Father’s Day 2022

American Father’s Day is today. Given my own dad is socially inept and awkward, he rarely calls me. I cannot even remember the last time he called me. I’ve stopped calling him directly since it’s always so awkward, and he doesn’t even say hello to me when he answers the phone and realizes it’s me. He’ll usually just say, “Yeah? What do you want?” Does that sound rude? Yes. But to him, that’s just a normal response (but I can only imagine how HE would react if I responded to HIM that way if he were to call). Instead, I’ll send a gift and if it’s running late, I’ll text or email him to let him know, plus a Happy Father’s Day wish.

So I did that today, and he responded right away by saying thanks, and, “Please wish Chris a happy Father’s Day, too.” Interesting. He never messaged to wish me a happy Mother’s Day last month, but he wishes indirectly a happy Father’s Day to his son-in-law? With my dad, everything is always a response, never something he initiates. It always has to be a quid pro quo thing with the other person initiating it, otherwise he will never be the first to do anything. And well, he can’t really wish me a happy mother’s day in response because no one is going to wish him a happy mother’s day.

People always say that you should spend time with your parents now while they’re here because once they’re gone, you’ll have regrets. So occasionally, I wonder if I will have regrets that I did not call to initiate conversation with my dad more often. But when I think about it, I honestly do not believe I will. Who wants to sit in an awkward conversation, especially one that starts as rudely as “What do you want?” The worst part about all this is that my dad never thinks he’s wrong, and my mom always fiercely defends him on the stupidest and most egregious things he’s said and done. I’m grateful that I always had a roof over my head and food on the table to eat, but when it comes to a real, loving, unconditional relationship, that was definitely never there with my dad, and even less so between my dad and his son. It’s partly why Father’s Day as a holiday to me is a pretty meh day.

Dysfunctional siblings

I call my mom about once every two weeks now. Since the baby’s arrival, this frequency is probably the most that I can tolerate while still being sane. I recently found out that my uncle, my dad’s brother, had to have hip surgery; one hip had to be completely replaced. My cousin drove him to the hospital while a neighbor picked him up and offered to stay overnight with him to help him out since he’d have limited mobility. My parents have known about the hip surgery this entire time but never called or suggested they come over to visit or help. I knew this would be the case: my dad has a terrible relationship with his one living brother, and he holds grudges against him from their high school days. But eight years ago, when my dad had his heart surgery, my uncle was kind and visited him twice, once in the hospital and once at home. Nine years ago, when my brother died, he took my dad out to eat for his birthday the week after the funeral. He seemingly tried to forge some kind of relationship, but my dad is so socially awkward and blind that he couldn’t see that.

My mom was aware of the surgery, so she asked me about it. I asked her why she had to ask me when she could just call or text him herself. She got pretty angry and basically went off on a tangent, ranting about almost all the things my uncle has done that have been rude or mean or taken advantage of her and my dad. For a while, I just zoned out and did my work as she vented. I’d heard most of these stories before multiple times, but she loves to repeat herself and show she’s always the victim. I don’t doubt the truth in any of these stories, but I also don’t see a reason to constantly talk about the past. It wouldn’t hurt to drop off a single meal for his brother, but I know my dad wouldn’t do it. Grudges run deep with both my parents; forgiveness is not something they believe in.

I never suggested they bring something, though. But she got angry at me and said I’m asking too much to ask her to bring something for him.

“Ummm, do you hear anything that I say on the phone? I never asked you to do anything,” I said, while rolling my eyes internally.

“Oh, you didn’t?” my mom responded. “Well, you should forgive me! I’m disabled!!”

That sounded a bit facetious and sarcastic at the same time, but I let it go.

When grandma insists she isn’t racist

My mom wasn’t happy about the fact we were planning to hire a nanny. She kept saying over and over that “your own blood” takes care of your baby the best. When I asked if she was suggesting that I quit my job, she told me she didn’t want that, but what other option would there have been…? When she found out we finally hired one, she immediately asked me what the nanny’s race was. When I told my mom she was Jamaican, my mom responded, “Does that mean she’s Black?” She said the world “Black” in a near whisper. Why do Asian people of her generation always do that?

