse, had my son already experienced it at school?

I sat my budding linguist down, and we talked about race. Well, as close to the subject as I could get for a pre-schooler. I didn’t want my son to think that something was “wrong” with him for being different. So, I approached the subject with extreme caution. Knowing that he was the only non-Asian at his Chinese immersion school, I was terrified, to say the least. But, I pulled up my big girl panties and asked him.

“Do you feel the same or different from the other kids at your school?”

“I feel different.” (At this point I’m starting to sweat)

“OK. In what way?” (Holding my breath)

“I’m the only one with curly hair. And…” (Now, ready to vomit)

“And, what else?”

“Well, I like tacos, but they never give me tacos at school!” (Smile and exhale)

“Ahh, I see. You have curly hair, and you like tacos. Well, what about the other kids?”

“They have straight hair and like rice. Like a lot of rice.” (Hug and repeat the conversation another day)

Those precious moments with my son, albeit some of the scariest minutes of my life, taught me an invaluable lesson about race and our differences. It made me reflect on some key points that I had overlooked. So, if you’re in a similar situation, sitting down with your young child about to hash out race relations in the U.S., here’s my two cents:

  1. Yeah, they called him a “China man,” but so what! If they’re talking about you, then they’re leaving someone else alone. And kudos to you for getting them talking, you must be doing something right. Who cares whether my child is learning Chinese, Arabic, or no second language at all? Our kids are who they are. And they are ALL magnificent.
  2. Talk to your child before the world does. Remember, it is our differences that make life much more interesting. No one rushes home to watch paint dry. We need excitement, intrigue, and being different brings all of this.

And, if my two cents fail you, just mutter a couple of curse words under your breath (in a different language, if you can) and keep on carrying on. I know me and my “China man” sure will!

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Llacey Simmons

Llacey Simmons is an educator by heart and by trade. As an academic tutor, and now, mom to a preschooler, she spends her days helping students master complex Math and Science topics and her nights researching the latest tools to help her some conquer the Chinese language. She runs the informative blog, http://our21stcenturykids.com/ to give other monolingual parents the information and strategies they need to raise bilingual children.

The Letting Go Happens Tooth by Tooth

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy smiling missing a tooth

There is something about a toothless grin. Not the gummy smile of infancy, but the wide-gapped delight of a child who has newly lost a tooth. Today’s was not the first tooth my son has lost—the first was over a year ago—but today, the fifth tooth, was a top one, and today his smile seemed to announce with an oh, so in my face clarity, that he and I had better make room for adulthood (or at least, pre-tweendom?). He is shedding his babyhood. Those teeth that kept me up at night on their way in have outgrown their use....

Keep Reading

To the Parents Facing a Child’s Illness: You Are Strong

In: Grief, Kids, Motherhood
Toddler with cast and IV looking out window

If you are the parents who just sat for hours in a cold doctor’s office to hear that your child has a life-threatening illness, you are so strong.  If you are the parents who can’t bring yourself to decorate or celebrate the unknown because you don’t know if they’ll ever come home, you are so strong.  If you are the parents who travel or relocate to deliver your child in one of the best hospitals with hopes it will change the outcome, you are so strong. If you are the parents who learn all the medical terminology so you understand...

Keep Reading

I Am a Mother Evolving

In: Grown Children, Kids, Motherhood, Teen
Mother and child walking by water in black and white photo

Those who mean well squawk the refrain— “The days are long, but the years are short.” They said I would miss it— little feet and newborn baby smell nursing in the wee hours with a tiny hand clutching mine. Tying shoes,  playing tooth fairy,  soothing scary dreams. They were fine times, but I do not wish them back. RELATED: Mamas, Please Quit Mourning Your Children Growing Up I rather enjoy these days of my baby boy suddenly looking like a young man in a baseball uniform  on a chilly Wednesday in April. And my Amazonian teenage girl  with size 11...

