I can’t speak Chinese which is a great pity because it is the first language of my only grandchild. Rupert was born in Taiwan on the second of November 2003 by caesarean section. Before his birth, his mother, Teresa,sent me in an email in which she expressed her concern about the size of his head. Her doctor had told her that if all the babies were put in a line, this one would have the biggest head. And this, I repeat, was before he was born! When she asked me about big heads in my family, I did recall that my father’s head had been rather large. Towards the end of his life it was large, round and smiley. Then I remembered that my mother had dressed me in coats with matching hats when I was a little girl and that she had to buy the hat a size larger than the coat. I hated hats and once managed to leave the offending article on a bus. So this child, who we knew to be a boy, had been endowed with a big head by his white Caucasian forbears.
It must have been quite traumatic expecting a baby of mixed racial ancestry however much she loved my son. It’s the fear of the unknown. The poor girl had an awful pregnancy: she was sick at the beginning and too large to move at the end which wasn’t helped by her having a weakness in her hips on account of vitamin D deficiency. She was also out for the count when, shortly after Rupert’s birth, my son was taking digital photographs and emailing them to us on the other side of the world.
As I said, Chinese is Rupert’s first language. His mother speaks fluent English and has a degree in English Literature. She describes my son’s Chinese as ‘an insult to my country’. I can say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ but that’s about it. As far as the big head is concerned, I now think that Western heads and Asian heads are a different shape and are probably also measured in a different way. When Rupert was a toddler he always looked very dainty beside the other children. He has pale skin, a face the same shape as my son’s but his eyes are brown and slightly oriental and his hair is almost straight. Asians consider big eyes to be an asset, so he is thought to be handsome and his Taiwanese amma (grandmother) thinks that he is very smart. Her English isn’t any better than my Chinese, but she was able to communicate her approval!