I told her to stop being so racist and that there was nothing wrong with Black people, or specifically, having a Black nanny. I told her we obviously vetted this person through not only references but also a trial, so we knew she’d be a good fit for us. My mom was nervous and completely unconvinced. It wasn’t until two weeks passed when she felt more at ease… after I let her know that Kaia greets our nanny with a smile each morning when she walks in.

“Can you send me a picture of what the nanny looks like?” my mom asked. “I want to see how dark she is…. I mean, what she looks like.”

“WHAT?” I responded, incredulously. “What is wrong with you? It doesn’t matter how light or dark skinned someone is, and who cares what she looks like if she’s getting the job done?!!!”

“It’s a reasonable request,” my mom insisted. “I just want to see what the nanny looks like. She takes care of my granddaughter all day, so I have a right to know what she looks like. I’m not prejudiced. I’m a Jehovah’s Witness. Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be prejudiced.”

Uh-huh. Sure, they can’t.

When your mother looks for horror stories to freak herself out and think that her granddaughter will get kidnapped

My mom called this afternoon to tell me that I needed to be careful with the nanny that we selected. Apparently, my dad has been fueling her fear of a non-family member taking care of our baby during the day by sharing stupid and ridiculous YouTube videos of babies getting kidnapped. The one that my dad showed her was of a mom who was unloading her car of groceries. She was running in between the car and the house and left her front door open. At some point, a stranger snuck into her house and grabbed her baby and left. Of course, this completely freaked out my mother and made her even more paranoid. My dad has an amazing talent of further instilling paranoia into my mother when she is already naturally paranoid and untrusting. It’s almost like he gets some sick thrill of scaring my mother even more than she already is. And when I have previously pointed this out to him, he pulls out his bullshit “what aboutisms,” which futilely attempts to divert the attention from him and immaturely tries to imply that whatever I do is worse. What-about-isms are one of the most immature responses because it refuses to accept the possibility of wrongdoing on one’s part. My dad has been doing this pretty much since I was a young child, so it’s nothing new to me.

Then, she suggests that my aunt had a suggestion. What she really means to say is, she has a suggestion but she wants to say that my aunt or my dad or my uncle or someone else she has spoken with suggested it so that it would come off as lighter to me. She says that my aunt suggested that Chris’s mother fly over and live with us until the baby was at least one so that a family member who actually genuinely cares could take care of the baby. Family is best, my mom said. “You can trust family to take care of your child. You cannot trust outside people to take care of your child.” She said that she would do it, but her arms and back are not strong enough; she could drop the baby, and that’s it!! So, she concluded, Chris’s mother would be good for this because she is able bodied.

While in some families, this would be normal, this is not going to happen here. Chris’s mother has never offered to do anything like that. They live all the way in Australia; that’s a 21-hour flight away!!! Does my mother ever use any real logic ever?? They are coming to visit in the summer, but it is exactly what it sounds like: it is a visit. They are not coming for the purpose of child rearing. I don’t even think that something that she is interested in. She is probably more interested in using our baby as a trophy to be able to tell everyone that she finally has a grandchild! She’s never given any indication of wanting to help with rearing her grandchildren, and that’s completely fine. Plus, she works. Not everyone has the luxurious life my mother does where she has all of these paychecks coming in and she doesn’t have to work. And my mother also ignores the fact that people from other countries cannot just fly over and stay here for unlimited amounts of time legally. She does not understand anything about this. 

I tried to explain this to her, and of course, she just gets really defensive and angry and says that I am causing conflict. She says I am overreacting and raising my voice when she didn’t mean any harm. And her favorite thing to say of all time is: “you may have more education than me, but I have more wisdom.” Because that is so relevant in a stupid conversation like this. 

If she really had more wisdom, she would not be getting paranoid and frantic over stupid ass YouTube videos that my dad shows her to freak her out and hate the world more.

