D.V. asks from Milpitas, CA on March 09, 2010
Step Son Having Issues with His Heritage!
Hello Mamas, I have another one for you..
I have a Step son Anthony who is 7 years old, he is Italian/ Mexican (from his Mom) and Vietnamese/white (from my Husband). My Husband doesn't know his father or his nationality so he really just says he is Vietnamese. My MIL came to America while she was pregnant with my husband so they are very traditional. Anthony's Mom is not traditional at all and is very open minded, and lets him do things my MIL and I don't agree with. This is why my in laws and Anthony’s Mom don't get along. I've been able to stay clear of the arguments and have a good relationship with both parties.
Anthony had a incident with a Uncle of my husband that put Anthony’s Mom over the edge. She refuses to let Anthony be around the family with out my husband around. Which I completely understand because I would be the same way. Anthony's Mom doesn't like my in laws, they are too rooted in Vietnamese customs for her liking. She continues to say how "weird" and "odd" Vietnamese people are (meaning my in laws). She says this in front of Anthony.
He has never had an issue with his nationality (since we don't really play into the nationality thing, we don't make it a big deal). But recently, he has made it known he doesn't want to be Vietnamese. He says he is Mexican and Italian only. It wasn’t a big deal until recently when he has started to say he "hopes he doesn't look Vietnamese" or he "doesn't like Vietnamese people." We thought it was a faze but now its starting to hurt my husbands feeling that he is not proud like my husband is. I think it may change as he gets older.
We don't push his nationality on him at all, but on the other hand we want him to be proud of what he is and know some of what his family is. My husband speaks Vietnamese and we are teaching my baby son Vietnamese and Spanish. My husband tries to teach Anthony but he says he doesn't want to know and says he wants to learn Italian and Spanish. I know it may be because of what he hears his Mom say but how can we change this negative out look. My in laws and extended family on my husbands side are so in love with Anthony, and his great personality. He is gorgeous and to his dismay he looks white and Vietnamese. He has beautiful green eyes (he gets from his Italian Grandfather) and beautiful shaped almond eyes he gets from his Vietnamese heritage. He is constantly complimented on his looks, and maybe it would be a good thing to tell him he is gorgeous but its because he is so diverse, meaning his nationality.
How can we do with out making it seem like heritage/nationality is the most important thing to look at? My MIL would be crushed if she heard the things he says and it really hurts my husband as well. They are very proud of being Vietnamese and want their kids to be as well. Should we send Anthony to Vietnamese classes to learn to write and speak Vietnamese? Should we let this go, and hope it passes or is it something to be concerned with? I don’t know what else to do so Anthony see’s he has a great family all around. He is lucky he is so many different nationalities and can learn from all of them. Any suggestions or has anyone been in this situation?
1 mom found this helpful
M.M. answers from Jacksonville on March 09, 2010
When he says these very hurtful things he needs to know that they are hurtful. All he is doing right now is repeating his mother. But in a few years if she continues he will start ot believe these terrible lies.
Be very direct and tell him that those are unfriendly words and not to be used around here.
Expose him to the family and their heritage. Find out about someone famous from Vietnam, like a scientist or astronaut.
This makes me so mad. Bigotry is learned.
3 moms found this helpful
A.B. answers from New York on March 10, 2010
I agree 100% with Silvia. My son is mixed genetically but he is first and foremost AMERICAN. He knows what mixes he has but when anyone asks him he say AMERICAN. And that's what we all are in this melting pot we call our home. To be sensitive I'd say to Anthony I know you aren't thrilled with having some Viatnamese genes but your dad is proud as well as your grandparents so please keep your opinions to yourself. I would also talk to Anthony's mom and express your concern that she is feeding her kid negative information. She sounds like she is the bitter first wife to me, my opinion. When my father migrated here from Italy he couldn't wait to be a citizen and when he got his American Passport he was so proud to travel back home and be an American visitor. Obviously some gene mixes are o physically noticeable so Anthony will always be identified by people as Asian decent and he will have to live with it. As a side bar, I think and I am truly biased, but, mixed children are the most beautiful kids ever and Anthony sounds gorgeous he'll appreciate his exoctic looks when he gets older.
2 moms found this helpful
T.C. answers from Albuquerque on March 09, 2010
I hope your husband is teaching his son the same thing we *all* should be teaching our children: that *no person* should be judged by how they look, but by how they *behave* and how they treat others.
It sounds like he's having some low self-esteem: would your husband be able to help him get started volunteering in your community? This way: your son can see that *every* person has value, and that he (your step-son) can make a difference in other people's lives, no matter what his heritage is.
Or find an activity he is good at, and any time he brings up how he *looks,* you bring up what he *does* instead.
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S. answers from Spartanburg on March 10, 2010
Hey, i won't even go into how ignorant are the people who bash nationalities/ethnicities because we all agree in that respect. But, being myself a 100% one-nationality person (born and raised in my beloved Italy) who has lived in the US for some years I think I can give you my insight about your situation. See, what I found while living in your country is that almost all Americans have different nationalities mixed up in them. My own son is a mix because his father is american (three different nationlities, two different ethicities). What i find interesting is that you people are NOT mexican, german, french, japanese or whatever it is mixed up in your genes, you are AMERICAN. It is wrong to think that Anthony is Italian or Mexican or Vietnamese. It's the CULTURE that makes the person, not his genes. When I was in the US I met many italian-americans because, being italian with an accent, everybody would ask where I was from and so I found there are many, many americans of italian heritage. When asked:"where are you from?" I would answer"I'm Italian" and what blew me away is that they would give the same answer! But see, even though they had some Italian genes in them (maybe a grandparent, some of them couldn't even tell me!) THEY WERE NOT Italians at all. They did not speak the language, they did not have the set of values, the religion, the manners, the taste (bad or good I am not judging here) and very often the look of us Italians. So what I am trying to say here is that trying to adhere to either one of his nationalities/ethnicities is POINTLESS for Anthony because he is essentially AMERICAN. It doesn't mean of course that he can't embrace traditions, habits, foods etc..that come from all of these countries he is supposed to come from, but YOU first need to be aware that this is just what makes him (and his father) American. Gosh, you are such a proud Nation, why are you constantly trying to be "something else"? There's nobody that represents better America than Anthony. And in my opinion you should just stop to give importance to something that is going to fade when he grows up anyways. He will be one of the many interesting Americans that you meet everyday (heritage wise) and so HE IS NO DIFFERENT than them. Hope you did not mind my take.
