It all began with an observation my wife made:
“I don’t know, a 7 year gap is pretty wide between you and your brother. Are you sure you weren’t an accident?”
I might have responded with: “Hmmm, that’s an interesting point…” But I didn’t really think much of it after she said it – I just brushed it off and moved on.
Then half a year later – just two months ago – this happened during our regular Thursday night dinner with my Parents…
As I went in for that last bite of rice, I casually asked my parents in Chinese:
“Hey, can I ask you guys a question?”
I look up at my at both my parents, and they gaze up to look at their 31 year old son, sitting next to his wife and 16 month old daughter.
They both had a genuinely curious look on their faces, and probably thought I was going to ask them about something trivial, like how did they cook the tofu, or what time are they going to come over next week.
Instead, I hit them with this bomb:
“I was wondering…Was I an accident?!”
If this was a movie, this is where my folks would comedically spit out their soup. That didn’t happen – but it might as well have – for what came out was a rapid fire succession of responses:
“No, of course not!” stumbled my mom.
“No…You see, it was so tough back then after having your brother…” my Dad chimed in. “…we were in a rough financial situations too…” He stammered on.
The funny thing was the more he spoke, more and more reasons of why I was an accident came to light.
At this point, I remember looking at my wife, and she had the biggest, ‘WTF is wrong with you?’ expression on her face.
I was loving every moment of it, because I had already known the answer. Since my wife’s comment six months before, this was something that I thought of for a while and come to terms with.
Unlike my parents, I was ready for this conversation.
“…Aaaand our house was so small too…work was tough…”, my dad continued.
I’m willing to bet that over three decades ago, when they found out they were having me, my folks had a conversation like this:
“Okay, the day he asks if he was an accident, here’s what I’m going to say..and here’s what you should say…”
Unfortunately for them, the gameplan that they devised was locked away and buried deep like a faded note inside a time capsule housed in a rusted tin container.
The gameplan, though was solid when planned, couldn’t hold up to the test of time thirty years later.
After I grew out of my teens, they probably thought the coast was clear, and that they wouldn’t have to deal with this awkward conversation – especially to an emotional teenager.
And we all know that if there’s one common Chinese family stereotype, it’s that we love avoiding awkward moments where we have to express any feelings or emotions.
They probably thought, well, if he wasn’t going to ask now, he’s not going to ask ever.
Ha! I sure showed them!
After the dinner, I felt pretty good about myself. Sure, I basically sucker-punched my parents with my question, but I felt pretty at ease.
In most stories that I hear regarding someone finding out they were an accident, the main character is usually embarrassed or devastated by the news.
I, on the other hand, was not phased by the discovery.
Perhaps if this were say ten years ago, learning about this would likely have bothered me.
But not today.
I think a lot has to do with the fact that I’m quite proud of what I’ve accomplished so far in life, and I sense that my parents feel the same way too.
I’m proud to be an accident, and thinking about it further, I’m even more proud with how my parents handled my upbringing ensuring that it never crossed my mind.
Never have I felt unwanted, and never have they expressed that I was a burden to them and their lives.
I always felt loved and cared for from the both of them – at least as “loved and cared for” as possible in the Chinese family sense, like that “What Asian Parent’s Don’t Say” video.
In any case, I never questioned whether I was planned or unplanned.
Coming back full circle – as my wife and I constantly ponder whether or not we want to have a second child – knowing this I think helps put things into perspective. I don’t think we’re ready for a second, and I don’t know if we’ll ever be with how content both of us are.
However, upon learning of my origin, there is solace in knowing that even in the difficult circumstance my parents were in, they ended up raising an unplanned child that grew up feeling wholeheartedly and conditionally loved and wanted in this world.
Of course, if by fate or fortune we end up with an unplanned kid, I’ll at least know to rehearse my lines, and be extra suspicious if he or she casually asks me a question during a family dinner thirty years later.
I’ll just simply get up and leave the dinner table and let my wife answer the questions. She did afterall, caused all of this with her innocent observation allowing me to confront my parents and realize that it’s actually okay to have an unplanned kid.