“You hurt my feelings”

It was time to go to bed but Claire was still excited. She asked us for more TV and refused to go brush her teeth. I lost my patience and raised my voice.

“You hurt my feelings ! Why you are always making me sad!” She began to cry.

I felt confused and meanwhile angry. Like the majority of parents, I always believe that all I have done is for my daughter’s sake. In the name of protecting her, loving her and preparing her for a good future, I only listen to my reason and tend to become one of the tiger moms. To raise a child is not to spoild her! After coming to US, I tried to change my attitude and remind myself not to push her into something that can be learned later, such as writing, math and piano. Yet, I’m still tough with discipline, so she is never allowed to eat two icecreams per day, nither to skip the breakfast.

My husband sighed, pointing out that Claire has already adopted the American style, which might give kids too much freedom and thus let them become egocentric. Instead of deploring the culture difference, I tried to see the good side of her “defense”.

I would wish that in my life I could have had the courage to say “no” to my parents. Yes, they did a lot for me, for my hapiness and success. But in most Chinese families, the communication is only one-way talk, from what they suppose to be right and good for kids to kids’ obedience. Even we don’t agree with them, we should be thankful and understand their good reasons.

It would be a huge sin if I told my parents that they had hurt my feelings, especially when they thought it as a right thing which would benefit only me but not themselves. “You hurt my feelings ” would be a too direct and sharp  way to express the disagreement.

Now Claire seems to abuse these words, which I guess that she had learned from school life. It’s a good defense way amongst peers. For us, how to react and adjust the situation is an important lesson. If we continue to instill the traditional vertus of being a nice kid, we will certainly increase the gap between two generations. I need to learn and find a balance between the respect and the discipline.

If she can say “no”, I can say “no” too. When her caprices caught her, I said:” you hurt my feeelings!” She was stunned. Of course, I would compensate her kindness by repeating that “you make me happy.”  I’m trying.

The traditional one-way communication always begins with the subject “I”: I think, I do this to… How about be direct and tell the others that they are responsible for their good and had behaviors. That’s about love, but not about the love that we try to beautify.

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Privacy and public debate

For the past week, China’s social medias were flooded with comments on a private scandal. Former Olympic Badminton player Lin Dan had been filmed when giving some intimate gestures to a pretty woman before the hotel’s curtain was shut down. Anger and criticism went viral in the internet, especially because his wife, another former world champion just gave birth to their son two weeks ago.

Well, everyone believed to have right to comment on a celebrity’s life, where privacy and public image are confused. The majority expressed their condemnation on Lin’s betrayal, considering an extramarital behavior was the first sin of a man, especially of a successful man. His legends collapsed and people mocked about their ten-years’ true love story.

After first waves of criticism directed to the national idol, many began to point out the naive and aberrant action of all internet users, who were supposed not to take others’ privacy as an official trial. Some even claimed that all the emotions were just a show which reveals the emptiness of our social life.

The counter motion was triggered, refuting this cynic conclusion and justifying their roles in defending the moral duty. While men were accused of their compulsive animality, women were satirized though their increasing self-respect.

To many’s surprise, the wife tweeted a disappointing response several days later, claiming that she would forgive her husband since the later had acknowledged the fault.The internet went even crazier. Some cried on the typical weakness of women, some thrilled with the happy ending, some seemed  find justification of being wrong, some called love illusion and marriage a cruel trap and some just laughed at all discussion.

“You know, China is very interesting.” Many foreigners told me. A famous young writer also admits that life was even more interesting than some American TV shows because everyone seems so involved but the next episode is never predictable.

Then, one week later, other news began to top all social medias. The former champions can finally sit down and talk about their private problems while all internet users still suffer with their own problems and lose hope to seek an example to apply accordingly.

You are my favorite toy

Every day, I spend a lot of time with Claire. But that doesn’t mean I play as much as she expects. Most of time, I take care of her: making her breakfast, lunch pack, snacks, dinner; giving her bath and reading books. When I am not busy with chores, I check my mails, read news and text my friends, letting her play with herself, or with her toys.

