“Sharing a story”

“Maybe you can get your mom to stop antagonizing you and being negative by just telling her that it’s bad for the baby,” my friend suggested. “No one wants to stress out a pregnant woman, right, because that could stress out the baby!”

If only things were that simple. If only my mom just stopped talking about a topic simply because I asked her to stop. She really has no idea when to stop, and the worst part is that she is manipulative and tries to make it seem like I am actually the problem when she is choosing to be negative and bring up bad stories from the past of “wrongs” that people have committed against her 5, 10, 15, 20+ years ago.

My uncle recently asked me to share my new address with him, and so I thought I’d just be efficient and share our new address via email with all my family members. In the email, I also let everyone know that I’m pregnant. I BCCed everyone (minus a psychotic aunt) since I know my dad has a tendency to report back to my mom (who is also basically HIS mom) every single detail of every message or action he’s aware about that I’ve done online. And he certainly did not forget to do that this time around.

So my mom called yesterday, and I knew it wasn’t going to be good because she started the conversation in her surly voice with one of her favorite starter phrases. “You know, you aren’t going to like this, but I need to share something with you” (when does a conversation ever go to a good place with a preface like that?).

So then she starts raising her voice and saying that I better not have emailed a specific cousin and a specific aunt because they are trash and they don’t care about me or my baby or my new address. She then starts reminding me (for the 10th or 20th time) of grievances she holds against them for things they’ve supposed done to “hurt” her. When I repeatedly try to tell her that I don’t want to hear this and that she’s shared this pretty much every year for the last ten years, she interrupts me and says, “Why can’t I share a story with you? We’re close, so I should be able to share a story with you. Why do you have to be so mean? I told you that you need to be NICE to me!” With each time that I interrupt her, she continues talking as though I’ve said nothing and allows her story to just keep droning on and on and on.

When I finally say that I don’t want to hear this anymore, she gets angry and says, “You know, it’s clear you are in a very bad mood today. So if that’s the case, then maybe we will talk another time.”

At that point, I was really done. “Okay, if you don’t think I’m in a good mood, then maybe I’m not in a good mood and we don’t need to talk. Have a good day. Bye!” I waited a few seconds for her to respond, and she mumbled “okay,” and I hung up.

In her mind, everyone else is always the problem. She is never the problem. It doesn’t matter what age my parents get to, or what age anyone ever gets to. Holding grudges is toxic and unhealthy and says more about the person holding the grudge than the person who the grudge is against. The person who the grudge is against has likely forgotten or potentially even had zero awareness that there was ever the problem. The person with the grudge is the person held hostage in her own negativity, in the past, and always incapable of being in the present or even thinking productively about the future. Wouldn’t it be so amazing if instead of brooding over the past, which both of my parents constantly do, that they were actually firmly set in the present and appreciative of all their life’s blessings and good fortunes? Well, that’s impossible because they will never be happy regardless of what they have. Something is always wrong with other people, and they themselves are untouchable.

Imposing a definition of “happiness” on someone else

Today, I had an early morning flight to go back to New York. My mom has been in an especially edgy and nervous mood, which can be attributed to a combination of the ongoing pandemic, hate crimes against elderly Asians, and the fact that I’m pregnant, on top of her usual unstable mental state. I was originally planning to get an Uber to go to the airport since I needed to be at the airport by 5:30am, but my mom insisted that my dad drive me. I relented, but only knowing that my dad had two cups of coffee. Given that he’s now 73, I generally don’t trust him driving when it’s too dark outside or if he could potentially be too drowsy. That would just be an accident waiting to happen.

I hadn’t been home in over a year and a half this visit, but for the most part, things are pretty much the same at home: cluttered, dusty, dirty, frustrating, and angst-inducing. Nothing has really changed. On my flight back, I was lucky enough to get upgraded to First Class, so I got to enjoy a nice breakfast, more privacy, and a fully reclining seat. While resting on the flight back, I thought about the way I define happiness, and maybe while I may fear that my parents may not be happy, maybe I actually have it all wrong. To be frank, I don’t think it’s possible for my mom to be happy. But my dad, on the other hand, maybe he actually IS happy. Maybe he’s content with the way his life his and what his day to day routine is. And maybe I’m the one who is trying to impose my definition of “happiness” on him. Maybe he’s content living in a cluttered, dusty, and dirty space. Maybe he thinks that renovating the kitchen or having a fresh coat of paint on the walls won’t really do anything to increase his incremental happiness level, even though I hope that it would. Maybe he’s happy going on YouTube most days to see the “outside world” instead of actually going out into the world. He’s always been content without any friends and only associating with my mom’s friends.

