Asian American Millennial versus Immigrant Parents (1v2)

Leaving for school

I attended two kindergartens, a private school in the morning, and a public one in the afternoon. After getting picked up at my private school, I would change out of my uniform in the car and into normal clothes en route to school #2. My uniform consisted of nice black shoes, tights, a collared shirt, and a dress so it was no easy feat. Then I would finish as much of my personalized piping-hot lunch as I could, which was homecooked with perfectly proportioned nutrients, on the collapsible table which hung from the back of my mom’s driver seat. I’d tell her bits of my morning in between mouthfuls. I probably had two backpacks, too, though I don’t remember that detail. Growing up, I’ve taken at least 21 different extracurricular classes throughout my childhood, some for the whole span of it*. Needless to say, I was very fortunate (and busy).

My parents came to the US in their late 20’s in search of a better life and opportunities. While they grew up in fortunate circumstances, they each faced many challenges as young adults and even more after moving here. Having grown up in Asia around big families, they came to a place where they had no one and worked for everything they were able to provide me, from scratch.

My parents’ incredible values have allowed them to succeed and pushed me to be the person I am today. However, given the completely different environments we grew up in, we clashed a lot. I say with regret that I was a very rebellious and tough child to raise.

Our greatest clashes in the last ~25 years revolved around the ideas of:

  • Family over everything. If the family does not approve of the person I’m dating, it’s family or the significant other. We actually ended up not talking for a few years because of this.
  • Blind obedience over experimenting and failing. I questioned every fact and command they barked at me. In the frequent absence of detailed reasoning, anything they told me would be put to the test. I don’t know if I was born this way or psychologically rewarded from my American education to question everything.
  • Live at home forever with the rest of the family (every child is to raise their family in one part of the house). My mom literally rebuilt the house so it would be big enough for 3 families to live in – my parents, my future family, and my brother’s future family. Any implication that I wanted to live somewhere else was shot down with glares. (Although when we weren’t talking for a few years, I got to experience independent living and it was wonderful. I was only one hour away though.) I highly value independence and I would absolutely want my children to experience living by themselves after college and even in different parts of the world. Perhaps my parents value it too, but their preference to keeping family close is evidently stronger.

Whether it’s different values, preferences, stages of life, personalities, or backgrounds, there’s always a way to find understanding and it doesn’t have to be so difficult. I believe that the years of sorrow and suffering that I experienced from not being able to be on good terms with my family could have been fixed with mutual empathy, better expression of our emotions, and better communication. The challenge remains to be the how that bridge is built. How can such polarized parties come together and live harmoniously? The first step is recognizing that it’s possible and that it requires empathy from both sides. The next step is to figure out how to communicate in a manner that forces both sides to be empathetic.

- Starfire

List includes:

  1. Ballet
  2. Hip hop
  3. Piano
  4. Violin
  5. Kungfu
  6. Gymnastics
  7. Abacus
  8. General music / rhythm
  9. Writing / Reading comprehension
  10. Tutoring
  11. Math
  12. Summer classes
  13. Tennis
  14. Swim
  15. Basketball
  16. Science
  17. Art
  18. Chinese dance
  19. Chinese school
  20. Chess
  21. Ski / snowboarding