Thursday, September 25, 2014

Turning into my parents

Back when she was still a little girl.
First day of 1st Grade, Sept 2010.

It inevitably happens to most of us at one point or another. . . we turn into our parents. We start doing things that we swore we would never, ever do. I don't consider myself much of a nag and I have aspired never to become one, yet I feel myself slowly descending into a hectoring mother who is constantly complaining and never satisfied. The kind of mother that, as a child, you don't look forward to coming home to. I'm still trying to figure out what kind of mom I want to be, but I do know that I don't want to be that mother. But now the Ping has become a tween, I'm having difficulty getting my bearings on who I am as a parent. She is no longer a cute, adoring child, but is morphing into a grown person with her own ideas about the world and her need to establish independence.

This age is confusing for all of us. Somehow stuck between being a kid and a grown-up, it is difficult to find a balance between teaching her how to become more of an adult yet accepting that she is still, in a lot of ways, just a kid. My difficulty is compounded by the fact that we speak two different languages. I can't always express myself properly so instead of explaining why something must be done, I have become of a broken record of simple commands, “Stop,” “No!” and “Don't do that.”

Another issue I keep running up upon is that, even after nearly a decade here, I still don't always understand how things are done in China. Yesterday Ping came home from school, informing her grandma that she needed 340 rmb (about US$60) for school books, to be paid in cash the next day. When Ming's mom relayed the information to me, I didn't think to question it—though the amount did seem a bit high. Chinese students constantly come home shaking down their parents for money to buy stuff their teacher demands. In the US, we would be given a notice and breakdown of anything we need to purchase for school with ample time to scrape the money together.

I like the US way; it eliminates some of the guess work. In China, I'm still a rookie at trying to figure out where half my money is going. You could go so far as to call me naïve. Ming knows better than I. When it comes to Ping or anyone else, he gets a rundown on what money would be used for, being sure that each RMB is accounted for. I assumed, perhaps foolishly, that Ping wouldn't ask for more than what was needed. It turns out that some of the money was going towards (optional) magazine subscriptions the children can purchase. A purchase, Ping knows (I thought she knew?), she must discuss with us before making.

Another issue we are dealing with is safety. Back in the US, parents worry about things like “stranger danger,” keeping our kids safe from pedophiles and predators. In China, we do need to protect our kids from strangers, yes. Children get kidnapped from time to time. But just like in the US, I think incidents of random adults stealing or hurting kids are somewhat rare. A more immediate danger is what kids are putting into their bodies when their parents aren't looking. I'm not talking about sneaking chocolate chip cookies or potato chips, (which I did every chance I could get when I was little), but buying food from unscrupulous vendors outside the school gates. Near Ping's school there are dozens of vendors and small shops catering to kids. They sell cheap snacks, often deep fried, and of rather dubious quality. The odds that many of them are using spoiled or expired food are high. Despite Ming's warnings, Ping can seem to help herself from purchasing these dirty delicacies. The results are often a very upset stomach.

What to do? I'm trying to figure it out. I'm also making a conscious effort to be a better, more understanding mother. What about you, do you find that you are in some ways starting to act like your own parents? Does it bother you?

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