Raising a Second Generation Canadian

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?”

“The what?”

“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 Christmas tree 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.

My brother and I posing in front of our Chinmas Tree on Christmas Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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. 

My Daughter Watching Doraemon in Our Native Tongue: Cantonese

On the other hand I don’t want her to miss out on what makes having dual-cultures so great.

A Digression

 

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.

Baby Udon Noodle Recipe Bring beef broth to a boil Add veggies and other garnish Add tablespoon soy sauce Add premixed baby powder and baby oil Stir all ingredients and let it simmer for 5 minutes Add milk as required Serving size typically for 1-2 adults. *no babies were harmed in the taking of this photo*😂

A post shared by Ingus (@snappingus) on

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?

Our cultural knowledge will just get worse and worse.

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 speak to 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.

.

.

.

.

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 5.52.21 PM
GINBIS Animal Crackers were bomb.

 

Growing up in a small town, I wanted so much to be whitewashed and Canadianized. But as I grew older, I slowly became more appreciative of my Chinese culture. I hope as she grows up I’ll expose her enough to our culture and traditions. And maybe she’ll be able to appreciate what I’ve learned to appreciate. Happy New Year! A post shared by Ingus (@snappingus) on

It Took Becoming A Parent To Realize My Parents Were Amazing

Let me start with this photo:

wp-1464922576724.jpg
Yep – That’s Me Playing Air Guitar for my Birthday Party

That’s me when I was seven years old, enjoying a fantastic birthday party with a bunch of my grade 2 friends. On the surface, it may not seem like a big deal. But thinking about it more recently, it actually means a whole lot being one of the few Asian families in my community.

Notice that I said Asian and I wasn’t specific to Chinese, well when you are in such a predominantly Caucasian community, you are simply lumped together. This is not a shot of the people in the town, but rather there just weren’t too many Chinese (let alone Asian) families in the town of less than 10,000. So a little bit of ignorance is understandable.

In fact, I was mistaken for an Aboriginal kid on numerous occasions. So really no harm, no foul.

Basically I was the token Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Filipino Kid of the group
Basically I was the token Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Filipino Kid of the group

Knowing this, I now sense that my parents probably went through even greater obstacles as new immigrants, in learning about a completely new culture. Because of that, the fact that they were able to put together this birthday party with pizza, video games, balloons, and loot bags was truly amazing.

They had the “just make it work mentality” and this is something I, now as a parent, must figure for my daughter.

I can only image the amount of stress they must have went through to plan and execute uprooting our family from Hong Kong to Hinton, Alberta.

And for that I am grateful.

It’s hard enough for my wife and I to plan out a day at a zoo, let alone flying across the world to start a new life. Apparently they shipped a large container of furniture by sea to Edmonton, and drove a freight into the small town.

What’s even a crazier is the fact that they did hardly knowing any English.

Perhaps I should’ve realized this sooner – I mean should it really take becoming a father for me to really clue in on how tough it must have been for my folks?

But I suppose that’s one of the magical features that come with having your own kid:

When you have a kid, you not only learn how to be a parent, but you learn how your parents were as parents.

More likely than not, you learn that your folks are kind of amazing.

Regardless of timing, I just feel that I needed to share this and advertise that my parents were pretty awesome.

I hope that one day I will be able to do at least half of what they’ve done for me and my brother, for my daughter. If I can do that, she’ll be a pretty lucky girl.

Pretty Awesome Folks
Pretty Awesome Folks

G.D.F.R. When Your Parents Make It Real

 

One of the greatest titles in the world is parent, and one of the biggest blessings in the world is to have parents to call mom and dad.

– Jim DeMint

 

So far the journey towards becoming a parent has been sort of like a dream. We’ve experience many highs and certainly some lows.

But this adventure has been fantastic and almost dream-like in the sense that I’ve been witnessing things slowly unfold into something that is real.  I’m not just talking about strollers or cribs, but rather the variety of things and moments that make me feel like I’m becoming a dad.

Well today after having a conversation with my parents, the prospect of me being a dad became very real.

Don’t get me wrong, the past six months of preparing have made me understand what’s to come.  But when I actually put into words the ideals of what I will do for our daughter to my mom and dad, things felt very real, very real.

It was a simple discussion with my parents on how I will be teaching our daughter how to speak Chinese and the following G.D.F.R. revelation popped into my head:

“Holy sh*t, I’m actually talking to my parents about being a parent to my kid, that’s so crazy!…But wait a second…I’m still their kid!”

It may seem like nothing, but when you actually talk to your folks about parenting stuff you’ve officially removed the last set of training wheels.

momdadmeAnd almost immediately it made me wonder what they must be going through at this point.  As this is their first foray into becoming grandparents, I kind of wonder how that feels for them. Do they live vicariously through me now? Do they now officially close up the parenting shop knowing that they’ve successfully completed their task of raising a person who is now going to open up his own shop?

I wonder if they had a G.D.F.R. revelation too thinking:

“Holy sh*t, We’re actually talking to our kid about being a parent to their kid, that’s so crazy!…But wait a second…He’s still our kid!”

Wow it’s like parenting-inception.  It’s almost like a parent snake eating it’s kids tail while the kid snakes is eating…wait that actually doesn’t make any sense.

So from what has been a dream so far, I am now thrusted into the reality of becoming an actual parent, thanks to what I thought was an innocent conversation with my folks.

My parent’s are kind of really good at doing their job.

How so?  Well, even after 30 years of raising me and pointing me to right direction, my parents continue to teach and show me what it takes to be a parent to a kid so that I can one day parent-inception my kid back when they have this similar conversation.

That is totally like a parent snake eating the tail of their kid snake….nevermind.

 

My parents are cool!

Inception-PARENTING