We spend all our lives having assumptions about everything and everyone. We assume that if x person had y and z inspiration or thing or job or person that they might be better off. But who is really to say if that’s the case or not? Every time I go back home and leave, I realize that while my parents may want to impose their views on my life and do it in an annoying way, perhaps I am also guilty of trying to impose my definition of “happiness” and “contentment” on them, and either way, neither of us is getting anywhere with that approach.

When your entire family house is a trigger

As of today, I have three more nights left in San Francisco, and these last three will be spent at my parents’ place. We purposely structured the trip this way so that I wouldn’t have to be with them for more than 2-3 nights at a time. Chris is only with me for another night, and he’s leaving tomorrow morning. He has to leave to preserve his mental health. I’m staying to see friends and also to attempt to spend more time with my parents. Yet I always feel conflicted about spending more time with them.

Everything is a trigger for me here, from the endless building clutter to the thick layers of dust on everything to how most things seem broken, dirty, or mistreated. This afternoon, I attempted to dust off the cabinet and desk surfaces in the dining area, and when I rinsed out the sponge, the color wasn’t the usual pale grey I see when I dust at home; it was a dark black color. When I tried to open the front door from the inside, the knob fell off. In the kitchen, the faucet leaks unless you turn the knob to an exact angle. Most of the pantry drawers and doors are not closing properly. A door stopper wasn’t installed on the back of the bathroom door, so someone must have slammed the door against the wall, which resulted in a big hole the size of the bathroom door knob on the wall behind it. That hole, while hastily patched up, is visibly still there. The paint in nearly every room is conspicuously chipping away; in the basement, all the walls have chipped away and peeled so much that they are nearly all grey. In the room leading to the backyard, my dad must’ve taken down all the curtains… and for whatever reason, been too cheap to replace them. Instead of curtains or shades, large pieces of scrappy black torn cloth cover the windows. Being in that room really feels like living in tenement housing.

And last weekend, I noticed humongous cob webs developing in all the front windows in the living room behind the mini blinds. These cob webs were so thick and hairy that they resembled the types of cob webs you typically see in abandoned homes or attics. I had to take out the vacuum cleaner to remove them because they were grossing me out so much. That should give you a sense of exactly how dusty and unclean this place is.

The clutter and dirt of this house is one thing. The other trigger is the fact that Ed isn’t here anymore. And for me, unsurprisingly, his presence is always strongest to me in this house, a place where he was treated like a second class citizen and never given the love he really deserved. Being pregnant while here, I am especially cognizant of how sad it is that my growing baby will never get to know her sweet, generous uncle. Every time she moves, I wonder if she can sense how I am just a little bit more tense while here.

And the last thing is that while here, I really have no idea when my mom’s fuse is going to blow and what will make her start screaming and yelling or throwing a fit about. While waiting for the laundry to finish so we could separate what to pack in my luggage vs. Chris’s, she asked me to sit and talk to her on the couch. She asked me all kinds of basic questions about Chris’s work and office, and I asked her why she didn’t just ask him while at dinner. All she does is sit there like a statue, saying absolutely nothing to him other than asking him if he wants more food. She has zero awareness of how unenjoyable and annoying she makes the experience. But my mom disregarded all of that and said, “Why can’t I ask you this questions? Why do I need to ask him?” And yet, she always wonders why Chris leaves earlier than I do.

Then, she proceeded to launch into a series of complaints about her friends, and it suddenly dawned on me which friends she claims are “true” and “honest” vs. those who are not: all the ones who are true and honest, in her mind, are all the ones who materially have far, far less than she does. These are the ones who can barely make their rent payments, who have been out of work for a number of years, who rent a single room in a house from another homeowner who needs company but not the money. These are the people she has nothing to be jealous of.

