- Holiday bonus episode part 1 – Figuring out the Santa Policy
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Kate: Welcome to model minority moms, where we talk about the complicated meaning of success in career, family and life.
Kate: I’m Kate Wong,
Susan: Jeanette park, and Susan.
Kate: Harvard classmates and Asian-American working moms to Little’s who get real about the pressures of fitting in while standing out.
Susan: Hi, and welcome back to model minority moms. We’ve got some holiday bonus episodes where we talk about things. We want to talk about for the holidays to make it a little bit easier today, we are going to be talking about something I stress out about, which is imaginary people. Is my kid gonna know who Santa clauses are we playing into the myth?
Susan: Is it elf on the shelf? Should I have an Asian Santa? Is Rudolf just an outcast and what can we teach our kids about it? I want to talk to you all about your plan for imaginary people, because I am not sure what to do. Um, let’s just [00:01:00] get it clear. The air Santa is big in terms of imagery, all the kids, you know, like, are we doing presence?
Susan: Like for me, I’m not Christian. You two are Christian. Like, are you too, do you do the believe in Santa thing or no?
Jeanette: Um, so for us, no, we’ve like already told Isaiah that Sam is imaginary.
Susan: Wait, wait. Schedule a time with them. Do you send them a calendar invite? Like, was it like just during dinner casually?
Susan: Like, did he ask about Santa? Was there something to prompt this conversation?
Jeanette: Well, we, we, even before this, we’ve always talked about , what’s imaginary and what’s real. Sometimes it has to do with safety. So for example, he will read something in a book that says like, this boy can’t fly and I’m kind of like, you know, that’s imaginary, right.
Jeanette: That’s pretend, you know, we can fly if we’re on an airplane, but like, you know, if you really jump off from a high place, then you know, you won’t fly, you’ll get hurt. Um, and so he knows like, you know, it’s kind of [00:02:00] this ongoing thread, like what’s real, what’s imaginary. And so when Christmas started rolling around.
Jeanette: We’ve had several very short conversations about this. And I, I, I would say that that’s a good way to go, right? Like just doing bite-size chunks, multiple times, rather than one long thing that they’re not going to really be able to absorb. But I think one of the conversations might’ve gone, like we were talking about Christmas gifts that he was going to receive from us, and he was really excited about Christmas gifts.
Jeanette: So I said, okay, maybe let’s make a list. Um, and you get X number. Right. And this is my way of trying to give him great gifts, but also introduce some constraints. And he’s like, oh yeah, well, I get these gifts. And then Santa will give, get me more gifts. And I said, oh, well, Santa is imaginary Santa doesn’t actually bring you gifts.
Jeanette: Mommy and daddy get you gifts right. So Santa is something that’s fun. We can talk about that’s part of Christmas, but he’s not real.
Susan: But then do you say, don’t tell this to your classmates at school. [00:03:00] So you could be the person that ruins Christmas for other families.
Jeanette: I don’t see it that way. Why is it ruining Christmas?
Susan: Well, because maybe you didn’t have like a, you know, a meetup with all the other families would be like, what are you doing? What are you guys doing? I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know how adult parents, you know, how people do this. What about you?
Kate: Actually, this is really important because, you know, we took Raya to the mall where at right after they put up the Christmas decorations, you don’t have to Thanksgiving.
Kate: And there’s like Rudolph flying on the ceiling, whatever. And then she got really into Rudolph and now she, everyday she says Lulu a little bit, which means deer right, for Rudolph. So I asked Nirav I was like, Hey, I mean, she’s a little young right now. You know, cause she’s 21 months, um, for Santa Claus but, what’s our policy.
Kate: Cause I was like, Susan mentioned it recently. I mean, I was like, I hadn’t even thought about it cause I was like, I don’t know. But now it’s like real right. Cause it’s so pervasive in America. I know. So, so I’m kind of a [00:04:00] Grinch. Like I’m not really like into holidays that much, you know, like I barely a half, we decorate our house and it’s only cause my mom’s like forcing ugly decorations on us.
Kate: Um, and so I was just like, eh, I mean, I don’t really care. Like I don’t, you know, and his parents don’t celebrate Christmas cause they’re Jain but then his point was, which is very interesting. Cause you know, Nirav he’s like a very utilitarian kind of person in many ways, like very practical. He was like, well I feel like our Santa policy is you should follow, uh, what our friends.
Kate: Who also have kids her age are doing. And I was like, why? And so then he said, Susan, that was the reason like socially, he like, you know, it’d be awkward if Raya didn’t believe in Santa Claus, but like all her friends. And I was like, oh, I mean, I was like, I guess I hadn’t thought about that. Like that whole dynamic.
