It’s hard to parent while being Chinese American. I ask my mom what it was like for her as a new mom. All my mom’s stories of when I was a newborn revolve around how hard it was for her as a new immigrant. My parents were trying to start their restaurant and learning the American culture. I appreciate those stories but my story as a new parent is very different. I feel very American and I want more than survival for my family. I want Jeremiah to grow up to not just achieve things but to be a person of high character. When I tell my parents of my family’s goals, I am reminded how strange that is to a Chinese mindset. Our Chinese culture doesn’t talk enough about growing as a person of generosity, kindness and love. These values don’t replace wisdom, discipline or hard work. Jeremiah is going to be the first Pat to not grow up in an immigrant household and he needs to learn new values. He’s going to be an American learning what it means that his family is also Chinese.
My mom and I had a heated argument last night when we started talking about parenting. She comes from the Chinese way of thinking where she grew up under Communism and providing for me was the ultimate way of showing love. As an American christian, I see parenting as more than just provision. I believe that my role is to mentor, teach and love my son. It was a hard conversation because I had to tell her all the ways I wish she was there for me when I was growing up. I don’t think she was negligent but she just didn’t know that there were many things that I needed but couldn’t express both because I was a kid and there was a language barrier. It’s going to be tough raising Jeremiah because he will be a third generation Chinese American. We will speak English in our household but my mindset will still be very much like an immigrant because that was my experience growing up. I will have to learn how to parent him in a culture that was completely different than my own growing up. He won’t work in a family restaurant from a young age and I will have a lot more opportunities to be a part of his life. He will be very American in his thinking but it will be hard for me to communicate to him that his father is still Chinese and I want him to be Chinese too.