And when I say she complains, it’s not just a sentence or two. She will literally go on and on for five to ten minutes and not shut up unless I tell her to stop or change the subject. So when she called one of her friends a hypocrite, someone who I know has always been good to our family, I had to interject. “Why are you calling her a hypocrite? You also do hypocritical things.”

Her face turned, and she was obviously pissed. “When have I been a hypocrite?”

I told her that she said she refuses to go out to eat because she’s scared of the Delta Variant, yet she’s happy to offer to go to restaurants when she or my dad choose it, even going as far as San Jose to eat, which made zero sense to me. She got even more angry, insisting she never said that. “I said I didn’t want to eat with your relatives! They are all freeloaders and treat me like an ant! When we go out, I just want it to be the four of us! I can’t stand those people!”

That actually wasn’t true…at all. I asked her to eat out with Chris and me during the weekdays, and she refused multiple times. My dad repeatedly refused and said he didn’t feel safe, especially having had heart surgery just 7 years ago. And she insisted she never said she didn’t want to go and that instead, we just never invited her. There was no point in arguing further; she was going to believe the lie she told herself and make herself out to once again be a victim, with the other person (in this case, me) being the aggressor.

“You know, this just shows that you are against your parents, and do you know what Jehovah does to kids who are against their parents?” she sneered. Throughout this conversation, she repeatedly told me to stop yelling when I was speaking at my regular volume.

I stood up at that point and told her I didn’t have the energy to deal with her. If she didn’t want to own up to things she herself said, this conversation was done, I told her. While I could feel my blood pressure going up, I refused to indulge her in her delusional, dysfunctional nonsense. I refuse to let her try to emotionally manipulate me into thinking I was hurting her and “going against” her.

I went to get the laundry out of the dryer, and she literally pulled out the towels from my hands and ran off. Yep, here she goes again, I thought to myself while folding clothes, throwing her little tantrum in a “woe is me” moment; “my life is so awful, and you don’t care. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and you don’t do anything to make me feel better.” The only thing keeping her from yelling and slamming doors at that point was that Chris was sound asleep, and I purposely started folding clothes in the bedroom where he was so she’d leave me alone.

The hardest part about dealing with a paranoid, delusional, and mentally ill parent is that you have to realize that nothing you can do will really make them happy or save them. You can do literally everything on their checklist that they want you to do, but they will find some way to make it seem like you have done something to wrong them or “go against” them, and they will bitch and moan endlessly to make you feel bad or guilty about yourself. I cannot help someone who does not want to be helped; I’ve had to remind myself this numerous times, even with my brother when he was struggling. She doesn’t believe therapy or a psychologist could help; she’s never expressed her feelings to any medical professional. Instead, she hides behind an extremely fake veneer each time she’s in front of them. She throws “depression and anxiety” around to make us all feel guilty and kowtow to her every wish and need. And sometimes, it’s really hard to feel sorry for her when she’s attacking YOU. It’s why sometimes, I get mad at my dad for not being more sensitive and empathetic, but then on the other hand, he’s probably just so fed up with her constantly instigating.

It’s emotionally exhausting being here, sometimes even for just a day. If all goes well with my little baby in my womb, I don’t even know if I could stand one day in this house with them and the baby. That may just set me off and make ME want to jump out the window.

Family drama has already begun and I’m not even home yet

My mom insisted she didn’t want to go to dim sum with my uncle and cousins because she was scared of getting the delta variant. Yet, she suggests that the four of us all drive down to San Jose just to eat at a very “high quality” Vietnamese restaurant. Wait, let me get this straight: you don’t want to eat out because you’re scared of getting the virus, but you will willingly drive an hour south just to eat a quick meal at a restaurant… key words: AT A RESTAURANT. OUTSIDE. What she has really said here is: I refuse to eat out unless it’s on my own terms and exactly what I want. When I point out her hypocrisy, she gets defensive and tries to guilt me, saying, “well, I only suggested it because you haven’t come home in a long time and you haven’t had this food before. I wouldn’t offer it to anyone else.” That is not even the point. The point is that you only want to eat out when it’s yourself calling the shots!

The level of manipulation here is just so transparent, and it’s frustrating when she doesn’t even realize how stupid the things she says sounds.

