I Am Scary

In another life, I sometimes saw babies while standing in line at the supermarket check-out, or maybe in a restaurant or a bank.  I smiled at these babies, and the babies smiled back.

Then, I came to Japan.  For the first time ever, the babies did not smile back.  Instead, they were more apt to crumple their faces in horror or to cry.  I’m pretty much used to it by now, after twenty years in Japan.  There are two babies at my daughter’s school – siblings of students.  At the last post-open class parent-teacher meeting, a mother and baby were sitting next to me.  All I did was look at the baby, and the baby started crying.  I wasn’t even trying to engage the baby in any way.  Typical.

My own children have been exposed to a variety of faces since birth – white, Asian, and occasionally black.  Never once did they burst into tears upon seeing a foreigner.  Multiculturalism, it seems, begins at birth.


8 thoughts on “I Am Scary

  1. Yes! Me too! I think it’s my blue eye that really freak them out. Blue-eyed dogs give me the chills, and I think I have the same effect on Korean babies.

  2. oh no! well, the more you’re around, the more they’ll get accustomed to you. i love baby strangers, and they usally respond well to me. that’s gotta hurt.

  3. Haha- Japanese babies freak out when they see me also! Especially on trains if I glance at them they usually freak!

    Just letting you know it isn`t just you!!! Hope the babies get used to your “foreign” face!

  4. Happens to me too. And don’t forget the older kids who just stand there staring at you with their mouths hanging open catching flies. Does amazing things for the ego, doesn’t it? Now I just ignore all kids except my own.

  5. Just wait until you’re good and middle-aged. You’ll start doing it on purpose just to make them cry. There was a little girl who was splayed out on the floor at the mall, refusing to come to her mother. I put myself between her and her mom and grinned at her, and she hauled off at lightening speed for her mama. “Don’t thank me,” I wanted to say, “It’s all in a day’s work.”

  6. I can always get kids to smile at me even here in this horribly racist country where the little asian babies don’t recognize round eyes and are oh so scared of foreigners.
    I guess I just have a friendly face.

  7. Living in the Midwest suburbs, I fear that my kids won’t get enough multicultural exposure. I grew up in L.A. and San Francisco, and I’ve also lived in Miami, Boston, and Chicago. At least there is some diversity in the cities.

    My husband and I considered moving to a foreign country off and on throughout the past few years. We researched our options, but it’s difficult to find a way for an American to move overseas with employment as a realistic option. We still haven’t ruled out the possibility, and would love to have our daugthers experience other cultures and languages first-hand if the right opportunity becomes feasible.

    In the mean time, we travel to cities in the U.S. and occassionally internationally as time and finances allow. We also check out books and movies that feature multicultural characters, buy multicultural dolls for them to play with, and set up as many playdates as possible with the few multicultural families near us. Fortunately, with international adoption and mixed marriages becoming more common, it’s getting a little easier as time goes on.

  8. I grew up in the Midwest in a 99.9% white town, and now look at me!

    My next book is about mothering across cultures, by the way – Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt MacKenzie Publishing, May 2009). Perhaps it’ll give you some more ideas on how to bring up your kids multiculturally, but it sounds like you have the right idea already, Lisa.

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