For Mother’s Day, I thought I would share an interview I did with my mother back in 2011, shortly before my sister’s wedding. I had read “10 Questions to Ask Your Mother Now” in a RealSimple magazine and I thought it would be a fun thing to do. Her answers surprised me. It’s an interesting intersection of the mother-daughter relationship and Chinese views of family.
What’s the one thing you would have done differently as a mom?
“I would have quit my job and stayed with you two more. I would teach you all things Chinese – our culture, our thinking, how to read and write. I’ve already planned that when I have grandkids, I will have my godsister buy the Chinese books in Hong Kong and send them to me and I will teach them.”
Why did you choose to be with my father?
“Because he put me first, before everything – his job and even his own family. When I went back to Hong Kong for a visit after emigrating to the States, I didn’t tell him before I went. I planned to go for two weeks – giving one week to my other boyfriend, and one week to your dad. I told my other boyfriend I was going and he didn’t even take any time off. I then called your dad after one week, and he immediately took sick leave to hang out with me.
I also judged him by how he treated others. When we were together, we saw a kid with a runny nose, and your dad took out his own handkerchief and wiped it.”
In what ways do you think I’m like you? And not like you?
“You are like me in your quick temper. We also both like people but don’t want to show it and lack drive and ambition. You are smart and pretty like me, and also quite stubborn. When I was young, I was very jealous like you.
Unlike me, you’re still jealous and haven’t changed. You’re also unwilling to change. You play favorites (like with the dogs, but I do not. You need to diet and are too fat.”
In what ways do you think Teresa is like you? And not like you?
“Teresa and I are both friendly to others and like people. We find it hard to say no to people. She’s pretty like me and skinny and doesn’t need to diet.
Unlike me, Teresa has lots of drive and is willing to work hard. She also can’t plan anything.”
Which one of us kids did you like the best?
“I like you both. If you only love one, you only get one daughter. If you love two, you get both daughters.
What you two need, we tried to give you. You can handle a lot by yourself, so we don’t have to worry about you. You each need different things, so when we help, it may seem like we’re favoring one, but we help you two out in different ways.”
Is there anything you have always wanted to tell me but never have?
“I’ve told you everything I want you to know. If you don’t listen, that’s a different story.”
Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a mother now than when you were raising our family?
“It’s harder now to raise kids. I watch the news about kids in school now with guns and drugs, and people killing people for no reason. I’d be worried to death if my kids were in school.”
Is there anything you regret not having asked your parents?
What’s the best thing I can do for you right now?
“Get married and have kids. Come visit me more and stop arguing with me. Give me some quality time without arguing.”
Is there anything that you wish had been different between us – or that you would still like to change?
“Stop arguing with me. I hope you don’t treat your boyfriend [husband] the same way.”
When did you realize you were no longer a child?
“My mother has always been helpless and I’ve always taken care of her. Even during high school, I made all the decisions for us. Since Grandpa lived in the United States, I had to take care of Grandma, so I’ve always felt very independent and like Grandma depended on me.”
Thanks, Mom, for cooking my favorite foods when I come home with thirty minutes’ notice, for drying my tears for everything that ever made me sad, for taking care of the family, especially Bianca & Sorcha whom you didn’t even want but now can’t live without, and for always putting us first. I love you…and I’ll try to stop arguing with you.
This Mother’s Day, try asking your mom these questions and you might be surprised at what you learn.