When your husband trolls your parents

Since my parents found out I was pregnant, they have been insanely overprotective and obnoxious about pretty much everything. They are not shy at all about criticizing me and my decisions, or about telling me when they disagree. One of my mom’s favorite things is to tell me she has more wisdom than me, so I should do what she says…. right. When I went to get the Covid vaccine last May, they both admonished me and said that I was being selfish, only thinking about myself being able to go out to eat and socialize as opposed to thinking about my unborn baby (it was actually the opposite, but hey, they have more wisdom than me!). When I got the COVID-19 booster shot, my mom got even more pissed, saying that I had no idea what risk I was putting my baby in just weeks before labor and delivery. And when I was in San Francisco back in August, Chris was holding back and trying to be very patient when my mother was fussing over me about literally everything: she got mad when I leaned over the dining table to get a dish during dinner, she did not want me bending down, and she obsessed over me eating cold foods. This was all annoying, but I expected it. And since we were only in San Francisco for one week, I put up with it. If I actually lived in the same city with her and had to deal with her fussing over me this much, I probably would’ve told her to take a hike and learn science. 

So, since the baby has arrived, I have tried to communicate to my mother that I’m not going to deal with her ridiculous nonsense. I stopped responding to all of her 5 million daily calls, and I tell them constantly to stop freaking out and that I’m doing what I’m going to do, and I am not going to listen to them. Chris particularly likes to egg them on by trolling them. He takes pleasure in getting reactions out of them because they are that predictable.

The latest episode of this was when one morning, Chris woke up to check on the baby before a feed to see that she had broken out of the swaddle that he had done in the middle of the night. It honestly looked like she was stuck in a big bag and trying to wiggle her way out. He thought this was absolutely hilarious, so he decided to take a video of it, completely aware that this was something that would totally piss off my parents and make them think that we were irresponsible parents to their grandchild. He immediately uploaded it as an unlisted video to YouTube, and that afternoon, he sent it via our group text that he created facetiously among my mom, dad, him and myself.  He laughed evilly and was just waiting for a reaction. 

Well, I took a nap after nursing the baby that early evening for just an hour. And when I woke up, I looked at my phone to see that there were two missed calls, one from my mom and one from my dad. There were also two voice messages, again, one from my mom and one from my dad. In addition to that, my mom sent me a direct text outside of the group text, asking me why I had covered up the baby’s face… She would not be able to breathe. I did not bother listening to the voice messages from both of my parents as I knew that they would be accusatory and irrational. Instead, I quickly looked at the audio transcript on my phone to see that both parents had accused me of suffocating my child – entirely predictable. The funny thing was, the way that my dad started the message was, “Yvonne: there is a video showing that the baby has her face covered.“ Well, considering that it was uploaded to my account, doesn’t he think that… I would know that the video existed?! Granted, they did not know that Chris used my phone to send them this video link, but considering that this is my YouTube account, why does he make it sound like there is a random video out there showing that our grandchild is about to suffocate that I would not be aware of? It’s as though this was news or something that we had no idea about, and that just seemed senseless.

I responded to my mom’s direct text with my usual sentiment: stop freaking out. And then, I ignored both the voice messages as well as the missed calls. On top of that, the next day, I refrained from sharing any photos or videos with them. I cannot deal with their nonsense.

And the more that I think about it, the more ridiculous my dad‘s involvement in this is. To give you some context, my dad has not called me directly probably since September of last year. Even after the baby arrived, he never had any direct voice contact with me until this call. He has only sent me these basic 1 to 2 sentence emails. He has also sent me a handful of texts, but mostly in response to videos and photos that I sent of the baby. The most substantial text he has sent is, “Nice,” or “interesting,” or “very good.” So as you can see, he is not particularly interactive or talkative or… Really involved. 

And when I really, really think about it, it’s ridiculous that he even has these responses considering the fact that he was not really even actively involved in my life while I was a child or my brother’s life except to criticize us. Sure, he paid the bills and made sure we had a roof over our head, but in terms of day-to-day interaction, there was a little to none unless it was a put down. When I think back to my childhood, there was never a time when my dad spent any quality one on one time with either my brother or me. He really did not know us, our interests or hobbies, nor did he make any attempt to show he wanted to build a bond with us or be interested in our lives and development. In fact, he spent more quality one on one time with my pet parakeet. Every night, when he would get home from work, he would spend about 30 minutes to one hour downstairs in the bird’s room, talking to Willie my parakeet, playing with him, and having one on one time with his favorite child… my parakeet Willie.  He never did that with Ed or me. In fact, he barely even said anything to either of us when we were at the dinner table. How does this even make any sense? So now, fast forward to 36 to 43 years later, and he suddenly has all kinds of opinions about my child, his grandchild! And that, when I think about it, is very infuriating. 