“Mom, play with me!” she asks constantly, “you will be Peppa’s friend Susie sheep, you visit my house….” I try to cooperate, but distracted and impatient. Beside, it’s tiring for a grownup to pretend some character of her age and indulge himself in a fictional world. 15 minutes later, I find myself leave her aside, pretending to go to the bathroom. Sometime, I keep my phone at hand and check it from time to time. Half an hour later, it’s always me who ask her to end the game, by suggesting to draw something or taking some snacks. Although watching TV is not encouraged in our family, I don’t feel guilty to let Claire run to her videos after playing “enough” with her. For me, it’s “enough” while for her, it’s a break before soliciting me again to play some other childish games.

Staying at home with Claire all day is exhausting. I certainly prefer to bring her to a public playground, where she can laugh with other kids. As other parents,  I just stay by. I’m responsible to be with her, to take care of her and I always think that I’m doing well. I take her to the library to enjoy some special events, believing that all parents just sacrifice their own interest and bear the time passing by. Am I really enjoy the show as much as Claire? Rarely.”Did you have fun?” I ask her after the show or the special activity. I never question myself if I have enjoyed it too.

In the weekend, we take her to the park. When I am watching her climb the ladder or slide, her father is seeking shadow and checking his phone. We rotate our role to supervise our daughter. “Daddy, slide with me!” demands Claire.”No, it’s only for children!” That’s true, but in fact, do we really think seriously of being as crazy as these kids running and laughing without no limit ? We seldom enjoy the fun of swinging together, side by side. Yet, it’s not a written role that parents cannot swing.

If we take her to the library’s story time, we tend to let her seated on the ground with other kids, while we are 5 feet away on the public chairs. Anyway, we won’t check out how much she has understood, because we haven’t pay attention to the story ourselves, busy with other stuff.

One night, I was tucking Claire in. She suddenly asked me this question:

“Mom, what’s your favorite toy?”

“What do you think?” after hesitating a moment, I threw the question back.

“Your computer? ” she was not certain,”your phone?”

“Why?” Such suspects didn’t surprise me, but I wanted to know her opinion of me.

“Because you played joyfully with them.” she smiled, very confident in her reasoning.

“No! My sweetie, ma favorite toy is YOU!” I hugged her tightly.

“Really? ” in a timid voice, she didn’t refute me, “Thank you!”

Claire was fast asleep, while I remained pondering.

Did I lie? If she was really my favorite toy, why I wasn’t concentrated in playing with her? Why didn’t I enjoy the moments passed with her, the use of her language, the pleasure of being in an imaginary world, the curiosity to discover everything?

Dear Claire, sorry for letting you feel that playing with you is only my sacrifice. Let me share your joy, as your peer. Since you are my favorite toy, I will never be bored to play with you.

Did you like Disneyland?

Six months ago, Claire had no idea of Disneyland. Mickey Mouse, Snow white, Elsa and Anna, all these names became now her daily conversation topics. Having heard a lot about Disneyland from TV, YouTube videos, toy commercials and especially from her classmates, Claire kept asking us to take her to this fairy kingdom, where she dreamed to encounter all beloved princesses. Even before our journey, she was proud to talk about it at school and came back home with excitement.

She didn’t know where came from such excitement but believed it. Then we hit the road. “Are we there yet?” the 8 hours’ drive burned her impatience but doubled her expectation for the special discovery. We got up at 7 and hurried to the main gate. Waiting the doors to be opened, I heard so many parents repeat their children’s Disneyland symptoms : “they refused to sleep last night!”

The day was hot, the park was crowded and long long lines made visitors more impatient. “Take a picture with Mickey”, parents began to cheer up, “there are also princesses waiting for you!” But in fact, for a 4 year-old girl, taking picture is just a followed pleasure. Was the picture good or not? Many children didn’t care. “Look, the sleeping beauty castle!”, we shouted, while Claire was busy with her cookie breakfast.

“Can I buy 3 toys? You promised me!” She couldn’t move her steps in front of all the charming toy stores. We bought her a princess dress, a magic wand and a Frozen doll. “That’s it, we can go back to hotel,” she seemed so satisfied and wore a big smile on her face.

It was later that she realized Disneyland was an adventure park. But for her age, she was unable to enjoy most of the games. Frightened by the simulated monsters and the darkness in several trips, she refused to try more. She even quickly run off the sleeping beauty, believing that there was a  bad witch who might make her asleep too. The Mickey Mouse town didn’t impressed her.”I saw it in TV,” repeated her, “It should be like this.” The carousel cheered her up but the line was too long.