Kate: Right. So he’s a very practical, he doesn’t care about Santa Claus per se. It’s more like, okay, well, if all her friends are going to believe in Santa Claus and we might as well just like do it,
Kate: you know?
Susan: I mean, what are we [00:05:00] believing in that someone’s always watching you. And so, because someone’s watching you, you should always be doing something good.
Susan: I mean, it’s just weird. Isn’t it weird? It is.
Kate: mean, I only half assedly believed in Santa Claus and tooth fairy when I was a kid and I actually knew my parents were giving me stuff. Right. But like I played into it because I figured, well, that’s, what’s going to get my immigrant parents to give me gifts.
Kate: Like, that’s fine. You know, I never really believed in Santa Claus
Susan: can I, can I tell you, Marvin and my husband, my cat robot husband, he’s so stoic. He’s so serious, but you know what we did last year, even though art was like, I don’t know, four, five months old. He, he, he, he put on his rock climbing harness with all of his, um, carabiners on it to go rock climbing.
Susan: But when you shake it up and down, it actually sounds like bells. And so you walked around the house kind of doing it. And I was just kinda like, you’re such an [00:06:00] outdoor nerd, bro. Who’s like sentimentally into the holidays and like, I bet you we’re going to do it again. You know, like I think there’s something around the ritual of like in December we wear the sweaters, we do the cookies, we get a treat.
Susan: Like there’s something about like, knowing like that there’s some form of tradition. Yeah, that is happening. That is fun for the adults, you know, it’s like marking the passage of time. Yeah. And in that sense, like, that’s really interesting to me, but like on a, on like a racial social justice level, I’m like, wait a minute.
Susan: Santa is white, you know? And like, so I made a point like to schedule an appointment to go to the Wing Luke museum, one of the nation’s all Asian-American museum and we’re going to go see Asian Santa on Saturday. Nice. And I, I have seen photos of this Asian Santa, and he looks very young,
Susan: but [00:07:00] just kind of like, I was like, can we get more matchy to the idea that he’s like a grandfather figure, but I was like, let’s just do it for the hell of it. Let’s just, let’s just play with it, you know, but I’m also kind of like, what am I doing?
Jeanette: Yeah, I have to say, when you send me the link for the Asian Santa, I was like, this is a really involved conversation, but I mean like why, okay.
Jeanette: First of all, I’m not even telling my kids, Santa is real. Right. So, but then there’s also just the question of , why do we need an Asian Santa? it’s kind of it, I guess one way to see it is like, it’s, it’s actually, it’s like, , it feels like we need to become white.
Jeanette: Why do we need an Asian Santa?
Susan: Because all the Santas are white yeah,
Kate: but that’s a cultural thing is today.
Jeanette: Yeah. So it’s kind of like the equivalent to me of making a bulgogi sandwich for for me to eat myself,
Susan: like terrible.
Jeanette: It’s [00:08:00] like, I need to eat a sandwich.
Jeanette: So like, I’m going to make an Asian version of it right? Maybe that’s maybe A bad analogy.
Susan: No, I think I now feel the pain. You say bulgogi sandwich. It’s like, when I see like a Asian fusion restaurant or like really well, white person restaurant putting Banh Mi ingredients, but it’s like, but Korean things in like a non sandwich situation, I was like, what are you doing?
Susan: Like stop it. I don’t know. I, I think like, okay, Santa is this dude that has unlimited amount of gifts and it can fly around the world super fast. And one night, like he’s kind of a superhero, like why can’t that superhero also be Asian?
Jeanette: Yeah. So I’m totally open to playing around with the idea. Right.
Susan: So, so I know you had to schedule a slot.
Jeanette: I didn’t schedule a slot. And I guess my other comment is that we could still have tradition without imaginary things. Right? We still get a tree. Like we still do gifts you know, we were, I think [00:09:00] we’ll have, we’ll build more traditions. We did cookies last year.
Jeanette: We’ll do cookies again this year, but well, like Kate, I just never really believed. I never believed in Santa growing up. Um, and Jake, I think his parents tried to tell him about Santa Claus, but then he told me one day when he was four or five, he came out of his room, super angry at his parents for telling him about that.
Jeanette: Like Santa Claus was real because he reasoned in his bed that like he puts possibly cannot be real. And, um, he was like really mad at his parents about that. So he’s just like, no, we’re not going to tell our kids, like, you know, Jake has kind of. It’s like very much like a realist, even though he comes across, as this very like, you know, friendly guy who you think might believe in all these imaginary things.