So no, I’m not going to put up with them.  And no, I am not going to deal with the fact that they have zero sense of humor and are stuck in their ways, and think that their parenting is the best. Because as you can see from the above, it is clear that their parenting is not the best.

First visit from my cousin, his wife, and son

I had been dreading my cousin and his family coming over. They live fairly close, just right across the park on the Upper East Side, but his entire marriage and the way he and his wife have raised their son just screams dysfunctional. She blames him for everything, and he blames her for everything. Each sees themselves as a victim and the other as the reason for their misery. It’s truly a match made in hell, and you wonder how these two people even got married and had a kid together. There is very little joy in meeting up with them. The last time I had seen them, I went to help them move from their old apartment on the Upper West Side to the new place on the east side. Every time my cousin asked his wife a question, she would ignore him. When I would ask her something or tell her something, she’d immediately respond. Well, nothing had changed, as this same situation repeated itself when they showed up today. It was made even more awkward by the fact that their son was with them, and he is not totally all there. The baby was clearly with me, and he asked where the baby was. He had no interest in seeing or really interacting with my child at all even though he claimed he did when he walked in. And his mother was constantly grabbing and holding him even though he’s almost 10 years old. All of them kept their masks on the entire time, and seemingly were too scared to touch anything in our apartment in fear that we would likely give them COVID. They wouldn’t even take a glass of water from us to drink. My cousin barely even looked at my child and was on his phone almost the entire time.

So yeah, that was a fun and riveting visit. At least they dropped off two brand new play mats for my baby.

Bath time photos 

Last year, my parents decided to enter the 21st-century by finally getting smart phones. Of course, they were never going to buy brand new phones or be on a regular phone plan, so they got some limited phone plan and bought refurbished used phones. They are Android users, and I am not familiar with using Android phones, so my mom asked me to help her with her android device last summer, I was only able to help her with basic things and then leave her to my dad to help… Which basically means he is never going to help because he has no patience to teach anyone anything.

Well, Chris said that since we had a family chat with his own family, he should build a group text chat with my parents and the two of us as well. I knew this was not going to be a great idea because 1) my parents are not comfortable with text. The most they will ever text is one or two word responses. It will likely feel like a one-way conversation, and who wants a one-way conversation in text? 2) the whole point of a group chat is so that a group of people can, well, chat. That is not what was going to happen with this group chat. What would likely happen, and what has happened, is that we will share things like photos of the baby, and if my mom has a response, she will just call me and tell me her response, which will likely be a complaint. Chris partly also wanted to do this for his own amusement because he wanted to see how predictable my parents would be. He proceeded to send a number of photos, including one of the baby getting bathed by our night nurse. Chris did this specifically to instigate my parents because he knew that I did not tell them we hired a night nurse, nor did I tell them that she is Trinidadian and black. Well, it is very obvious that our night nurse is a black woman. She is a Trinidadian woman with dark skin, and this is apparent in the photo of the baby being bathed because you can see our night nurse’s arms. 

This did not sit well with my parents. They would not be happy with this for two reasons: first, they are terrified of “outside“ help, because they generally do not trust people who are not family. My mother had had some bad experiences with childcare with me when I was a baby, and so since then, she truly does not trust anyone. Secondly, they would not be happy with hired help who is black. Because to be frank, my parents are racist, and they do not like Black people. When I have accused my mom of being racist before, she says that it is not racism. She says that there are just certain races that are just not as good as others. Some work harder than others. Some smell more than others. You go figure.

I had never told my parents that we had hired a Night Nurse. I knew they would not approve. So this photo was the first hint that we had hired someone for childcare. My dad immediately responded and said, who is your night nurse? I knew this response would not mean anything, but I responded that her name is Cheryl. The next time I spoke with my mom on the phone, she tiptoed around the fact that she was not happy with the fact that we hired someone to come into our home and stay overnight. She also asked in her usual annoying and coy way, “I don’t mean anything by this, but is your night nurse black?” I told her that yes, she is Trinidadian black, and she is amazing. She does a great job with the baby and we totally trust her. She then said, when you hire a nanny in the future when you go back to work, you better not hire a black or a Filipino woman. You can’t trust them. Just believe me, I know, she said.

