“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.
As I said, that was a “good” experience. You can see from the clip she ate all her oatmeal, and most of the food stayed where it should be and not on the floor, or in my face.
With that said there have been worse situations – one in particular involving blueberries that I do not wish to think about.
Suffice to say, the entire eating and feeding experience has be a trying experience, and like many new parents going through this process, it can be defeating and discouraging.
Sometimes, I would think to myself:
“Man, I can’t wait until she learns how to properly feed herself. I’m looking forward to the day where she’ll just eat without me having to worry about it!”
Things also go beyond just feeding. In the early stages of teaching my daughter to eat solids, I still remember the science lab-like setup in our kitchen.
We would steam, blend, bake, boil, pre-chew (okay that last one was a joke), every organic vegetable known to man, hoping to find the perfect combination. Often times she would devour what we feed her the first bite, only shut her lips and treat it like poison the next.
I remember during this stage my wife and I felt pretty defeated.
Up until this point our daughter had steadily gained weight. But at 13 months, when she began to become a pickier eater, that’s when her weight started dropping. And the truth is, we’ve always been spoiled by the fact that she was always a good eater, so the loss of weight hit us pretty hard.
We felt that we had failed as parents, despite feeling that we had tried everything, but she still wasn’t eating. The more she didn’t eat, the more the pressure mounted. It began to feel like how it was when we first brought her home, with the constant tracking of how much she ate, and measuring dirty diapers, and doctor check ups.
I was warned how difficult things were going to be with a newborn, with the constant crying, and sleep deprivation. But I had no idea that feeding my daughter would put my patience and sanity to the test once again.
Before kids, I had no idea that feeding my daughter, or taking her out to a restaurant would require so much effort.
But now I know.
I now know, the pressure of getting your kid to eat.
I now know, the struggles of meal planning and preparation.
I now know, how it feels to not get to eat your food when it comes nice and hot.
I now know, the tag-team technique of alternating between shoving down your own meal while the other parent feeds.
I now know, how it feels to lose the battle of wits between a tiny human and a full grown human.
I now know.
And when our friends who don’t have children watch us at restaurants, we feel their beam of pity and concern.
I can see it in on their faces as they are thinking: “How are they this patient?” or “Is it always like this?” or “Should we stare, or not stare?”
Rest assured, we are fine. And please don’t pity us. We’ve come to realize that this is just the process of getting food in our kids.
Believe me, the first time we were at a restaurant, we did care and we were super self-conscious of what people would think if our daughter had a meltdown.
In fact, I remember us only going to noisy and spacious dim sum restaurants so that if she cried or screamed, no one would notice.
How do you even get mad or frustrated when you’re treated to things like that?
And that’s the thing – like everything so far with this parenting gig, things do become rewarding.
This kid knowa how to push my limits, but she also knows how not to break me. She just knows when to throw me a bone once in a while.
I could be sitting there feeding her for 45 minutes with no luck, but somehow by the grace of her mercy she decides to take in four consecutive pieces of chicken in a 30 second span.
My inner voice goes from, “F this bull crap!” to, “I’m the GREATEST!” in a matter of seconds.
These are the rewarding moments.
These are the moments where you realize it’s all worth it.
Such is the theme of this parenting thing, isn’t it?
We emotionally beat ourselves up, and bend over backwards for our kids, but we still endure it.
We endure not because we are sadistic or stubborn, but only because we are parents and that’s how we are wired.
And you know what? It’s not all doom and gloom.
The eating and feeding process is slowly getting better and better.
My daughter is slowly learning to feed herself, and little by little those tiny wins are slowly becoming large victories.
So if you’re a parent who is struggling feeding your kid right now, I promise it does get easier. I know every child is different, but I can confidently say that every good parent is the same, and your efforts and intentions eventually get rewarded.
And with this, I leave you with the most recent and unremarkable video of me feeding my daughter.
This is not to brag or anything. But rather this is to show that eventually they get it.
Comparing it to the first video in this post, this is proof that the feeding experience does get easier.
And for me personally, if I didn’t write this post, I would not have the opportunity to see the improvement.
So please, no matter what stage you are at, enjoy these moments.
Cause eventually our restaurant frustrations will no longer be us trying to get our little humans to pick up a spoon and feed themselves, but rather it will be us telling our big humans to put down their devices and interact with us like how they used to.
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to leave a comment below, or send me an Instagram message, or a tweet!
If you have questions or comments on your own toddler feeding experience, I would love to hear from you!
This was me in second grade bragging about losing my tooth:
“Look Mrs. P, my tooth fell out yesterday!”
“Oh wow, did you get money from the tooth fairy?”
“You know, the tooth fairy? You put your teeth under your pillow and you get money.”
“Oh yeah…I knew that!”
I had no idea what or who the tooth fairy was, but I was good at pretending to know things early on during my childhood. To fit in and to not stand out as one of the few Chinese kids in town, there were many moments where I pretended to know about Canadian culture, where in fact I didn’t.
