“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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An unaffordable Lesson

We were visiting LA this October and my daughter was suffering from earache and fever. As foreigners, we fell into a panic because we were out of town. We called her doctor, who suggested us to take her to a walk-in urgent center since she might need antibiotics for the infection.

We didn’t worry much about the fee, given that we pay  every month a big amount of money for the medical insurance. It was later that we realized that we had committed a huge mistake by going to the children’s hospital emergency room. But it was a mistake that we could not avoid. Who would have time to google the difference between an urgent care center and the emergency center?

We were not happy in the waiting room but surprised by the three hours that passed by before being checked up. Claire had ear infection and needed antibiotics. 5 minutes later, we were ready to go.

Then, the story began. At the door, we were asked to pay 150 dollars for the co-pay. I paid although the fee did surprise me. Then, one week later, we got another bill which said that the treatment cost 166 dollars and that besides the insurance, we still should pay 114 dollars by ourselves. I accepted and paid.  Another week later, we got a second bill which listed 695 dollars for the hospital charges. It is said that our insurance covered 184 and we still owe 360 dollars to the hospital. I was shocked.

I never expected to pay in total 861 dollars for an ear infection treatment which lasted 5 minutes. Even with a good insurance coverage, we still should pay 624 dollars by ourselves. That was crazy.

So I asked my friends for advice. All I got was the same anger against the medical service and the suggestion to avoid any contact with hospitals and doctors. They told me that I mad a huge mistake to go to the emergency room, that gave me the only reason to accept the situation.

I don’t know how people can handle such situation if they are not familiar with the system and have no courage to fight back. An individual will never win the battle against a huge and complicated system. It’s all-consuming.

Why I don’t like to live with my parents-in-law

My parents-in-law are visiting us and they will stay with us for three months. It’s a pure joy for my husband, not because he can enjoy his mom’s cooking, but he has gotten an opportunity to fulfill his responsibilities as a son, especially unique son in the family. In a traditional Chinese family, the child is always obligated to take care of his parents, not only financially but also emotionally.

However, the share of our daily life, in long-term, is detrimental to our marriage. In the beginning, the peace might depend on the mutual respect and tolerance. However with the accumulation of disagreements on trifles, the atmosphere tended to be more and more stressful. There are questions of privacy, interference and culture.  But recently, I have discovered the main reason which explains why I can not bear a a long period of living together.

One night, after the dinner, my husband and his mom were discussing about the problem of a two-year-old nephew, who couldn’t sleep well in the night, crying from time to time and making his cousin exhausted. “He was once frightened by your cousin’s mother-in-law.” That was the conclusion from my mom-in-law, who holds a negative opinion of another lady that unfortunately has a bad relationship with her daughter-in-law. I was sitting in another corner of the living room, busy with my own work, but heir discussion began to catch my attention. “That happens a lot.I think it’s better to sing aloud a song anti-ghost.”my daughter’s grandma suggested. It’s not uncommon to have such a superstitious idea, less in the countryside. I was never picky with the ignorance of our parents. However, it was the reaction of my husband that shocked me and made me feel sick. “Look, I just searched online, there is a version of such song.” followed my honey, who holds a graduate degree obtained in a top university in China.”Then send it to your cousin.”thrilled his mom.

I couldn’t fall asleep that night, although it was a insignificant discussion that didn’t concern any number of our own family. If it involved my daughter, I would probably advance my opinion and treat her symptom as being sick. Besides, to practice such a silly ritual might have no bad consequence, but help to give some reliefs to the anxious parents. Nevertheless, my husband’s consentient shed lights on some something that I couldn’t accept but only ignored in our life. Was this reaction due to the respect of his parents’ opinions, given that parental authority in a traditional family is not supposed to be questionable? Was it a gesture to please his mom in order to avoid a meaningless disagreement? Or was it an indication of his ignorance and a demonstration of his true beliefs? Such doubts were all-consuming. I didn’t dear to allow myself to go on.

This small incident appeared so insignificant that I didn’t question the real intention of my husband. To my surprise, it remained significant when others similar incidents accumulated, making me rediscover my husband. Then, the life with my parents-in-law became discouraging and hopeless.

We can not always agree with our partner, neither disagree with him. As we are losing hope to influence another adult, the reality that the same person can be eventually influenced so easily by another person makes us confused and disappointed. With more people living together, there are more competitions of opinions and influence. Landmines are being settled down  while we even never payed great attention to the peaceful appearance.

Why are we so afraid of divorce?