Chris insisted he sent this photo to my parents to “show them who’s in charge,” but I thought it was just to instigate them and piss me off. I was NOT happy he did this, as I explicitly told him not to. My parents are never going to understand that I am in control of my own life no matter what he tries to share or convey to them.

Avoiding dysfunction by blaming Omicron

My one cousin who lives in New York has suggested that he, his wife, and son come to our apartment to visit our baby for the first time. While in regular circumstances, this would be a happy visit, in my circumstance, or at least, with my cousin’s life, this is not a happy visit. He has a miserable work life and and arguably worse family life, and he complains like no one else I’ve ever known in my entire life. Woe is always him, and he’s always a victim. Chris can’t stand him for obvious reasons and does not want him coming over. So the easy way to push this visit out is to blame the rising rates of positive Omicron cases and to say we are holding off on visitors due to this, which my cousin would easily understand. I can’t use that excuse forever, but at least for now, I can keep his negativity at bay from my family.

Grandparent demands for photos and videos

It is often said that parents, when they become grandparents, become totally different in the way they interact with their grandchildren. In the handful of Asian mom groups I am in on Facebook, it’s a common experience shared that when we were children, our parents were extremely strict, never said “I love you” or expressed any type of loving emotion towards us to our faces. Yet when they interact with our children, who are their grandchildren, they suddenly become super affectionate and actually start saying “I love you” directly to them.

My parents have become obsessed with Kaia, constantly demanding photos and videos as though that’s all I spend my days and nights doing. My mom finally got the hint that I was no longer going to answer the phone when she called 4-5 times per day, so she’s laid off and occasionally calls and sends a text message. But when I don’t send a photo or video for a day, she immediately gets worried and just jumps to the conclusion that something is wrong, which is really annoying. My dad would email me (because that’s how he likes to communicate with his only living child) and ask if everything is all right, and to please send photos.

On the one hand, it is cute. On the other hand, I do not exist solely to send photos and videos of their grandchild to them. I have to actually… TAKE CARE OF and raise this child, and it’s not a hobby. It is my responsibility, and I am not going to just send photos and videos at their beck and call.

Registry etiquette

In general, whenever I have been invited to a wedding or baby shower, if the couple has a registry, I will always buy a gift from the registry or give cash. This makes the lives of all of us much easier: we know that the couple will like and appreciate the gift because, well, they themselves chose it. And there’s no guesswork needed, nor is there pressure in terms of how creative you can get with the gift. I recently finished reading Adam Grant’s book Give and Take, and in it, he succinctly says that if you are a giver (in other words, a good human :D), you will buy a gift off a registry or give cash. What you will not do is try to go off registry and buy something else… because in that case, you are thinking about yourself and your own orientation and what you think would be best for them. And in sum, a gift is supposed to be about the recipient, NOT the giver.

So it was weird when I received a long-winded email from my uncle when he wanted to explain that he didn’t get us something off our baby registry and decided to go with something else. While I am always appreciative of gifts and do not expect gifts (I mean, I’m not forcing anyone to get us a gift), this was just odd. He said that given the ongoing pandemic, he wanted to get us something fitting, which ended up being… an automated soap dispenser with soap refill. “This way, both parents and baby will keep safe,” he explained.

A soap dispenser isn’t baby or mama related directly, and his rationale for going with this just seemed so strange and out there. In addition, we already have an automated soap dispenser, so why does he think this is such a superior gift compared to any of the items I had added to our registry? The most absurd part is that he purposely didn’t even check off the “this is a gift” box on Amazon and just had it sent without a tracking or order number (he admitted this when I told him the item came already open/seemingly used), and without the ability to return or exchange it. My uncle has sent me many gifts from Amazon previously over the years, and he had always checked this box off before. So in my head, I wondered if he did this purposely and/or even facetiously.

Regardless, we were able to return it and get Amazon credit for it, but in the back of my mind, I wonder what real rationale he had when he did this and if he was trying to send some weird message to us in doing so.