When your parents disagree with you on a major health decision

Since I got pregnant and told my parents, both of them have made sure to voice the fact that they do not think I should get the COVID-19 vaccine (any version of it) while pregnant. My parents kept saying that I had plenty of time to get the vaccine… after the baby was delivered. While I did initially have hesitations about getting the vaccine during my first trimester, after seeing the data that over 80,000 pregnant American women had gotten the vaccine and the outcomes were much better than average for birth defects, still births, and miscarriages, I felt more comfortable getting it. So I got both doses towards the second half of my first trimester. This allowed us to get on a plane for two trips. It made me feel more comfortable going out and being in restaurants and seeing comedy. In fact, the Comedy Cellar required proof of vaccination to be admitted. Plus, with the delta variant, I couldn’t be safe anywhere. I’m well aware that COVID can even cause miscarriages itself, and with pregnancy causing a weakened immune system, I was at higher risk: pregnant women are more likely to get hospitalized from COVID and be on a ventilator. Pregnant women with COVID are also more likely to die.

None of this seemed to be a concern for my parents, though. Given they both had very severe side effects (weakness, fever, chills) from the vaccines, they kept saying that the vaccine would harm the baby and even cause birth defects. What data they had to back this up I will never know, but they insisted they were right.

So when I told my mom I was coming home next week, she was surprised and said that I shouldn’t come since I haven’t had the vaccine yet. When I told her I actually was fully vaccinated, I could tell she was really mad.

“I cannot believe you got the shot!” my mom said, her voice sounding elevated. “You shouldn’t have gotten it. You have no idea what it will do to the baby. If I were you, I never would have gotten the vaccine while pregnant. What if something bad happens to the baby?”

It’s always frustrating hearing stuff like this. My health apparently doesn’t matter. The risk of getting COVID for me doesn’t matter, and apparently that doesn’t affect the fetus. My parents actually think it would be totally fine for me to just stay at home for nine months and only go to the doctor’s office this whole time. Everything else is unnecessary. My mental health doesn’t matter.

When I tried to tell her that my doctors (ALL OF THEM), plus my pregnant doctor friend all recommended and got the vaccine, she raised her voice and said, “I’m not arguing with you! Just do whatever you want! It’s your life! I’m just telling you that I wouldn’t do what you did!”

Why is it that when I try to have a reasonable conversation with reasonable dialogue with my mom, she always perceives it to be my instigating an argument and causing problems? It’s like it’s impossible for us to just have a conversation about a serious topic without her feeling like I am attacking her… when in fact, she is the one attacking me?

She then proceeded to do her usual questioning of what relatives I’d been in contact with and bash her supposed best friend and daughter and gossip again about the daughter’s recent divorce. My mother really does take pride in other people’s pain, and it’s sad.

When “teaching” your parents backfires

In a parent-child relationship, an obvious power dynamic exists that cannot be ignored: the parent is the dominant one, and the child is the submissive one… or the one who is perceived to be submissive. Unfortunately, as all children grow older and eventually become adults, they will inevitably develop opinions and learn things that do not jive well with their parents, and so disagreements and fights will ensue. The false premise of a lot of these fights is that “your parent knows best,” and while ideally, that would be the case, it is not always the case. This week, Chris and I were talking about family dynamics and why he doesn’t like to tell his mother too much too soon. He didn’t give many details around it, but he simply said that during his adolescent years, they had a strained relationship because of how much information she would always want to extract from him about pretty much everything. I told him that the thing that irks most Asian kids in immigrant households is this stupid idea that, oh, no, you can’t date until you finish college and get a good job, yet when you finally reach that stage, your parents living in their delusions suddenly expect you to immediately be equipped to find The One right away… without any practice in social skills via dating before this.

Chris said he doesn’t think this will be the top of mind concern or pushback for parents of our generation. Instead, he says that the challenge will be something our parents never even had to deal with: the ideas around grasping gender identity and fluidity and how to talk about and address it will likely trump anything around restrictions around dating or who is allowed to come over. That is likely true, but the above concern is still likely to be there. The problem with any and all conflicts that tend to come up between parent and child is when parents assume they know everything and their word is the final word, but they will not even, for a second, hear what their child thinks or get their perspective. In the situation of discussing gender fluidity, don’t *we* have something to learn in that regard? If that is the case, shouldn’t the parents be able to be taught something by the children? Not allowing for a conversation period robs their child of agency, autonomy, and the ability to think freely for herself. It tends to end only in resentment and lingering anger against the parent, not necessarily for the restriction itself, but for the total shutdown or lack of conversation to be had.