Keep Reading

Kids Need Grace and So Do Their Moms

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Woman touching child's forehead

We were having a hard morning. Our house was overrun with toys, I hadn’t had a chance to get dressed, and my stress level was increasing by the minute. To top it all off, my 3-year-old was having a meltdown anytime I spoke to her. Even looking in her general direction was a grave mistake. It was one of those days that as a parent, you know you’re really in for it. I was quickly losing my patience. My frustration began to ooze out of me. I snapped orders, stomped around, and my attitude quite clearly was not pleasant to...

Keep Reading

As a Nurse, This Is How I Prepared My Daughter for Her First Period

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Woman wearing sunglasses with hands on the sides of her face and smiling, black and white photo

I don’t remember my first period, which means my mother had me well prepared. This doesn’t mean I was okay with it. I remember feeling awkward and tense each time. And honestly, for many years, shopping for feminine hygiene products filled me with unease. But wait a minute! There shouldn’t be anything shameful about something that will recur for about half of a woman’s life! Who decided it was to be a sensitive subject? Aren’t we all supposed to show empathy toward each other when it comes to this?  I say, pass the Midol around, sister! I knew the time...

Keep Reading

With Grandkids, It’s The Little Things

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Nine children sitting on a couch together

We had just pulled into the driveway when our youngest grandtwins, 3-year-old Ellis and Brady, came running out the front door and down the steps to hug us. “Let me see your earrings, Grandma,” Ellis said, reaching up to pull me down to his level. “The green M&Ms!  I told you, Brady!” “Those are the ones our brother Adler picked out for you!” Brady yelled as he ushered us into the house and started going through the tote bag I always carry for them, filled with favorite books from our house and three little bags of snacks in the bottom....

Keep Reading

Childhood Is Not a Race

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Two young girls playing in creek bed, color photo

Sweet child, I know you want to grow up. You want to get older and do more and more. I see you changing day after day. You are no longer a little girl, but you’re turning into a young lady. You’re becoming this wonderful person who leads and cares for others. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. But don’t rush out of your childhood. It’s this beautiful season where wonder and discovery live. It’s this beautiful time when you don’t have to carry the weight of adulthood. It’s this beautiful time. Savor it. Slow down and enjoy it. Breathe in...

Keep Reading

There’s Something Special about Band Kids

In: Kids

There is something incredibly special about band kids. The hours of practice that begin in elementary school. It’s the squeaking and squawking of a new alto or the flutter of early flute days, high-pitched honks from a trumpet, constant and consistent tapping . . . drumming on everything. And gallons of spit too, until one day a few years down the road, you realize all that practice time has turned into an incredible melody and skill. The alarm that goes off at 5:35 a.m., and before most people are awake, band kids have sleepily found a quick breakfast bite, grabbed...

Keep Reading

You’ll Grow So Much In Kindergarten and I Can’t Wait to Watch

In: Kids
Two young children in backpacks walk toward a school building

On her seventh day of school, my kindergartener doesn’t cry. It was a long road to this day. For the first six days of school, we experienced varying degrees of screaming, clinging, running back inside our house and slamming the door, and expressing general displeasure with the whole idea of school. “I wanna stay home with YOU, Mommy!” “But Charlotte, you are bored out of your mind every day of the summer. You hate it.” “No I don’t. I LOVE IT.” “Well we can spend every afternoon after school and all weekend together. You’ll be tired of me in five...

Keep Reading

Six Feels So Much Bigger

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Little girl with horse, color photo

Six . . . Six is only one number more than five,  one grade, one year . . . but it feels so different. Five is baby teeth and new beginnings. Five is venturing out into the world, maybe making a friend. Meeting a teacher. Learning to ride a bike. Six took my breath away. Six looks like a loose front tooth—tiny and wiggly, soon to be replaced by a big tooth, one that will stay forever. Six looks like a bright purple bike zooming down the driveway. RELATED: When There Are No More Little Girls’ Clothes Six looks like playing...

Keep Reading