Jeanette: But he acts
Susan: like he’s,
Jeanette: he’s like the opposite of a Grinchy kind of personality. Right. But, but he, he’s also just like, even more than me, we’re not going to tell our kids that imaginary things are real things, [00:10:00]
Susan: because then you’re kind of lying to them and then they’re like, well, what else are you lying about?
Susan: Yeah, I
Kate: remember that was a Janette. You gave that story of that guy. Yeah. Like, can you tell the story? They’ve got a estranged from his parents cause they, he, they made him believe in Santa Claus for, so,
Jeanette: yeah, so there was this, this American life episode that was like several years ago. Um, and it was about this family who kind of, it seemed like they kind of lived in like a semi-rural area and they had a big, a large wooded area behind their house and growing up, um, this family who had a few small children, um, they would do this, do these, like elaborate setups in this, in these woods, behind their house to make it look like Santa had come.
Jeanette: They would actually go out and rent reindeers and they would have like reindeers running around the woods or they would like, hi presence, like in the trees. Or they would like put a sleigh up in the trees and say like Santa got slate, got stranded.
Susan: You know, [00:11:00] um, do they have reindeer feet that they would walk around and see?
Susan: Yeah. And they would like make little tracks.
Jeanette: Oh my goodness. And I can’t like, maybe not all the examples are totally accurate, but it was kind of in that vein. And, um, and this thing went on, like even after the kids became teenagers, like the, the parents just continued this. And when the kids started saying like, oh, come on dad, you know, or come on mom, like, you know what, this is not really real.
Jeanette: Like, we know that you guys are doing it. Like they would just never
Jeanette: admit that they were
Jeanette: doing it. Like they would just keep on doing it and just kind of say like, well, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Like, you know, nobody did this honey. Like,
Jeanette: no, this just it’s just there. It’s just happens every year.
Jeanette: And, um,
Jeanette: They were interviewing one of their children. Who’s who, a guy, a son. And he was actually now estranged from his dad. And it was related to this, this feeling like his dad, like he couldn’t trust his dad or there was something broken about their relationship, because [00:12:00] it just felt like either his dad was living in a different reality where he actually thought the stuff was real, even though he was setting it up , or there was just something wrong or broken about their relationship.
Jeanette: So anyway, when we first started discussing this topic, I was thinking about that episode because it was like so odd,
Susan: so sad, you know, just like the parents got lost in them world building
Jeanette: yeah. Or something. , but yeah, anyway, our, our policy is just, , to say like, no, you know, Santa Claus, isn’t real.
Jeanette: And I guess it doesn’t really bother me too much that if they say.
Jeanette: To their friends at Santa clauses and real, um,
Susan: you think it will get them respect on the playground, like Lord of the flies, like, whoa, this, this kid is smart. He has inside information. Maybe it’ll have a move up in the totem pole of power.
Jeanette: I don’t really see it as like a power thing. And I also actually don’t see it on there.[00:13:00]
Jeanette: I actually don’t see it as like a social thing too. I mean, I think like what Nirav said was kind of interesting. I guess, the way that I see it as like, okay, this, isn’t going to be like the only thing that they’re different on right from their peers, right?
Jeanette: Like maybe some of their peers will believe in Santa Claus. Maybe some of their peers are Jewish and like they don’t celebrate Christmas at all, you know? And so, um, I just feel. I don’t know, maybe I am like too, um, open handed about it or laissez Faire about it, but I’m kind of like, this is like practice, this is learning to negotiate your differences with your peers and just like navigating that
Susan: dude so serious.
Susan: It’s like, okay, wait, but I’m I think maybe next year I’m gonna find it by, or maybe get used an elf on the shelf. Not because I want to play into this idea that someone’s always staring at you, but I love the idea of advent [00:14:00] calendars when you open it. And it’s another piece of chocolate today, or what is behind here?
Susan: You know, like I like this idea that every day there’s this element of anticipation or surprise or where the thing is somewhere else or there’s like cool notes or like, oh, it’s just like a thing of stickers. Like I think that would be super fun. And, but I don’t want it to like, have this. Someone’s always watching you.
Susan: So you need to be acting a certain way. Like, I think that’s creepy, but I think that there’s something around like go a hidden surprise, you know, like, I, I want to play into that,
Jeanette: but the Elf on the shelf and the advent calendar, or like unrelated. Right. Are they related
Susan: to, oh, oh, well, I just liked the idea of daily surprises or something to look forward to like, like I like anticipation.
