Oh you beautiful doll!

Greetings, My Asian Kid-DC followers! I’m a friend of cilla’s (this blog’s owner), and mom to Owen Loc, 4, who came home from Vietnam in August 2008. I used to blog at Loc, Stock, and Barrel — and one day will return to it, I swear! — so I was pleased when cilla asked if I’d be interested in guest blogging on MAK-DC. So here goes…

Living in the DC area has its advantages for a transracial family. We mostly can conduct our daily lives in public without comment. We’re just another family among thousands in the area in which not everyone looks like each other.

So it’s always a little jarring to me when I step outside that comfort zone and am confronted with curiosity, comments, and unsolicited attention for being “different.”

We went to Southwestern VA for spring break, including a couple days at The Homestead, and I hadn’t counted on how much we’d — two middle-aged white people and one tiny Asian boy — would stand out. From being openly stared at in restaurants to nodding at endless “he’s so cute!” comments, I was starting to feel like one of the animals in the Natural Bridge Zoo we’d just visited.

Much has written by parents of girls from Asia about dealing with the “China Doll” problem, but believe me, boys are just as susceptible. Owen is cute, if I say so myself. If you really push me, I will say the same thing I hear from so many people: He looks like a little doll. He’s very small for his age but has a four-year-old’s verbal skills, so that makes him all the cuter. And he’s incredibly active, so he draws attention just by being a constant blur in everyone’s peripheral vision. But he’s no cuter than all the kids I’ve come to know in DC-area adoption groups — I’m sure you’d agree!

So, I knew it was time to head back to NoVa when, on Day 3 at The Homestead, we were walking back from breakfast (yet another meal in which waitstaff and diners had fawned over Mr. O), and Owen proclaimed to me, “I am adorable! I am very handsome!” He’d been hearing such comments for days, and now, as he parroted them back, I got uncomfortable. I don’t know if Owen really understands the comments yet, but I don’t like him being a novelty. I don’t like the fact that, no matter how well-meaning the compliments, the ultimate effect will be to draw attention to “difference” — our family as “different” from some norm, Owen himself as “different” from the mostly white children at the resort.

I’m trying to be a good AP. I’m reading all the books and articles about how to handle these situations, for when the day comes — and it’s coming soon, as all the books and articles tell me — when Owen starts chafing at the attention.

I’m sure you all have dealt with this frequently. What do you do? What do you say? I’d love to hear from other parents of children from Asia about how you weather attention and comments about your “little dolls.”

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One Response to Oh you beautiful doll!

  1. Margaret says:

    I have gone through years of the “they are so beautiful, aren’t they precious, etc.” comments with my two girls. It was a joke with the girls that my standard answer was always, “yes, but they are mean as a snake!” That would end their comments. The girls knew it was just an answer we gave people who commented on how we look.
    I hated the thought that my girls, early on, were learning from stangers, that how they looked was noticed/valued/etc. Having a retort to these comments, both for me, and later, for my girls to use, was helpful.

    Margaret

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