Can’t Win, Don’t Try

The other night my wife’s family was celebrating my mother-in-law’s birthday at my sister-in-law’s house.  This was a good opportunity for us to all get together, see the new babies, 태우 (or, as everyone now calls him, 눈사람 or ‘snowman’) and 민기, eat raw fish and pig’s feet and blow off the steam of having too many babies.  While everyone else drank plum syrup-laced soju, I drank beer with my brother-in-law 남일.

Anyway, we had a good time as always, and eventually the topic came around to our baby.  Now I may or may not have mentioned this before, but everyone is obsessed with the racial characteristics of our baby, with our 3D ultrasound photos constantly scrutinized for things like a v-shaped jawline (good!) or a less-than-pronounced forehead (bad!).

October Sonogram 003

Anyway, after going over the baby name issue, I pointed out that perhaps it would be unhealthy for our baby to receive so many comments about his or her features, which would be much more likely in Korea than America.  My two brothers-in-law were completely uncomprehending.

‘Joe, maybe in the old days people didn’t like 혼혈 people but not anymore.’

‘No, don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying people will be hostile or racist against my baby, I’m just saying it can’t be healthy to have people always pointing you out and setting you aside from others all the time.  Think about it, we have three babies in the same family and everyone keeps saying “Joe’s baby is going to be the most beautiful.”  What kind of effect would it have on a kid growing up hearing that all the time?’

‘But nobody dislikes babies because they’re mixed.  And your baby will have pretty eyes.’

‘ . . . OK, yes, you’re right, but I’m saying what if the kid develops a complex or something?’

‘It doesn’t matter if the baby is mixed, people will still accept it.’

‘ . . . Umm . . . Right.  Because Korea has changed so much.  That’s one good point about Korea, for sure, it changes for the better so fast.’

‘No it doesn’t.’



~ by Joshing on November 18, 2008.

6 Responses to “Can’t Win, Don’t Try”

  1. I don’t see the comments ever stopping. Our daughter is 2 years old and it seems like people are just getting started with comments on her development. She looks just like me (green eyes, curly brown hair, tall as in constantly in the 97th percentile) which makes it worse! People often wonder why my wife is escorting a Caucasian baby around. I’m worried she’s going to develop a princess syndrome.

  2. My wife (Korean citizen) and I are yet to have a child (just 1 year married) but like most “mixed couples” of Korea wonder how their family dynamics will be after a child is born. We can hope all we want that people will no point this and that out about our kids but also have to realize that even though 혼혈 kids are not exactly a new thing to Korea, the current status of that population in Korea is not anywhere near that of a country like the U.S. I think it obviously could take many years, as it has for the U.S., for Korea to accept a 혼혈 kid. However, Korea has transformed like no other country within the past 60 or so years and we can look forward to many changes in society in the near future. This is what I and I’m sure many other “mixed” couples anticipate.

  3. Think about it, we have three babies in the same family and everyone keeps saying “Joe’s baby is going to be the most beautiful.” What kind of effect would it have on a kid growing up hearing that all the time?

    What I’ve noticed in life is that people have the ability to be incredibly thoughtless at times. I’m sure I’ve fallen into that category numerous times.

  4. My son tends towards looking more Korean and my daughter a clear western/oriental mix. Random people on the street are always complimenting my daughter and asking to take a photo with her (god knows why) and although we don’t let them she gets embarrassed/annoyed by it. Moreover, I feel our son feels a little left out by the lack of attention to him.

  5. I’m sure random strangers will always make comments, but hopefully your family will be able to reign themselves in and treat your child the same as your nephews(and nieces?).

  6. I’m really curious whether the same misgivings, coming from a Korean, would be received more as intended? As in, I have to wonder how much of the interpretation comes from seeing the comment as a Westerner worried about his or her kid’s status in Korea, versus a Korean parent worrying their kid might get a swelled head or something.

    Then again, it may be that the whole conscious psychologizing of kids is something that hasn’t exploded here to the same degree yet. It would certainly explain some of the parenting methods I’ve seen here… which are methods I’d be happy to use virtual lifeforms in the Game of Life provided they will be deleted from existence in a few hours, but which I’d never consider using on a living person who may be impacted long term by my, er, choices in terms of guiding and upbringing.

    As for complexes… everyone has them. I would see it as sort of inevitable for a half-and-half kid to have some, but at the same time, the parents can at least do something to give the weirdness context and, you know, qualify the experiences. The kid having experiences in places or circles where the average person isn’t so weirdly hung-up about race (or at least about his race) might help?

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