Susan: I also love surprises. Marvin hates surprises. Um, okay. Okay. I think I feel a lot more comfortable. I, I I’m, I’m [00:15:00] gonna go get the Asian Santa photo on Saturday and I’ll tell you if it tastes like a bulgogi sandwich. How about that?
Jeanette: But I’ve already put that, like I’ve already incepted that image in your mind and it’s never going to be, you’re never going to be able to take it out.
Kate: No, I mean, I think the point here is like, you know, every family, I think what. What we’re all trying to get at is that for the holidays, whether it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving or something, and Thanksgiving, yo, another holiday, it’s just like, anyway. Uh, but, but it’s more, I think maybe more about establishing a sense of tradition of time passing kids, love rituals, you know, um, it doesn’t have to be Santa Claus, you know, I think it’s maybe less about is Santa Claus real and more about what do you, how do you as a family, you know, as new, especially if you have young kids or it’s your first Christmas or whatever, how do you start establishing like traditions in your own family that are cool to you guys?
Kate: You know, Santa can be involved or Santa can not be involved or you can celebrate all the [00:16:00] holidays at Kwanzaa, Hanukkah. What have you, um, and just make it meaningful, right? For your, for your family. I think the thing that, the reason why I call myself the Grinch’s, I think my, what I take umbrage with with like these commercial holidays is that.
Kate: Well, it’s one, they become so commercialized and too, I think people are just copying things blindly, right? Like you, don’t Nirav made a comment the other day at the mall, we were at the mall. He was like, oh yeah, but you like Christian people. It’s like, like Santa Claus is your thing. And I’m like, no, dude, Santa Claus is fucking pagan.
Kate: He’s not Christian has nothing to do with Christianity, but in his mind, cause he grew up in like, you know, white Midwestern, United States, like all the white Christian families are like doing all the Santa stuff. And so it’s been, become indelibly sort of like melded in his mind that Christians, white people do like Santa Claus stuff, you know?
Kate: And so I think we kind of, I don’t know. I think we can reclaim Christmas in our own way, whatever way we want with our family. Santa can be imaginary or real or whatever, [00:17:00] but you got to make it yours. Don’t copy some other, you know.
Susan: Yeah. Okay. And with that, I want to know what are your go-to Christmas movies?
Susan: Okay. What do you love to watch for me? I got to what three. I have to watch these every year. Maybe I even watched them when it’s not December, because I love it so much. Elf love will Ferrell in this movie. Um, love the actually and home alone. Classic. What about you? J K. Oh,
Kate: geez. I don’t know love actually, I guess like I kinda liked during the holidays,
Susan: so embarrassing to watch in front of your mother-in-law by the way.
Susan: I have not done that. Well, because one of the couple of vignettes they’re like porn. Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot about that. I watched in front of Mrs. Kim last year. I was so embarrassed. Okay. Wait movie.
Kate: Yeah. Just, I mean, I don’t know. I guess I don’t watch that many holiday movies cause I’m like the Grinch I [00:18:00] bridge.
Susan: Yeah. Sorry. How about you Jeanette?
Jeanette: Yeah, I think I’m more in Kate’s boat, but if I do watch something, then I like to watch from alone, you know? I feel like that was, what was always pink playing on TV around Christmas time growing up. So, um, that’s kind of like the movie that I most associate with Christmas time.
Jeanette: Um, I have a question for you guys, what are some holiday traditions you guys do or would like to do, or what are your thoughts around that? So it’s like, Marvin is going to put on all his carabiners and like Jake jingle
Susan: around the house. Yeah. Uh,
Kate: I’d probably do it from food. You know, like every I used to with my parents, um, I used to roast a duck,, every Christmas. ,
Susan: how do you get the skin? Oh, you have
Kate: to like, um, air-dry it outside for a couple of days outside. It’s cold. Right? So you hang it, you basically rub it with like, I rub it with Sichuan peppercorn and salt, [00:19:00] and then you just cause then the air being outside, like it just dries up the skin. So it’s crispy oh, and oh, the most important thing to make it tender inside.
Kate: Okay. It’s kind of gross. You like drink, uh, one of those tall thingys of beer, like cans of beer or to dump out the contents or whatever. And then you put the crotch of the duck on the beer we have the build, the beer can with some water and then you just Mount the duck on it. And that like the water steams up the inside of the duck.
Kate: So it’s like really nice and soft.
Susan: You just keep the beer. I
Kate: guess you could, but then it depends on like the combo flavors you’ve put in the duck.
Susan: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s called beer chicken, if you want it. Okay. Wait, but wait, how do you, air-dry it like without animals eating the duck? Yeah. Ah,
Kate: you hang it. So I tie a, well, like we usually go on from Chinese stores, the neck or the it’s like you pie, like a string around the neck and I just hang it like outside.
