Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Year of the Tiger (Mom?)

Chinese New Year just kicked off today, and it’s now the Year of the Tiger. Which has gotten me thinking a lot about what kind of Asian mom I want to be, as we are all too familiar with that stereotypical Tiger Mom. Ainsley is half Chinese, and she is definitely being exposed to all our traditions, the red dresses, and THE FOOD. She loves the food! Potstickers, shu mai, dumplings, and jook. Yes, please!

Fun fact—most know that I was born and raised here in the USA, but did you also know that I was in ESL in kindergarten? Yep, that’s English as a Second Language. I grew up speaking my parent’s dialect (Toisan) and I even remember at one of my first dentist appointments, we had a Chinese dentist who spoke English to my older sister, and spoke Chinese to me…they thought I couldn’t speak English but I honestly was just really shy. Stranger danger!

Yes, another fun fact—I was once shy! HA!

Once we started kindergarten, my dad wanted us to only speak English at home. Soon enough, my ability to speak Chinese went away, although I can still understand my parents talking to each other. I even tried to take Cantonese and Mandarin classes at various times in my life, and it was really hard. I remember thinking when I first joined teamTBB that I would learn to speak Chinese again for that moment I knew I would get interviewed in front of the Chinese media. And OMG of course that actually happened, but of course I was too braindead from all the Ironman training to re-learn a language. At the very least during the Ironman China press conference, I knew how to say “My Chinese is not good” in Chinese to get a few chuckles. But UGH I had to have a translator just like all the white pro triathletes. Not my finest moment, but the media still loved me.

Ironman China 2010 media frenzy!

They almost got my actual Chinese name right!

Even though we now live in a predominantly white area, we actually have a public elementary school with a Chinese immersion program just 2 miles away. I would love for my girl to be bilingual!

New Year gift: “Bao Bao Learns Chinese”
This book sings Mandarin songs!

I’ve also been impressed with the recent (and long overdue) increase in Asian-American representation in the media. Crazy Rich Asians in 2018 definitely kicked that off, and I know I was not the only one who felt so seen. Only 10 years prior, I was Rachel Chu, if Rachel Chu was a Chinese-American triathlete who traveled to Singapore to follow her pro triathlon dreams, and felt stuck between the two worlds—never quite Chinese enough in Asia, and never quite American enough in the USA. 

With The Bike Boutique crew in Singapore
(the TBB in teamTBB)

I’m excited that Ainsley will not just have the original animated Mulan that came out when I was in high school, but there’s been Abominable, Over the Moon, and Raya and the Last Dragon very recently.

Raya and the Last Dragon

drinking boba in Over the Moon


This year, American Girl finally came out with a Chinese-American girl doll (for $110!) and Barbie just released a super fancy and gorgeous Chinese New Year doll ($75!).

Not sure Chinese parents would approve
of these teal highlights, Corinne Tan!

A Barbie with Chinese eyes!
I would’ve loved this as a kid!

Of course, I’m enough of a Chinese mom to realize I wasn’t going to spend $75 to $110 (“don’t waste money!”) on a doll for little Ainsley and was able to locate a much more affordable baby Mulan doll. She was thrilled! I remember having a blonde Skipper doll (before Skipper got upgraded with boobs) and relating to her because she had a flat chest and was the little sister to Barbie. But I think I would’ve LOVED to have a Chinese Skipper doll!

This was a bit rambly and all over the place, but in conclusion, representation matters and having Ainsley embrace her Chinese side very much matters to me.

Gong Hei Fat Choy everyone! Hope you get rich!

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