“Do you like Disneyland?” we kept asking her all the day. But sometimes, she just nodded without a comment. I and her daddy seemed more excited.”Did you like Disneyland?” we already had the answer. It was just a way to emphasize our own positive feelings. Having lost her magic wand, Claire turned upset. We refused to buy her new toys, since everything is expensive. So much temptation but so mean parents. “I don’t like Disneyland any more,” sobbed she. There were so many children who were crying. We could easily imagine the situation.

After a little rest at the hotel, we entered the park again, Claire showed no more interest, because she was exhausted and only wanted to go to bed. “But we will have the firework,” we insisted, imaging that the beautiful scenes would make her day, “And the night parade, you should wait.” She had no energy.

“Did you like Disneyland?” We unconsciously repeated the same question the way back home. Sometimes, Claire just waited and waited before trying to say a shy “Yes”. Maybe she guessed that the negative answer would let us down. The same question bothered her when our friends and neighbors mentioned our trip.  Sometimes, she just let her silence in to mark her shyness in front of them. “Yes and No”, she smiled and quickly jumped over the topic.

I am not sure if Claire really had a good journey and enjoyed the Disneyland park. Sometimes, we just told ourselves that we tried everything to make our children happy and the Disneyland ought to be one of these things. We cheated ourselves because we didn’t want to hear the negative answer, after a very tiring and expensive trip.

How to celebrate a Father’s day

This Sunday is Father’s day. Since last week, I wonder how to celebrate it, without any idea yet. My mailbox keeps informing me sales and special discounts in stores; School reminds all dads that they can have a donuts treat after sending in children the Friday morning; Claire thought maybe it would be a good occasion to ask for a new toy. But I remain a little unsatisfied at the idea of writing a card and dining in a restaurant, although Claire’s Dad would probably say nothing about this easy celebration.

On Mother’s day, Claire and me enjoyed so many amazing activities : the school organized a tea party; moms got together and played with kids; we were all thrilled to receive crafts and presents prepared even several weeks ago; we read many relevant picture books; Claire drew pictures to name me “Best Mom”; kisses, hugs and “I love you” reiterated all day… But non of these seems suitable to be repeated on a Father’s day. Maybe the relationship between a dad and his kid is more complex and we don’t know how to express it besides a simple hug. Making a heart-shape cookie and writing colorful words “I love you dad” would be a little too feminine?

In China, for the majority of families, mothers take the main role of raising children and fathers work and spare their free time to do more serious activities than playing silly games with kids. It’s a frequent scene at the library, a learning center or a playground: a mom with her child and a dad seated aside staring at his phone. For my husband, as for many other dads, spending family time means driving wife and child to a place, waiting and finally paying the bill. “She loves more to play with You,”explains Peng each time I ask him to  accompany Claire when both of us are available.

I picked several children’s book from the library, most of which show the activities that Dad and his kid do together: sports, sports, sports ! They also show kids’ admiration for their dad, by comparing them to superheros, giants, and magicians… Strong, Fast, Brave, Powerful, and Successful ! Dad is someone whom we are proud of, especially on Father’s day.

Claire enjoys a lot Peppa Pig, the funny British cartoons which portrays a more playful dad and  a more smart Mom. But she doesn’t want to have a such silly dad and sometimes makes joke on him. Maybe, as a mom, I would enjoy the playful scene of a dad and his kid, but can’t bear to have it as a daily overwhelming scene. Because of jealousness? I’m a little picky, I know.

In a family of three, it’s hard to balance and distribute our love. Peng complains that I care too much about Claire and sometimes forget him. I’m not satisfied with him either, pointing out the lack of his involvement in family time. Every one is so busy, doing what he thinks the wright way to make a better life. We even don’t mind if these daily accusations took place in the presence of Claire. One day, at Claire’s classroom, I noticed a report of children’s answers about their parents’ job. One boy said:”Mom works a lot, at home, at grocery. Dad sleeps all day.” I happened to know this guy’s parents, a working dad and a housewife mom. “Look, moms are so influential,” commented Peng.

In my dialogues with Claire, I rarely talked about her dad. Maybe, one day, I would become like my mom, who could not stop complaining of my dad when she called me on the phone. Maybe the best thing I can do, for a Father’s day, is to tell Claire that I love her dad so much and her dad loves me so much and we all love her so much. A Father’s day could be a family day.

