Sunday, October 31, 2010

Taking off my shoes in the house

Like most Australians I have always worn my footwear in the house.

As a young boy the only time there was an issue with footwear in the house was when there was mud on my shoes.

When I initially met my future wife, as a matter of courtesy and respect I would always take my shoes off before entering her unit.

I did this as a show of respect for her property, her unit, her home. It did not occur to me at the time that if I was to marry this woman at some point, that I would be forgoing my home life sensibilities for hers.

But so it was.

No compromise, no meeting in the middle, no delicate mix between of east and west.

Basically I live my home life as if I was raised in a Chinese family.

This expectation laso extends to the TV set. In fact watching TV for anything other than the new is  big no-no. The house is almost always quiet, with some activity going on that requires silence, or so I am told.

Anytime I watch sport on TV, I am quickly reminded that I am being lazy. No ifs or buts.

What is not appreciated by my wife is that many Australians keep the TV on at all times, simply as background noise that will take our attention from time to time, but we still get all our work done.

Completely different approach to home life, and one that I simply didn’t expect when I entered into a cross-cultural relationship.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Racism or just Parental Anxiety

We recently went away for a long weekend.

It was me, my wife and our son. My mother-in-law went to stay with her son for a week.

We travelled up north and had a really great time. We drove up the coast casually, taking our time and seeing the sights.

We finally got to the Gold Coast in Queensland, and this part of the trip was our son's favourite.

He got to go to Movie World, Sea World and Wet and Wild Water World.

All was going remarkably well. My wife and I were in a great mood, and really attentive to each other. Our focus however was on our child, and we both marveled at the joy of simply being parents, and spending quality time with our one and only child.

Well, all was great but for one incident, that for some reason made a huge impact on me emotionally, but did not register at all with my wife.

Whilst we were at Wet and Wild Water World, there was a section where most of the young kids and parents would congregate, which involved a huge water feature with a large pirate bucket that would fill up with water, and periodically dump the water on all the young kids below.

It was quite contagious hearing the laughter and enjoyment of all the young kids running around and screaming everytime they would get wet.

It was especially wonderful watching my young boy, who is typically quite shy, run around with free abandon, completely enjoying himself and engaging with other children of his age.

Well at this point a large blow-up ball entered the scene, and along with the water features, the children started kicking this ball around.

At one point the ball landed near my son, and he prepared to kick it, jokingly going back and forth as if he were about to kick the ball, but pulling back at the last minute.

Everyone present found this quite amusing, especially my wife and I. We were also really proud of our son for showing the confidence to play-act as he was, in front of what was effectively a group of strangers.

Well, everyone was laughing at our boy's antics but for one other child, another boy roughly the same age as our boy, about 8 years old.

He impatiently began calling out to my son to kick the ball.

What stunned me was the language he used.

The boy, as if to taunt my son, began calling out:

"Hey China, kick the ball! Kick the ball Chopsticks!"

He repeated this taunt one more time, before my son finally kicked the ball.

My son completely ignored the comment. It simply didn't register with my son. I am not sure if this was because my son didn't hear what was said or how it was said, or if my boy simply selected to ignore it.

My wife on the other hand heard what was said, but did not even look at me to signal concern.

It left me wondering whether my reaction was an over-reaction.

But what I felt was remarkably strong and overwhelming. I even felt completely, as embarrassed as I am to say this now, to approach the boy, a young 8 year old boy, and abuse him for talking that way to my son.

Luckily I held my composure, but expressed my feelings to my wife soon after.

She said she did not consider it racism, it was just a silly comment from a young child.

maybe she was right. Maybe the fact that I am a fair-skinned European has somehow mis-calibrated my sense of what constitutes racism, and what may simply be a simple reckless comment.

I guess as parent I am programmed to be over-protective of my son, but incidents like this leave me feeling anxious about the next time that this happens, and if it is a more serious incident.

I want to be there to always protect my son, but of course that is unrealistic.

It is one of the burdens of having a racially mixed child I guess.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Re-writing history

I have been very confused lately.

I don't know if somehow things have settled down and life goes on as normal, or whether I am simply fooling myself.

My state of mind is earily similar to a friend of mine who a few years ago separated from his wife.

His wife was Russian, and they did not go through the typical courtship process.

My friend had previously got an Australian woman pregnant, and only because of his persistance and use of very expensive lawyers did he finally manage to get a shared parenting arrangement, whereby his daughter lived with him for 5 days a fortnight.

So after a very distressing ordeal, which involved the full complement of anti-father agencies in this country, he managed against the odds to get a very positive arrangement for him and his young daughter.

So perhaps you could imagine the absolute shock of all his friends when we found out that without much thought as to the eventual consequences, he popped over the Russia and somehow managed to commit himself to a woman that he hardly knew.

Given what he had already gone through with an Australian woman, we all wondered what in heavens he was thinking doing it all over again, but this time with a foreigner from an ex-communist state.

Well, true to form, within three years of arriving to Australia, she kicked him out of his own house, she wouldn't let him see his two kids, and she launched legal proceedings against him.

He was shattered, but more than that he was very very angry.

For about 6 months I heard a man completely committed to getting full custody of his kids, kicking his wife (and her new boyfriend) out of his house, and then moving on with his life.

In his eyes she had betrayed him in the most malicious manner, and nothing could undo the damage that was done to this relationship. Absolutely nothing!

She had kicked him out of his own home.

She had made false allegations of domestic violence against him.

She had removed $240,000 from his bank account (not sure how she managed that one).

She had refused to let him see his kids;

and "a new man" moved into the house.

Pretty serious stuff, and quite unequivocal.

Well, 6 months later he called me up one day to tell me that he and his wife had reconciled.

There was a very long and strained pause on the phone at that moment, as this was the last thing I expected from him.

He then proceeded to rationalise, and in a way to re-write history.

He told me that his wife really didn't have a boyfriend, he was just a Russian friend that moved in for companionship.

He told me that his wife really didn't want to make allegations of domestic violence against him, but she was strong-armed into it by the women's legal service she was using.

He went on and on, revising everything that had occured, somehow making it all out to be a simple misunderstanding.

"And what happenned to the $240,000?" I asked.

He said that in anger his wife sent it to her family in Russia, and they spend it.

"It's only money" he then added, in a defeated tone.

At the end of the conversation, he realised that I simply wasn't buying it, and I guess at one level neither was he.

So he ended by saying:

"You know, I just don't have the balls for this. Separation is a lot harder than I thought. If it means that I simply will have to give her what she wants to avoid more problems, then I am preparaed to do this."

I was shocked and disappointed. I had previously looked up to this guy. He was a ball-beaking business man, he was ultra-competitive at everything he did, and he drew a line in the sand with his child custody matter, and stuck to it no matter how difficult it may have been.

Here he was now however, a broken man, essentially trying to deceive me, but more importantly himself, on the most crucial matter of his married life.

So here I am reflecting back on this friend of mine, who is incidently still married, but never calls me anymore.

I am wondering whether I too am somehow revising circumstances.

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?