Last week we started to introduce young Dylan to the outside world, which was a big event, considering Dylan had not yet left the safe confines of our apartment. Our first trip out was to Wal-Mart to buy a stroller. I carried him in my arms there, and then we dismantled the stroller in the lot outside and put him in it right away. It was, as we were proudly pushing our baby son (who has just started smiling and cooing, by the way) down the road on the way back home, that we first experienced the “hun xue” phenomenon — our son, being “mixed” is apparently irresistable. Yes, with a baby in tow, we now attract even more stares than before, sometimes even double-takes, “hellos” directed, for once, not at me but at Dylan, murmurs of “how pretty” and “he’s so white” and “how well behaved” come from those who pass us by. Since I am, as Dylan’s mother, entirely in agreement that he’s pretty and well behaved (and I gotta say, he’s pretty white too), these comments don’t bug me as much as they should, in theory.
Dylan’s second trip outside the walls of our apartment was, however, an even bigger occasion. My business partner, Rui, the Chinese woman who runs the school with me, gave birth to her very own son last Monday, and Dylan, Wang Yao and I decided to pay her a visit in the hospital. Rui had given birth via c-section, I suspect because she was extremely frightened of the prospect of labor (this suspicion is based on Rui telling me, when she came to visit me in the hospital, that she wanted a c-section because she was afraid of labor), and when we visited, she was still confined to the bed and didn’t look too comfortable (this is where I should mention that I warned her that, although labor hurts, at least it’s over and done with relatively quickly, whereas a c-section takes weeks to recover from. But Rui didn’t listen). Her baby, a tiny little guy, was sleeping in the bassinet next to her, and didn’t make a peep the entire time we were there. This gave my baby Dylan ample opportunity to steal the show!
And steal the show he certainly did. Rui’s mother, sister, and niece (who is also my student) were all at the hospital when we showed up, and all of them proceeded to make a huge fuss over Dylan. ” Look how beautiful he is! See how white he is! Notice how well behaved and happy he is! And so big too!” They all took turns holding him. And feeding him. They even insisted that I change his diaper then and there. They also made a fuss over Wang Yao and I, how amazing it was that we’d managed to raise such a healthy boy with no help from relatives, no parents to tell us what to do, no one to cook and clean and otherwise keep us in check. We’d managed to do the impossible, keep our son alive, thriving nonetheless, all on our own! Dylan rewarded their adoration by being impossibly cute, not even threatening to cry once, and even smiling and cooing for Rui’s mom when she picked him up.
I felt a bit sorry for Rui and her little boy, who was supposed to be the focus of our visit. Since Rui was confined to the bed, she couldn’t even join in on the fun, and had to just lie there, smiling and commenting good naturedly every once in awhile. The thing is, Chinese people are enamored with “mixed” children. Even before Dylan was born, I was constantly told how handsome and smart he’d no doubt be. While it is too early to say anything about his intelligence, Dylan is definitely cute, and he looks like a good combination of both of us, which, of course, gets people talking about which features are Chinese, and which are “foreign.” He has the much-coveted single-lidded eyes, as every single Chinese person who has met him has been delighted to point out. It is clear that our baby is not like other babies. He’s a hun xue, a mixed breed, a the fascinating result of the unusual match of an American woman and a Chinese man.
However, as Dylan’s mom, I would think he was beautiful, cute, smart, and well-behaved no matter whether he was mixed or not. And while all the adoration is fine now for a newborn with no concept of what’s going on around him, I wonder, and worry a bit, what it will be like when he’s a seven year old rather than a seven week old, and all the extra attention starts to get a bit old. How will he react to being the center of attention, will he receive special treatment at school, will moms push their kids to make friends with him to practice their English, and how will I teach him to deal with this, as his foreign mother?
Luckily, it will be quite a few years before will actually realize the motivation behind all this extra attention that he gets. For now, he is happy to enjoy the extra cuddles and smiles from strangers, and more than glad to give them a smile of his own, and perhaps a coo or two in return.