I was back to Shanghai for two weeks and had serval gatherings with my friends and colleagues. The major topic of our talk around a cup of coffee or a table full of varied dishes is to complain our miserable marriage life. “What’s new about our other classmates? Has anyone already got divorced?” this question, although with negative response, did trigger some compulsive comments on the sustainability of our own marriage.

For our partners and our parents, gossip, whether it relates to ourselves or others, was just a killing-time leisure for women. For us, it was also an effective remedy of our depression. One began to talk about the neglect of her husband in all fields, not only the chores, but also the education of the child, the concern of her feelings, the abusive absence at home. Another followed, adding that her child’s daddy was even worse. Then, it turned out a competition of describing the most miserable life that we have endured.

However, nobody mentioned the possibility of divorce. This unwillingness to reach such a solution is not a sign to undermine the validity of all complaints but an indicator of another bigger problem : we are so afraid of divorce, at least women, at least in China. Our parents already told us to endure the common disappointment of marriage life and have cited numerous examples witch ended deplorable. The devaluation of a divorced woman is especially huge and unworthy, affecting even the woman’s job and social relationship. Besides and after all,  we all give too much privilege to our children, whom we could never imagine suffering the mock of peers.

Then, after indulging ourselves into a storm of accusation, as if letting out all harmful energy, we began offering strategies to handle with a namely miserable life. Some showed their knowledge about make-ups, believing that a refreshing image of oneself can cheer up. Some asserted the importance of career performance, holding that having a respectable income is the basic guarantee of their independence. Some even swore to take vacation alone to gain more hope and optimism. All affirmed our need to have more friends and more hand-out.

Nobody suggested a talk with her husband nor a try to reshape the life style. We all don’t want a divorce, neither another chance to meet a better man, neither to negotiate a better way to handle the current indifference in family. Why? After nearly ten years being together, we all know so much about the other person lying on the same bad. We are all frightened by our potential power to declare the war.

But still, it’s so complicated to explain the fear of divorce which is torturing and tempting. In spite of our education background which emphasized  women’s freedom and self-sufficiency, even with a decent job and social position, we are ultimately determined by our own original family.  We grew up listening our mothers complain about our fathers. Sometimes, we would rather prefer their divorce in stead of suffering the constant stress in family. Nevertheless, we clearly remembered how many nights we refused to sleep because sacred by the idea of our parents’ divorce.

Now,  when we have reached such a period where the disappointment of our partner becomes daily, our mothers’ pessimism automatically activated us. Their fear of divorce was so deeply and dramatically rooted in our mind that we repeat unconsciously their stroy.

Parenting Styles

The Brangelina broke up, frustrating so many young hearts who were almost likely to believe in marriage and in love. Why? For now, we only know that they have different styles of parenting. That must be a more acceptable reason for a divorce, compared to some extramarital affaires. But still why?  Didn’t they both affirm their equal love towards their 6 children?

It is a dilemma. People make decision in name of love while they hold different views of love. When it comes to parenting, things can easily be magnified, because we are making decision for our kids’ future, in name of a whole-life love. We might change our political views, but it’s not easy for us to change our beliefs of a good parenting style.

Yet, recently, Hidden Brain(NPR) has reveals that our political views might have been formed  by our parenting style, in other words, by our ideal of the family life and our ideal of how to prepare kids for the future. Republicans and Democrats all view the nation as a family, but apply different parenting models. Do American people need stricter parents or empathetic ones? After all, both sides believe they are doing good for the kids’ future.

Parenting is now bewildering and intimidating. I’m even surprised by myself borrowing a parenting guide book from the library. Am I consumed by curiosity or doubts? Having grasped some advocated golden rules, I unconsciously increased the chance of arguing with my husband. So when Angelina filed the divorce files, she would naturally be supported by most mothers, although they even didn’t care the details,”Oh, women definitely know better than men in parenting!”

In the name of love, I accused my husband of being rude to Claire. The most frequent example is how to deal with kid’s cry. I was patiently bearing the screaming while he wanted a immediate stop. For him, the discipline is vital and it can help to shape the right behavior. In fact, I hold my own views of discipline. While for me, Claire ought to make the bed daily, her daddy will let her skip some “meaningless” chores.

For a long time, I was so disappointed with the difference in our couple’s parenting styles, which were driven and formed by our own origin family patterns. But now I’m more relaxed, because I have discovered the benefit of the balance. We can not overprotect our children, neither ensure the harmony and homogeneity of the society that they will encounter. Claire loves me, even I’m so strict with her daily mission. She loves her daddy, even he sometimes shouts at her. Parenting doesn’t mean building up a fictional castle with endless happiness and pure love.

