Chinese New Year spells exciting times for me as a child. Of course, the Ang Baos were fun to have, and the house-hopping meant Chinese New Year goodies galore. Now that I’m older, it’s also an opportunity to meet relatives, and catch-up with them. And, did I mention that I really look forward to my aunties’ home-cooked dishes?
Traditions aside, Chinese New Year means socialising with the extended families. Sometimes, we meet new faces as the family expands, or even unexpected guests. Now that we are older, I kinda see why the older folks would exclaim, “Wahhhh, so big already!”, or, “Are you studying or working now?”
As a child, it may mean repeating your answers to different relatives who ask. Now that I’ve been “promoted” to the new phase i.e. adult + parent, it also means we receive new sets of questions.
As young adults, we get the “Do you have a boyfriend?”, “When are you getting married?”, “Why no boyfriend? Must be too picky!”, “Pator how long already?? Buy house yet??” and more. Sound familiar?
After we were married, the questions were directed at Family Planning Blueprint. Add that with a host of advice – which were great to have, but please do so sparingly… every couple has their own stories, right?
When we had our daughter, they started asking about the next child. Don’t get me started on the gender concern – that’s another story I’ve to write about.
This year, we will be visiting with two young children. Please be kind to us (we’re still learning to parent two young ones!) and especially my young daughter (she’s just three!), because, I know the sort of questions that will be coming, and this is just a mother’s instinct.
#1: Please don’t ask her if she loves didi, and prod her endlessly for the ‘right’ answer.
‘Love’ is a big word, and for most of us, we only truly understood its meaning when we were much older. Three year-olds are fickle (every parent would know! Ha!), so don’t be alarmed if her answer is not what you expected.
#2: Please don’t ask her if she loves mummy or daddy more.
Ditto the above, and as parents, we love her unconditionally. Please don’t put her in an awkward situation of answering this – how would you feel if you were asked this question, now as an adult, to your face, and in the presence of your parents? Why would she need to choose, anyway?
#3: Please don’t ask her if she wants to have more bak kwa, pineapple tarts, kueh lapis or whatever that’s in front of her.
Oh please don’t, because the toddler would show you the meaning of persistence, and as parents, we have our own rules and preference. When we hold our stand in front of you, we’ll be judged, so let’s not start the power struggle, okay? It’s just going to make us look bad, and we don’t want to be rude to you, because most of the time, it’s usually the senior folks.
#4: Please don’t ask her why she’s so shy, or doesn’t greet you.
Well, labels are what adults place on kids. If we change the word ‘shy’ to something else, she’d think she’s that too. If she’s never seen you before/don’t see you often, it’s really normal for her not to greet you with 100% enthusiasm. She’s just a child.
#5: Please don’t ask her, if she wants soft drinks, Ribena, Milo, or whatever you may deem a kiddy drink. And then, say, “Ask your mummy/daddy for permission.”
Chinese New Year is like an open invite to everything on the table. And yes, we have our stand about not letting her have too much of these things (yes, I know it’s once a year but that’s not a reason to overindulge, right?). We would really appreciate if you asked us FIRST, before showing her the said item. When the child sees it, wants it, and we say “no”, it’s really an invite to a seeming tantrum that us parents have to manage in front of everyone. Drama, much?
#6: Please don’t say, “Mummy/Daddy don’t love you already. They love didi because he’s <insert comparison statement>.”
Whether we have two or three or more, every child will be loved dearly. We don’t need someone to try to be funny when it comes to sibling relationships. Parents with more than one child would understand how some days can be bright and cheery when both kids play together. Other days may seem like a tornado-wrecked aftermath. All is normal, and the children are just getting familiar with each other. Those words will hurt the three year-old more than you think, so please hold it.
#7: Please don’t say, “Call me XXX/kiss me and I’ll give you <insert treat>.”
If you’re not an immediate family member, I’d be honestly uncomfortable about kisses. Please skip the bribes – guess you wouldn’t want her to be greeting you because of them, too, right? And, what are you as the adult teaching her….?
#8: Please don’t say, “You’re so big already, you need to be a good role model.”
Words that are too big for a three year-old to understand, expectations that are adult-set, I wouldn’t think a toddler would know how it means to behave like a ‘good role model’. Please let her enjoy her childhood and simply be her age :)
#9: Please don’t say, “See? Didi is XXX, how about you? You’re a big jie jie, you should XXX.”
Each child has their own temperament and personality. If it’s the first time you’ve met my daughter, don’t be too quick to judge since you hardly know her. Pretty sure you wouldn’t like being stereotyped after this too.
#10: Please don’t say that she needs to eat another kueh bangkit, or try some soft drinks, because it’s just once a year.
It’s always the food when it comes to Chinese New Year – you can tell I foresee a hard time, right? :P
We believe in eating in moderation – because honestly, you wouldn’t know how many of those she had at other homes before arriving at yours. Or if she has allergies. Best way: check with parents first. Because the consequences are our responsibility, not yours.
Don’t get us wrong – we’re certainly looking forward to get-together with our family and friends. Just sharing some common concerns as parents of young children, and we hope to enjoy the festivities in happy, less-tears ways!
Here’s wishing you and your loved ones, a Blessed Lunar New Year, and the best of health and happiness! Have fun with your families and friends, this Chinese New Year!
Parents, how do you tackle these concerns during Chinese New Year? Do share your tips too!