What is Family ?

“What is Family ?” This is a specific topic I saw on the wall of one classroom in Claire’s preschool. Under the question, there are many photos showing different family types.The variety surprised me: one photo shows a gay family with two kids; another a lesbian family with two kids; then an old man and a very young lady and their kids; a family of different races, black mom and white dad…In the meantime, I noticed that each family on the photos had at least two kids, usually one girl and one boy.

Children are naturally open to new ideas. In China, such kind of education in school could be politically wrong, even could arise parents’ disagreement or anger. But here, I think it’s a good step to prepare our kids to understand the real world.

But I’m a little upset about the idea of having more than two kids to make a perfect family image. It’s so common. Claire’s classmates all have siblings. For curiosity, I just typed the word”Family” on Google Images. The result was disappointing: one dad, one mon, one girl and one boy composing the majority of online photos or images.

However, the most important point those images showed me is that everyone is happy. Family should be a place where we feel comfortable and happy. Kids can easily understand this point. Family members are those who can make them happy, in spite of what kind of people they are.

Why I want my kid growing up normal

Reading the post  Why I don’t want my kid growing up normal written by Larinnac, I was deeply moved and would wish to have a mom like that. But in fact, I had a regular childhood and regular adolescence, as most of Chinese kids. We were so disciplined at home and at school, growing up to be a normal citizen and asking ourselves to be good. “Learn well, play moderately and keep safe, then you will have a better future,” my mom always told me. Although she didn’t mean that the present was unlivable, she always made us to dream the future. What is the freedom? We never questioned it.

I lived in a small village and at that time, the only way to leave the countryside was attending a college. “You will have a better life in a big city,”my mom encouraged me and I did believe the logic between a big city and a better life. So I did my best to be a good girl at shool. Then, more doors opened for me. I finally went to a medium city for my bachelor, then a big big city for ma graduate study.I finally I went abroad. Now I live in a country that my mom would never thought of twenty years ago.

Literature told me to be “Me”, to challenge stereotypes, to dream big and to try the impossible. I love literature. But still, for most of my life, I lived a normal life. Every time I came back home, my mom repeated:”learn well, play modestly and keep safe.” The longer distance between us caused her bigger worries.

Now I have a daughter and I am open for various ideas which my mom could never accept. Unconsciously, I tell my kid every day, “learn well and keep safe”, as if I become another person who’s identity is only “Mom”. “No!””No!””No!” I intervene my daughter’s freedom. Maybe because she has a fragile health and I don’t want her to take risks to be sick? Maybe I was too protective and only believe in myself?

I don’t let her to ride too fast on her scooter, neither to jump into the cold water. I have strict rules when it comes to food, especially treats. I told her to be nice to everyone, even others might to jump into the line or happen to push her. “Be nice and never fight,” I asked her to remember.”Concentrate yourself when teacher talks,””Be patient and polite,””Read everyday”…

But sometimes, I gave up my “healthy ideas”.I told her that every kind of cloths has its proper charm and that T shirt and pants could make her more comfortable in sports. She insisted that the others girls in her class wear like princess with their dress. “OK, have common topics and make friends,” I tried to buy her more dresses and tell her stories of princess.

I’m a serious mom, as my mom was. I will push my daughter to love school and homework. I hope she will succeed in studies and have a college degree. As my mom, I have nothing to afford her future life and my concern is modest: “find a job first to feed your life”. To meet a prince? It’s just a chance. Personally, I respect all LGBT and support their fight for deserved rights, but I don’t wish my kid to be anormal. The society is big and violent, but you are so small.

Yes, my sweetie, you can be a princess, a giant, a superhero, but for me, I want you to be normal and live a safe life, because I’m a selfish mom and can’t afford to see your cry. I admire writers, singers, artistes, pop stars and super political women, but, but, if you are one of them, Oh my little heart, I can’t sleep well.

Even I know already that you will not listen to me, but listen to your hear, as I did to my mom’s wishes, I want you to be a normal girl. Anyway, what I want is not important, it’s only useful to comfort me. What you want is important, but wait until you are grown up. I’m preparing you for a decent situation, to offer you more choices for your own path. Maybe I am wrong, forgive me to love you so much.