When my oldest child was about 10 years old, I wrote an Asian American parenting book, because I knew everything and had four perfect children. Unfortunately, I did not publish that book then, because my children soon became teenagers, and suddenly I knew nothing and did everything wrong. Now, with two children off to college, one child with a perfect ACT score, and one more who is very tall, I am finally starting to get my confidence back.
So when I see younger Asian American friends struggle through the many challenges of raising Asian American babies, well, I just LOL.
Here are some of my best unsolicited Angry Asian American parenting tips for raising strong, proud, and ANGRY Asian American children.
1. Angry Asian Baby Food: Your Angry Asian Baby does not want to eat processed baby food. Nobody likes that stuff. Angry Asian Babies want Asian baby food! Start with rice porridge, move on to noodles, slowly add those small bits of vegetables and meats that are on your plate already anyway (chop them up with a cleaver). Feed baby with chopsticks (easier to fit into little mouth). Ignore baby food cookbooks -- those are all recipes for white people baby food full of cheese.
2. Angry Asian Dolls: Do not spend money on white dolls. People will give you those anyway. Be strategic with your spending dollars and buy Asian dolls. Bonus: Asian and other "minority" dolls can often be found on sale. Rude! But then spend the money saved on beautiful gowns, which is actually the reason Angry Asian Baby wants white dolls -- they come with better clothes.
3. Angry Asian Books: Do not spend money on mainstream books. People will give you those anyway, and your library and school are full of them. Be strategic with your spending dollars and buy books by and about Asians and Asian Americans. When reading mainstream books aloud, change the protagonists to Asian American girls and change words into your heritage language. Of course that is an Asian American girl bunny, you can tell because she calls her grandmother bunny "Halmoni." Pro Tip: Give Asian American books as gifts to educate your child’s peers.
4. Angry Asian Language: Speak to Angry Asian Baby in your heritage language(s) as soon as she is born. Even if your language skills are lame, she will not talk until she is two years old, so you have a two year head start to practice and get up to speed. Encourage relatives to babysit and talk to baby in heritage language(s). Look for babysitters and day care centers who speak your heritage language(s). Watch more K-dramas, C-dramas, Bollywood films, etc. You are building the wiring in Angry Asian Baby's brain. A bilingual/trilingual baby is a smarter baby. (Not that we are competitive or worried about college yet, ha ha, who are we kidding, of course we are worried about college already).
5. Angry Asian Baby Size Does Not Matter: Speaking of being competitive, baby growth charts are based on averages for white babies, not Asian babies. Do not panic about Angry Asian Baby being 25th percentile if she is otherwise healthy and proportional. Double check with an Asian American pediatrician, you are probably related to at least two.
6. Angry Asian Family Bed and living with Grandma: Families around the world have been sleeping in family beds and living in multigenerational households forever. Exiling baby to her own bed in her own room, and families living far away from other family members are both relatively modern inventions. So however the mainstream does things now is not the only way. Do what is right for you and your family.
7. Angry About Race and Racism: Talk to Angry Asian Baby about race, racism, and sexism early, give her the words to respond, and let her know this is okay to discuss. Children start noticing race and can have their first experiences with racism as early as preschool. Sorry.
8. Angry Asian American Culture: Teach Angry Asian Baby about her heritage culture(s) and lots of other cultures. Read books, attend festivals, give presentations in her school. Eat well.
Have fun! This is an adventure for you, too.
Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and Hawai‘i. She is a contributor and essayist for NBC News Asian America. She teaches Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies at University of Michigan. She has published three chapbooks of prose poetry, been included in several anthologies and art exhibitions, and created a multimedia artwork for Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. franceskaihwawang.com. @fkwang