Tuesday, January 18, 2011

To be or not to be -- a Chinese mother.


When I read
this WSJ op ed piece, I was completely flabbergasted. It enraged me. It made me cringe. It made me think. If you haven't read it, you might consider reading it, especially because the rest of the post is not going to make much, if any sense otherwise.

Then again, perhaps I never make much sense anyway.

After reading the article, I started reflecting on my childhood.

As a child, I was rarely allowed to go on sleepovers. "Why would you want to sleep at someone ELSE'S house?!" my mother questioned.

"To have FUN!" I'd respond.

"Fun? Fun?! What do you mean fun? You don't need fun. You need to study and listen to your parents." my mom would retort.

So yes, on some level, the article resonated with me because I had a typical Asian upbringing. It felt all too familiar.

I played the piano.

I excelled.

I went to church every Sunday.

I followed the rules at my all-girls Catholic high school.

But. I also rebelled. In my own way.

On Friday nights during the fall I would tell my parents I had a school function. Then I would meet my friends at the football game at the local all-boys Catholic school. Afterwards I would go get pizza with my friends -- which included (gasp) BOYS. I was always home by 10:00 p.m.

Those of you with a "western" upbringing might not see how going to a football game and grabbing a pizza on a Friday night could be characterized as 'rebellion.' Those of you who grew up in Asian households with first generation Asian parents will understand perfectly.

Just to be clear, I didn't rebel to be a rebel.

I rebelled because I wanted to be with my friends, to do 'normal' high school things like go to football games, have crushes on boys, go to dances...

I really wasn't a bad kid. In fact, if I'd been part of a western family, I might've been considered a pretty damn good kid. I helped around the house. I was responsible. I studied hard. I was on student council and sang in the choir. I never did drugs and didn't have my first sip of alcohol until the summer before I went to college.


My parents never saw it that way. Praise for doing well was never given in our home. Instead, they simply saw that I was doing what was expected of me. And to do less -- be less, was not an option. In fact the general attitude was "That's all fine, but you should really try to do and be MORE."

More helpful.

More obedient.

More studious.

More pious.

More more more.

In fairness, I will say that my parents were nowhere *near* as Crazytown as the woman who wrote the article in the WSJ. Yes, they were strict, but they were also indulgent in some ways. My mom always let me get a treat at the grocery store. I was allowed to watch (a lot of) television. I got my ears pierced when I was eight.

Of course NOW, as grandparents, they gather around and basically throw a freaking PARADE every time Piglet poops on the toilet. The first time they saw the Twinks clap? I think my mom teared up. I have heard the word "YAY!" exclaimed to my children with an enthusiasm that I never knew existed when I was a child.

My Asian mother now says YAY.

Which I am pretty sure replaced the word NO in her vocabulary.



This article has stirred up a lot inner and outer dialogue at our house. Tonight I had Mr. K read it and he said he actually liked it. That Amy Chua was in some ways, his Yoda. I gasped and said "YOU'RE A CHINESE MOTHER?"

And he said "Yes, I think am. And the next time Piglet doesn't count correctly, I am going to deny him the potty until he does!"

And right then a half-naked Piglet came streaking through the kitchen and said "Daddy! Appo juice!"

And Mr. K said "Piggy, what do you say?

And Piglet said "Pwease? Daddy? Pwease may I have some Appo Juice?"

And Mr. K said "Good job Piggy! You asked so nicely! Daddy is so proud of you!"

A Chinese mother indeed. *Snort.

A Chinese mother would have said "You want juice? You play concerto three more times perfectly and I will allow you to pour yourself one cup. If you spill, you will mop whole kitchen with rag on hands and knees."

In the end, while I do not agree with this model of parenting, I must admit, it does smack familiar. And even though Mr. K and I grew up in strict Asian households, I tend to think we both turned out okay. I would say our strong work ethic and drive to succeed (especially for Mr. K) was probably influenced by our respective parents and strict upbringings. But our compassion and broad world views? Probably a product of our formal education as well as experience in the school of life.

My personal philosophy is that discipline and rules as well as fun and nurturing can coexist in the world of parenting. Balance is the key.

And when in doubt, pour yourself another glass of wine.

Monday, January 10, 2011


If you have followed my blog for awhile, you'll know that I throw elaborate birthday parties for Piglet. And this year, the Twinks will have a big bash of their own. And by elaborate, I do not mean "real housewives of some rich place" but rather "stay at home mom hearts Paper Source." My friends always tell me that they don't know how I do it. They are exhausted even at the thought. Mr. K wanted to know why I do this. Do what?

Plan several months in advance?

Stress for several weeks?

Spend hours and hours making sure every single detail is exactly right?

Make his cake and cupcakes from scratch?

Pull an all-nighter the night before the party?

I do it for my kid...and now kidS.

Some of you might not believe me. Some of you will say "she's just showing off" or "she has too much time on her hands" (ha!) Someone I know once told me that people would like me more if I was less of a perfectionist. The thing is, that's not my goal.

Showing off or being more well-liked. Sorry, but NO. If you like me that's fantastic. If you don't, I'm not going to invite you to my kid's party so that you will.

My goal is this.

Years from now, when my boys are grown and married and reminiscing about their childhoods, I want them to say:

"Our mom used to throw us the BEST birthday parties. I still remember them. She went all out, put together this huge candy buffet and tons of food and put up signs and banners everywhere and we handed out the greatest party favors. All the kids wanted to come to our parties. Birthday parties were some of our happiest childhood memories."

THAT is why I do this. I want to create a beloved tradition in our family of celebrating the joyous day that each of my children came into the world. And I want to do it BIG. And BRIGHT. And with TONS OF CANDY.

And yes, in many ways the party is for me too. Because the day that each of my boys was born was the very best of my life. And hells yez. I want to celebrate that.

So there you have it. The reasons why I do this. I do this for my boys. To inject a bit of magic into their childhoods. I do this for myself. To celebrate the day my precious babies were born.

And also, in case you still have doubts about my motives, I do it because I love candy. (Nom nom nom).

Happy 3rd Birthday to the Original Piglet!