When we were discussing this, it reminded me of a conversation I had with my mom as recent as last week when I was walking back from my 16-week scan. I was telling my mom that it went well, and she starts getting mad, angrily saying that I’m exposing the baby to too much radiation and that I shouldn’t be doing so many scans. “You need to be careful! Use your own judgment! When I was pregnant twice, I never had to do any of these scans. Why do you have to do these now?” The question seemed so ludicrous. Ultrasounds were not a normal part of pre-natal visits until well into the 1970s and ’80s, and that also depended on your provider and health insurance coverage. Technology has advanced a LOT in the last 35-45 years since my mother was pregnant with Ed and me. The fact that I even have to call this out to her just seemed ridiculous.

“Technology has evolved a lot,” I tried to explain. “These scans are all routine now; everyone who goes to the doctor for prenatal visits does these.”

“Fine, FINE!” she raised her voice in response. “You do whatever you want! I’m just trying to warn you, but you live your life the way you want. I’m just giving you a suggestion.”

She always does this. Whenever I try to explain anything to her that she doesn’t seem to understand or want to understand, she assumes she has “wisdom” and knows more than I do, and then shuts down the conversation completely by saying, “Do what you want!” It’s impossible to ever share any information with her that even minutely goes against her set-in-stone beliefs, even when they are based on outdated or flat out inaccurate information. In her mind, there’s absolutely no way I would know more than her about anything. This is why parent-child communication breaks down, why parent-child trust and relationships break down. It’s sad, but it doesn’t leave much room for a back and forth, constructive conversation about… well, anything.

When your mom still treats you like you are 6

After my doctor’s appointment yesterday, Chris quickly rushed home to get to his next meeting. Since I was on the Upper East Side, I decided to text my friend who lives in the area for a quick coffee date, especially since the weather was so nice outside. We sat outside for a couple hours and caught up on life, health, and politics.

I eventually walked home and decided to call my mom to let her know how my appointment went. Pretty much every call we’ve had during the pandemic has included her warning me not to go anywhere by myself because “the world is getting worse” with all the hate crimes against Asians and the increased shootings since the beginning of this calendar year. When I told her I was walking home, she asked if Chris was with me, and I said no. She asked why not. I said I went to go meet a friend after my appointment.

Well, that was a mistake.

“What friend? Why are you meeting a friend? Is it (insert name of friend she knows in New York)?”

I wasn’t rolling my eyes, but I certainly was on the inside. I told her that the friend lived near the doctor’s office so we just met up for lemonade. No, it was not the one friend she is aware of.

She starts making the sound with her voice, indicating she’s annoyed and unhappy. “Who is this friend? Why are you meeting with them? How do you know them? You need to be careful! You don’t know who to trust!”

Yeah… I don’t have to answer any of her questions because I am no longer in elementary school, so I just said I was already home and had to go, so I hung up. Once upon a time, she used to revel in the fact that I lived under her roof and could control my every move, that she could get the phone number of all my friends and then check in and call them behind my back after I’d see them… to double check that I really was where I said I was. My friends always told me when she’d call. She’d even say dumb things to them like, “If Yvonne does anything bad, you let me know, okay?” She even did this a few times when I was in COLLEGE.

Now, as an adult, I’ve made sure to tell her as little as possible about any friends I’ve made as an adult so she knows as little as possible about my social circles. She is always so suspicious of pretty much anyone and is constantly, constantly saying, “You can’t trust anyone.” As far as I’m concerned, that may be true… but that also extends to her given all the stuff she’s done behind my back. It’s amazing that I haven’t ended up just as paranoid and distrusting as she is today.

