These are some things about which my mom is certain: that children should respectfully address adults as “Mister,” “Ms.” or “Missus”; that one must apply oneself at school and work; that cheerfulness in the face of adversity is to be admired; that rap music is not music, but noise; and that wearing flip-flops and other backless footwear in public is unseemly (“Kitchen slippers,” she’d sniff).
But there are also many things about which she was likely never sure: whether she was being too strict or too lenient with my two sisters and me; whether she was straying too far from her Taiwan roots since she’d moved to Saskatoon in 1971 and eventually to Kamloops, B.C., or clinging too hard to the past; and whether she protected us kids too much or encouraged us to grow up too quickly.
“Just wait until you have kids,” she would tell us whenever we complained about her constant fretting. “Then you’ll see.”
Now, as I prepare to become a mother myself, I am, indeed, about to see. But thankfully, amid all the uncertainties I’ll surely face, I know I can count on this: My mom will be there for me.
What one regret do you have raising me?
I think after you were born, probably I suffered from depression, but at the time, nobody talked about it so I didn’t know. As a new immigrant, I didn’t have any friends. I had no relatives close by and Daddy was busy at work, and I had no support. I was lonely, so I cried a lot.
As you got older, on top of the loneliness, I had to look after you and your sister and that was a lot of work. It was a very difficult time for me when I think back now. If I had to do it again, I would seek help. But at that time, I would just hide everything inside of me. I sometimes took it out on you kids. I love my kids very much, but when I was in a really bad mood, I reprimanded you in a very harsh way. Also, I did spank you occasionally, and that hurt me a lot. Even now, when I look back, I really regret that.
What one piece of parenting advice can you give me?
Discipline your kids, but in a gentle and loving way. When kids spill milk, I’m pretty sure they feel bad already. So there’s no need to shout at them because it’s just an accident. If adults yell at them, can you imagine how frightened the kids would be?
Under pressure, any adult can lose control. But before you react, just take a few seconds and think. Put yourself in your kids’ shoes.