Kate: I’m like high up on some corner of the house outside.
Susan: That’s awesome. I can’t wait. Um, invite me [00:20:00] over. Uh, what about you Jeanette?
Jeanette: Um, well we do a tree every year and Jake is very particular about getting a fresh tree. So, and like, not from home Depot, he’s actually kind of snobby about it. I feel if I chop the tree, if he need to chop
Jeanette: we used to, we have done years where we we’ll go and saw down the tree, but like it at least has to be from a non chain garden store.
Jeanette: Um, so we go to city people and we will go and pick out a tree and bring it home. And, you know, and we have like a whole thing of decorations, some of which we’ve inherited from his parents or we’ve collected on different trips and we’ll decorate the tree. So that’s like, I feel like one of our main traditions, and then we’ll also do a special Christmas dinner with a ham or something.
Jeanette: Right. Um, but I feel like with kids, it’s like, I want to do more. Um, which is why I’m asking you guys, if, you know, if there’s anything I can borrow or steal. Um, but I think cookies would be good, but you know, I think the advent calendar is also a good one.[00:21:00] Well, maybe we should do also an episode about spirituality and kids, because I feel like that would also be a pretty interesting discussion.
Susan: And how do you explain what God is?
Jeanette: Well, yeah. And how do you think about. The, to the extent that you may want to , influence the spirituality of your children. Like how, how do you think about that? And like, what do you want to do about it? I think for us, because we are Christians, and now that we have kids, like, I think we feel more of a pressure to be like more intentional about spiritual practices and our beliefs and trying to, , make sure the holidays, , get anchored around that.
Jeanette: And so , how do we talk about, you know, Christmas? Some Christians say like, oh, Christmas is actually Jesus’s birthday, you know? I need to put like some more thought into how to do that, because I, that wasn’t really part of, , my family’s Christmas traditions growing up, But, but I feel like it’s, there’s an opportunity there to do things a little bit differently.
Jeanette: And in a way that I think I would find more meaningful. [00:22:00]
Susan: You’re so thoughtful and civil. Well, I mean the only we do, we do trees, we do trees and then we have our five day siblings sleep over called extreme indulgence where we’re fighting for the cup. Boy means like total, like indulgence and ecstasy and Vietnamese.
Susan: And like each couple’s responsible for putting the most indulgent meal on each night. Then we all vote at the end. Sometimes I cry and then the winner gets there high because I wa I, I put a lot of effort into, and maybe I lost. And then the winner gets their name engraved on the trophy with the couple name and the dish they made.
Susan: So we’ve been doing this for 10 years now. We’re going to Tahoe this year. The cup is up for grabs. You know, like pandemic kind of killed a couple of years here, but we’re back to win it. And, um, maybe the kids see that as like antithetical to Christmas, but like, that’s what we’re going to do. And in past years, [00:23:00] auntie Susan made the kids put on a play.
Susan: We talked about what the meaning of it, a protagonist is in an antagonist or whatever. And then they have to do that to open the first present on Christmas Eve. I’ve been vetoed by the kids. They said, auntie Susan, I don’t want to do this anymore. And you know what, in 20 years, they’re going to look back on the video that we all recorded when they did do the play.
Susan: We’re probably nobody can find it on their phone anymore. And they’ll be like, wow, honestly, Susan, you really cared about us. That was magical. But until then, I don’t know. I don’t know what we’re going to do.
Jeanette: You have so much energy. I really just admire the amount of energy that you have.
Jeanette: I just. About that and how awesome that would be. But I just feel like I don’t have the energy to organize that.
Susan: It makes me anxious, Marvin and I are constantly talking about like, is this extreme indulgence worthy? Like, do we do this dish? Well, like during the whole year, we’re always wondering, like, which dish are we going to come with our game?
Susan: You know? But now I’m starting to think I started, I want to talk about this in later episode, but it’s just [00:24:00] around gifts. And w what do you give kids that have a lot already, do you instill a tradition of service, like going out to work at the food bank that day or whatever, or like stocking stuffers? Is that real or is that fake?
Susan: Like, should we just do stockings? Like, I want to talk about that in our next holiday short . So ladies always a pleasure.
Jeanette: Thanks. Thank you.
Kate: you’ve just listened to a confessional of model minority moms. If you loved this episode, please give us a rating. Follow us on Instagram at model minority moms and tell a friend about us. If you have a suggestion for a future episode or questions, send us an firstname.lastname@example.org