When people become the mini-me of their parents

On the dad’s side of my family, I am the youngest of my current generation among all the cousins, and also the only girl. Of my paternal grandparents’ four children, their eldest son had three boys, their second eldest son (my dad) had a boy (Ed) and a girl (me), their third child, a daughter, had one son, and their fourth child, their third son, never married and had no children. Of the people who have probably went against the grain among these cousins, it’s probably me and my cousin from my dad’s sister. That cousin is fully estranged from his mother, and his dad passed away in 2012. While he and I are in contact, he does not maintain contact with anyone else in our family. Ed’s gone, and so that leaves my three much older cousins, who are 13, 16, and 17 years older than me.

While those three cousins, Ed, and me, we grew up in the same building in two separated flats, so we basically grew up like siblings and were as close as you could be despite the age difference. Yet somehow, I always felt like my three cousins had never really “grown up” properly, as not only did they not participate and do “normal” things that people do at certain ages, e.g. go to prom, leave home for college, move out of their house in their twenties, they never really dated anyone until they met the women who would ultimately become their wives. It always felt so weird to me. Not only that, sometimes they would make comments comparing their soon-to-be wives with ME. That’s just flat out gross.

The cousin who is 13 years older than me is probably the biggest embarrassment in our family, though. He’s married to someone who served him an “ultimatum” to get married, otherwise she’d dump him by a certain point, and they hate each others’ guts. Her family hates him, and he hates her entire family, including her. They share a child who has mild autism, so the road of parenting has been tough to say the least. He moves from one job to the next every 3-5 years, making racist comments about anyone he perceives to be a threat, particularly White and Indian people for whatever reason. On top of that, I’ve realized that of all three of the boys, he is most like his dad, who passed away 21 years ago and who I perceived to be one of the biggest losers I’ve ever known: constantly complains, is extremely and openly racist and sexist, blames all his life circumstances on others instead of ever taking responsibility for himself. His default is to complain and whine, particularly about people behind their backs. Yet he lacks the balls to ever confront them in person (that’s actually a theme in my family; no one ever wants to confront anyone. It’s all back talking). And to think he’s still as immature and ridiculous as he’s turning 48 this year is even more embarrassing for me. It’s basically embarrassing for me to be associated with him. He literally complains about some person or another every single day and, no fail, always has to state their race in his complaint.

If anyone ever saw some of the texts he sends me, which I have muted, they’d immediately assume I was a bad person for having any kind of a relationship with him and he was a terrible, racist person.

When people become so similar to their parents, though, especially the worst part of their parents, I always wonder what level of awareness they have of this and if they actually think it’s good or bad, assuming the awareness exists. In my cousin’s case, he’s delusional; since his dad died, he’s basically built a metaphorical shrine for him and thinks of him as the best dad and role model in the world. What a joke. We need to accept the good parts of people as well as the bad instead of sticking them on some untouchable pedestal after they’ve died.

The work of motherhood starts far before you give birth

“The work of motherhood starts far before you give birth.”

Someone posted this one liner on Instagram, and somehow, that really resonated with me. Even if you put aside how grueling fertility diagnostics, treatment, and IVF are and are fortunate enough to never have to go through all that, the work of motherhood really does start far, far before you give birth. It’s on women to track their ovulation cycles, whether that’s through tracking cervical fluid, basal body temperature (BBT) every morning, and the opening of their cervix. It’s on us as women to understand when we’re about to ovulate to then alert our partners to the fact that, yes, it’s time to have sex in order to procreate! And then once you get pregnant, it’s your job to make sure you’re getting yourself good prenatal care, going to all your appointments, taking your prenatal vitamins, watching out and caring for pregnancy symptoms, watching what you eat and drink. You have to decide on your birth plan. Will you go medicated or unmedicated? You’re probably more likely than your partner to figure out who the hell is going to be your future child’s pediatrician, as well, as that needs to be decided in advance of the day you give birth. It’s never ending. And then, once you give birth, which is like a mini Olympics on its own, you will inevitably as the mother have the lion’s share of all the child-rearing responsibilities! It really is never ending labor!

I thought about all this and realized that it’s no wonder women have so much resentment against their male partners, even the ones who don’t really want to admit it. There’s always the inevitable “mom guilt” that most dads for whatever reason cannot seem to relate to. I thought about this a lot particularly because one of my friends, who recently gave birth to her second child and is now on maternity leave, was texting me nonstop yesterday, telling me how pissed off she is that her husband, who recently started a new job, still hadn’t taken off a single day of family leave since the birth of their newborn about two months ago, and was insisting that she “sleep when the baby sleeps” and has no understanding of the guilt she feels spending more time nursing her newborn versus spending time with their 3-year-old daughter.

