This Chink is Angry

My son has been bullied and now he is so angry. And I am heartbroken.

I have some wonderful childhood memories – family road trips, my favorite dress, walking to the corner grocer to buy candy, the sound of Dad playing his harmonica to wake us up in the morning, the smell of a day’s worth of Mom and Grandma’s cooking.

But I also have vivid memories of being the first Asian American in the suburban school district we moved to. I remember Gwen, who later became a good grade school friend, asking me why my nose was so flat and my eyes were so weird. I remember being bullied, walking home with my sister trying to ignore the boys and girls following us spewing awful words and threats. I remember being on the bus when a few kids thought it would be funny and original to call me a chink and gook and tell me to go back home to the rice fields. Don’t you think that if I could be in the safety of my home, away from all you idiots, I would go home?  I remember one time “retaliating” by screaming at them all the profanities and mean words I could string together…in Korean. It made me feel powerful. I could say to their face anything I wanted with no consequences.

But there were consequences. I grew up actually feeling rather powerless. I did not have a voice, at least not one that others could understand. And now as an adult, I find myself in situations where I think I’ve said what I meant, repeated myself, and then raise my voice with words and tone that clearly articulate and express my anger and frustration.

So it breaks my heart to know that my son has suffered deeply at the hands of a bully. We’re walking through this together with him, but it’s so hard. I have to remember that when he vents at me, he’s not really venting about me. He’s venting. He’s angry.

I’m angry. I’m angry with myself that I didn’t listen to my gut when things started to change with him. I’m angry that the school communicated to me that things had improved. I’m angry that the Evil One continues to attack our hearts and souls into believing lies about ourselves and others.

Lord have mercy.

Crabby pants

I’ll rarely be accused of eternal optimism. It’s just not in my genes. But every morning I wake up expecting great things. Not things like “today I’ll win the lottery” but more like “today my children will know they are loved by me”.

Well, let’s just say I’m hoping tomorrow goes better.

My idealized memories of summer include fresh tomatoes and strawberries from the garden and hours of roaming the neighborhood on my bike. My parents both worked full time, and there was little time or money to shuttle me and my sister from day camp to tennis lessons. Summers meant completing Korean language worksheets my mother would copy and assign to us, watching WFLD-ch 32 for cartoons, reading, drawing, arguing with my sister, and staying out of trouble. There were days when my sister and I left the house in the morning and didn’t return until dinner.

But summer for my kids has been a tumultuous mix of games of “Life” or “Sorry” with the kids (literally and figuratively), one delightful afternoon at the Botanic Garden, and many mornings and afternoons of dragging the kids to swimming lessons, tennis lessons and tae kwon do.

The lessons are an example of parenting out of my own personal issues. I learned to swim in the 4th grade on a family road trip to Walt Disney World. I’ve never been fully comfortable in the water. I want my kids to be more comfortable in the water. I also never picked up a tennis racquet until high school gym. Let’s just say it was rather humiliating. I want to help my children avoid gym class humiliation. And the tae kwon do thing was simply a result of Corban and then Elias wearing us down with their requests to try the culturally-relevant martial art.

So, instead of blissfully memorable summer days by the pool, riding bikes and taking fun excursions, we are having the summer of Crabby Pants. Some days I am wearing the pants. Some days it’s Bethany or Corban or Elias or some volatile combination.

It’s rather frustrating and confusing knowing that having time to spend at home with the kids is one of the very things my immigrant parents worked so hard to give me a chance at having this “easier” life. So, why am I and the kids so crabby? Surely it’s not just because of video games and high-def television.

What are you all doing to keep this from being the summer of Crabby Pants?