Immigrating to a small Alberta town at a young age, I sort of hated being Chinese and I certainly wished my parents understood Canadian culture better.
I wanted to be the kid that knew the words to all the Christmas carols, and all the words to the NKOTB songs. I wanted a normal Christmastree like I saw on TV, not some giant plant with red pockets as ornaments.
I just wanted to be a white kid living with a white family.
There were times where I didn’t want anything to do with my Chinese culture, and I wanted my family to adopt to this Canadian culture as quickly as possible.
It’s funny how perceptions change.
Looking back at it now, I feel the complete opposite. As I mentioned before how incredible it was for my immigrant parents to give me the ultimate Canadian birthday party, now I am proud of my culture, and I am proud to be the Hong Kong family that moved to rural Alberta.
So as we just finished celebrating the Lunar New Year, I started thinking:
How much of my Chinese Culture will I imprint on my daughter?
Should I enroll her in Chinese school? Make her watch Chinese cartoons? Only speak to her in Cantonese? I’m really not sure.
On one hand I do not want to impose and overwhelm her with the culture. I don’t want to cause her to feel singled out or embarrassed by it. I mean she’ll face enough embarrassment with me as dad as it is.
On the other hand I don’t want her to miss out on what makes having dual-cultures so great.
Take for example: Food
I love the fact that part of my upbringing exposed me to both Chinese and Western foods.
I once proudly said to my wife, “Man I love the fact that I’m Chinese. Can you imagine not eating Hong Kong Style cafe food?”
(When you know someone for close to 20 years, you’ll talk about anything, including Chinese food . ?)
For the uninitiated, HK Cafe food is basically North American diner food with a Chinese twist.
The lemon tea, and milk teas are as staple as an espresso in any Italian cafe, or a coffee is most North American coffeehouse.
It goes beyond food too as both my wife and I speak Cantonese fairly fluently. It’s our helpful tool to use when we’re travelling abroad, or secretly commenting on other people, or negotiating a big purchase.That’s right, whenever you see an English speaking couple quietly speaking another language, they’re either talking crap about you, or trying to plot something sinister.
End of Digression
Our heritage and culture is very much of our daily lives.But what if I don’t teach her well enough? It’s like the movie Multiplicity each copy just gets worse. (Yes that was a 90s movie reference starring Michael Keaton) My knowledge of Chinese culture is basically a crappier copy of my parents.Will she embrace this condensed and dumbed down version of Chinese culture?
My parents exclusively spoke to my brother and I in Cantonese, and that’s one thing I disliked when I was younger but now appreciate so much.Sure, it didn’t exactly help me with learning English early on (Shoutout to ESL), but now that I am older, I’ve managed to learn the English language pretty well (Lingo dead? Lingo is dead).Prior to having her, when my wife and I had those pre-parenting negotiations, I agreed to be the parent that solely speaks Chinese to her. This was based on a study that said that in order for a child to pick up on the second language, one parent must exclusively speakto them in that language so that they see it as a necessary means to communicate.So far that hasn’t really come to plan. Instead, I throw around the occasional Cantonese phrase, along with some Chinglish.
This kid is going to grow up confused. Instead of best of both worlds, she’s going to benefit from the mediocrity of both.
I guess the point to all of this is, I need to do better for her. She may not use the language when she grows up, but in the event that it ever gives her some sort of advantage it’ll be worth it.I have to make the effort to try as a parent. Right?
Going back to losing my tooth as a child: I may not have received money under my pillow the first night. But interestingly enough, after telling my mom about the whole tooth fairy thing, I mysteriously received 25 cents under my pillow the next morning.
And I didn’t even put my tooth under my pillow!!
The Chinese family that I hated so much to be a part of, was actually pretty willing to adapt to and embrace Canadian culture. I just didn’t know it or understand it at the time. I mean, my parents did had to at the time: assimilate to a brand new foreign culture, get a job, learn a new language, and raise two boys. Maybe figuring out these weird Western nuances weren’t on the top of their list of to-dos. Perhaps I should have given my parents a lot more credit; because of them I ended up getting the best of both worlds.
Or maybe, this was their plan all along and they Jedi Mind-tricked me like crazy. They somehow knew that 25 years later their youngest son will have a realization that they did a pretty awesome job of exposing him to both cultures.
Now that I’ve thought that out loud, I’m just going to shut up and teach my daughter everything that I know about our Chinese culture – especially when it’s so much easier to do so now.
It’s not like back then when my folks needed to import Chinese laser disc movies from Hong Kong; or drive out three hours to Edmonton to buy asian animal crackers.
Now it’s as easy as turning on YouTube and choosing a catalogue of uploaded Chinese cartoons; or driving ten minutes to Walmart to pick up the same asian snacks my parents painfully went through to get for us back then.
I really don’t have any excuses not to teach her – I need to do it for her, and more importantly, I need to do it for my parents.