1 mom found this helpful
C.M. answers from Grand Rapids on March 09, 2010
I would start by telling Anthony that he is hurting is Dad's feeling by the things he is saying,that might get him to stop. He should be proud of all his nationalities he has in him,maybe explain it to him that way if you haven't already.
I am adopted and found my birth mom in 2000. Up until that time I thought I was German-French. Well I found out that I am German-Jew,so I was totally blown away. I was raised Catholic as was my birth mom and adopted through a Catholic agency. I am not a religious person at all.Being Catholic and Jewish is just fine with me. I tell people I am the nationality not the religion.
C. aka Mary Ellen
I tell people I am human and that is all that matters.
S.H. answers from Honolulu on March 09, 2010
Here in the State I live in, there are many mixed cultures and kids.
But it is the norm, so there is not as much conflict about it, as you are experiencing and Anthony.
Sure it can be a phase... but at the same time, it is about family cohesiveness... and being respectful among all those other things.
Anthony's biological Mom, is really HARMING his self-identity. It is racist. You did not say what Anthony's Uncle did.... was it a cultural misunderstanding? Or a plain outright wrongness? Keep in mind, that there are cultural differences, and if that family is traditional in that.
Next, your Husband is going to be hurt by Anthony's shunning of his heritage and culture. And, by his Ex-wife's racist view of it all. Her saying that the Vietnamese side is "weird" and "odd" is REALLY ALREADY harming Anthony's sense of identity. It really is sad.
Anthony's Dad, has to be an active part of correcting it, with his Ex, if possible. It really is teaching Anthony to hate himself... and he can't just change how he looks, nor who he is.
Yes, joining cultural groups can be very positive... because it will show Anthony and all of you (you/hubby), that there are many good people there and you could make some very good friends there, Anthony included. My family ourselves, joined a cultural group (my kids are mixed cultures) and we met MANY great positive fun people there who are now our friends. And, our kids go to learn about ALL cultures, and to feel happy about it.
Anthony, although young, is experiencing real harsh realities about racism and prejudice. Truly not good for his self-esteem. He should not be "taught" that his Vietnamese family is "weird" or not normal... but rather, he can be taught how loving they are and all about fun stuff about his culture. All this cultures.
And yes, his rejection of his Vietnamese side, is DIRECTLY a result of his Mom's bad-mouthing, and how things were handled per that situation with his Vietnamese Uncle. If it was a cultural difference, then Uncle as well has to be explained to, about what is allowed/not allowed, with Anthony. That is what any parent would do.
AND, your Husband is the Dad... HE has to be respected too, about his parenting and wishes for teaching his kids his language and culture. If not... NO ONE will respect "Dad" and this will create a bad "image" for that culture. Do you know what I mean?
All the best,
L.F. answers from Chicago on March 09, 2010
It makes me so sad to read this. Growing up in the 70's, my siblings and I were the only Chinese kids at an almost all white school. I was so embarrassed to be different from everyone else, and the attitude of a lot of people towards Asians after the Vietnam War didn't help. I completely rejected my heritage, and my parents never pushed it on me. They did, however, make me go to Chinese school, and they spoke mostly Chinese to me at home.
I didn't embrace my heritage until I started college when it was "in" to be "different". I am now so thankful that my parents taught me how to speak Chinese and exposed me to my culture by the foods they ate, celebrations they had us attend, and friendships they made with other Chinese people.
I must say that I when I was a kid, I was envious of the children of my parents' Chinese friends. They were much wealthier than we were, so they attended schools where there were more Asians in attendance. They didn't seem to be ashamed of there heritage.
If my parents were hurt by the fact that we kids refused to speak Chinese with them or wanted nothing to do with the culture, they never showed it. I think your husband would do well to hide any hurt feelings that he has too, because it could turn into a power play between him and his son. I wouldn't be surprised if he is getting fed this negative attitude by his friends at school in addition to his mother's family. Are there other Vietnamese kids at his school? Or does he have cousins that are part Vietnamese? He will relate more closely to another kid who is 1/4 Vietnamese and is a good role model.
My advice to you is to keep doing what you're doing. Have your husband and his mother continue to speak Vietnamese to your son and stepson. Your stepson will probably only answer back in English, but he will be picking up on the language anyway. He will learn a lot about the culture through the language too. Let him know that it is disrespectful to say that he doesn't like a certain ethnicity -- any ethnicity. He wouldn't say the same thing about Mexican people, so he shouldn't say it about Vietnamese people either.
I wouldn't bother talking to your stepson's mother's family. They sound like a bunch of idiots. Obviously, some of this heritage conflict stems from the divorce. I'd just let it go as much as possible and let your stepson grow out of it on his own. The more you push the issue, the more he and his mother will probably use it for their own personal drama.
Good luck to you! Sounds like you're doing a good job navigating life with a blended family!