The other day, when she was clumsy in moving her bicycle out of the door, my husband lost patience and grumped at her. “You cannot do that to me! Stop!” Claire refuted, which made us stunned before turning into a big laughter. She was assertive and making right response.

The world is complex. What our kids are learning is so tremendous that any parenting could never ensure their safety and success in the future. Fortunately, we all value “family” and, in the name of family, we can tolerate differences and try to take advantage of the apparently unbearable disagreement.

The language war

Claire’s amazing progress in English has dispelled our worries of her daily life in school. But now she began to refuse to speak Chinese, bringing up another concern. She speaks English when playing by herself, talks in English when dreaming, even answers in English when we ask her in Chinese. Her grandparents felt more frustrated on video call : Claire talked only in English before her dad translated all her sentences in Chinese.

It was so easy and so fast that the language war is ended up by the triumph of English? We do hope that she would attain the native speaker’s fluency. However, we still insist that she master her mother tongue. From different perspectives, Multilingualism is obviously a benefit. The problem is we don’t know what’s the detailed map of her language proficiency, now or in the future.

I tried to keep speaking Chinese with her, but sometimes, unconsciously followed her in English. For example, I usually asked her to sum up her day and pick one thing that she likes most. Following my wish, she would form the first sentence in Chinese and turn quickly to English…I picked Chinese book for story time, only to have the reaction as “I know it already!” One day, she was found telling the story in English while the picture book was in Chinese.

Has she given up her Chinese? Was she too small to understand the importance to learn another language? I am considering to send her to Private Chinese lessons, especially for the writing. While her daddy was cooler, affirming that learning well English is the most important thing for now.”It’s OK. Anyway, Chinese is her first language and she will not forget that.” said he, “There is no need to speak Chinese now and she can pick it up quickly when we go back.”It’s true that at her age, she cannot realize the importance of another language if it’s not used frequently or if it can be replaced.

We all have read several research papers, according to which, one can only have a main language that express the deep thoughts. Even we intervene in Claire’s language acquisition, we cannot ensure that she would pick Chinese as the main language. It is also said that second language has its limits. Soon or later, she will encounter a frustrating dilemma, that she speaks less well English than her classmates in America and less well Chinese than her classmates in China.

One day, she followed me to my workplace, where I talked in French with my boss. The way back home, she suddenly suggested, “Mom, I want to learn French!” I was so surprised,”But you are learning Spanish too! Will you confuse so many foreign languages? ”

What I have learned is that Curiosity is a good motivation. Maybe we should find some strategies to make Chinese more charming.

What is American culture?

Halloween is still far away but Claire incessantly plans to be dressed up as Elsa or Anna, the main characters of the famous Disney Film Frozen. Again and again, she draws pictures about them and never seems tired when we read books adapted from the film. She is always seduced by its derivatives, such as T-shirt, Swim Suit, Towel, Headgear, even insisting to buy crackers which has the same theme package.

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“Crazy!””Boring!” “Naive!” These were the usual comments I received from my friends in China, who believe that America is a cultural desert, especially when we actually live in the desert. It’s normal to hold the stereotype. I’m also victim of biased opinion. I understood well the disappointment of my former colleagues and friends in university, who deplored that I would go to US instead of France. Now they seemed to catch enough evidence to ascertain their prediction, when I said that my girl, at school, was singing and dancing with Elle King or Pink on radio. “That’s American cultural, you see, that’s junk food.” The criticism was so fierce that I felt suddenly guilty and hopeless.

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Claire does love princesses best. She wants to be beautiful every day, in skirt. She admires Elsa to have magic, although we have told her many times that Anna is more attractive by her kindness. “That’s silly! You don’t want your daughter to be a doll?!””Princess and prince, very banal dreams!” The concerns were overwhelming. So I replied:”She also loves Clifford, LadyBug Girl, even Peter the cat!”

However, when I see Claire so happy, singing, dancing and dreaming, all my concerns were blown away. We are so mean to a child and unconsciously want to formate him or her as a wise grownup with critical thinking and strong individuality. But we forgot our childhood and even our youth, when we were as much crazy as them for some other silly things.  I love Frozen too and the variety on radio makes me feel free to dance with Claire. Even she is now so narrowed in her taste, she is Happy and Hopeful.

What is American culture? I don’t know, pretending it’s a silly question.