“Why are men so stupid?!” she messaged me. “He just does not get it AT ALL. He’s sitting there, working all day at his computer and on meetings while I have to constantly feed and change diapers and basically be a human feeding machine! And then he tells me to sleep when the baby sleeps, but I can’t sleep because there’s all this shit that has to be done around the house that he can’t seem to do himself because he’s WORKING! How does he not see what is wrong?! My work is work, too — raising this new baby!!

It was infuriating for me to read these messages from her; I just felt so bad. And then I fear that my situation could easily become that. We all know that couples tend to fight more once a huge change like a baby comes into their life, and it takes a long time to adjust and find your groove. And even if you try to delineate responsibilities ahead of the baby arriving and say who will do what, in the moment, you rarely follow your “plan.”

It’s a lot of hard work not to fall into the traditional gender roles. But that work is necessary, otherwise our kids will learn it and no progress will ever happen in future generations.

What is the point in sharing if it ends in anger?

Since Ed passed away, more and more, I’ve withdrawn information from my mom. I’ve realized that the more I share with her, the more she will get angry about or use against me, or accuse me of “not having wisdom” to make the right choices in life, and so there’s really no point in sharing too much information with her. While I’m not as closed off as Chris is in sharing “on a need to know basis,” I try to limit details with her as much as possible. And of course, she knows this and gets frustrated with this, always ending our short conversations with, “That’s it?” or “You have nothing else to tell me?” but honestly, it’s better for my sanity and for keeping safe boundaries from her.

The most annoying part is that even totally benign, unrelated-to-me topics end up angering her, and then lo and behold, she takes them out on none other than…. me! My paranoid personality disorder, borderline narcissistic mother takes every tiny thing personally and as though it’s an attack on her. She frequently asks how my friend’s baby is doing. I told her that she’s just turned six months and is about to begin eating solid food. In addition to that, she’s already started swim lessons, and she’s not scared of the water at all. My mom had a very strong, negative reaction against this.

“What kind of a stupid thing is that?” she raised her voice. “The baby was just born a few months ago and you want her to go into water? What are they trying to do — KILL HER? In my culture, we never do such stupid things as White people! Your generation just doesn’t have any sense at all!”

Well, that escalated really quickly. And when did this become a showdown regarding Asian vs. White culture????

My mom really has no sense of reality. She’s never been exposed to the fact that the earlier you teach kids something, the better. I mean, that’s probably why she tried to stunt my growth and my brother’s in so many ways in a futile attempt to “protect” us from the outside world. She has no idea that many babies and toddlers learn to swim in controlled, supervised settings, and this actually happens every single day all around the world.

Stupidly as per usual, I tried to explain to my mom that babies live in a water sac for nine months; therefore, water is natural to them, and the earlier they learn, the better. And this is when she REALLY started raising her voice, telling me I had no idea what I was talking about and “just believe what stupid people in this generation believe. But you can do what you want — it’s your life and your future.”

Well, actually, it’s my friend’s kid’s life and my friend’s kid’s future, and if anything, she will be set up to swim well at a young age and never have to endure the insufferably embarrassing experience that I went through, going to public swim lessons at age 15 with a bunch of 3-5-year-olds as my “peers.”

All the “basic” skills that kids are usually taught quite young, and usually by their parents or via lessons, I never had. My parents never taught me how to ride a bike or swim. My dad said I could “teach myself” how to ride a bike (very encouraging, as you can tell), and swimming, well, who needs to learn that? It was all so strange when I started meeting all these other kids who shared that their parents taught them these things or put them in lessons because not only did their parents actually take the time to teach them, but they asked me why my parents never taught me and why I didn’t know how to do all these basic things. It felt very alienating, frustrating, and embarrassing.

To this day, I’m still not fully steady on a bike, and thus there’s no way in hell I’d ever ride a bike on any city street. I’m still scared of deep water and have never properly learned how to breathe during free-style. I hope my future children will have these skills, though, and never be subject to embarrassment because of not knowing soon enough.