Ways I Disappoint My Asian Parents Again and Again

When you come from an Asian family, there are usually strict cultural norms to live up to. On the occasions you don’t, chances are you probably disappoint your Asian parents.

Different Asian parents, and parents in general, have different expectations of their children. But the benchmark tends to be high in Asian households.

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Growing up Asian in Australia, my migrant Chinese parents were strict with a traditional Chinese mindset. They wanted me to be top of the class, work a high paying job and be a smiling demure Chinese girl well-liked for her polite mannerisms. For most part I never lived up to these expectations, much to their disappointment.

The Cambridge Dictionary describes disappointment as ‘the unhappiness or discouragement that results when (hopes) or expectations have not been satisfied, or someone or something that is not as good as you had hoped or expected’. That is, when you disappoint someone, that someone disagrees with your behaviour. In turn you probably feel guilty and you’re not enough for that someone. It’s a feeling that lingers.

Strict authoritarian (and authoritative) Asian upbringing has been discussed a fair bit – from Amy Chua’s memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother discussing endless piano practice sessions after school to studies showing Asian parents holding high regard for educational attainment. There has also been recent research exploring the possibility of diminishing obedience by young adults of Asian background towards authoritarian Asian parents.

Often the pressure to be obedient when you’re Chinese stems from familial values and cultural conditioning. Filial piety, essentially respecting and caring for your elders, is a virtue silently expected to be upheld in Chinese families. So is ‘saving face’, whereby you do not diminish your family’s reputation around others and instead maintain pride by keeping up traditions.

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I felt this pressure to be the perfect Asian kid throughout my life, conflicted between living up to expectations of being Chinese and my own personal values.

The examples I share here aim to illustrate disappointing Asian parents in small, everyday ways – when cultural norms don’t cross your mind for a moment, and then they do. They also aim to show different ways of looking at and seeing beyond what you’ve probably always felt about cultural norms.

And so here are some occasions where I’ve disobeyed and disappointed my Chinese parents.

1. Not becoming a doctor, lawyer or accountant

In line with the concept of saving face and responsible family ideals in Confucian Asian societies, it’s a marker of success in Chinese culture to have a steady job and provide for yourself with ease. It’s Asian parent pride to raise you to be self-sufficient, especially if they were immigrants who started life over in a country with barely anything.

I love writing and English was my favourite subject at school. When I got my O’Level results, the equivalent of middle high school, my heart sank as I saw the ‘B’ for English.

‘That doesn’t matter!’ my dad exclaimed excitedly, peering at my results over my shoulder. ‘What matters is you got A+ for maths and physics!’

That didn’t deter me from completing an arts degree. After university I became a freelance writer supporting myself with varying income, enough to get by. However my Chinese parents constantly let it be known, ‘See, you studied arts. Now can’t get good job!’

Part of me felt guilty: maybe I really should be setting myself up for the future. But who’s to say you have to follow the straight and narrow. The sense of competitive urgency that comes from a typical Chinese mindset can certainly motivate you to move forwards. But this stress can be suffocating when you are learning, growing and finding your way at your own pace.

2. Not being a girly girl

Traditionally embodying femininity and appearing attractive to the heterosexual male gaze is expected of Chinese women. There’s the pressure to be submissive and docile to uphold patriarchal and nuclear family standards. When you don’t blend in this way as a Chinese woman, you tend to be seen as difficult and lose face.

‘Don’t sit with your legs open!’ my mum yelled each time I read a book on the couch after work, lounging with my legs apart. ‘You’re a girl! Sit properly!’ When I was a teenager my folks also didn’t take a liking for my all-black wardrobe either, saying ‘You’re inviting dead people!’ with my dark ensembles. I refused to wear dresses and skirts, and according to them I looked ‘so ugly in blue jeans’ attending big Chinese wedding banquets where everyone dressed up.

On these occasions I felt like a rebeI, never cared much for conventional gender norms or looking a certain way. While there’s always time and place to shrug on manners and keep the peace, there’s also owning your power to carve your own person free from expectations and be who you feel. You could be anyone from anywhere and be whoever you want, look however you want and speak your truth to make an impact.

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3. Walking in front of my parents

As a child, my parents insisted on holding my hand everywhere we went, be it to a new town miles away or to the nearby store for mundane weekly grocery trips. Being a curious kid who liked discovering things on my own, I’d often rip my hand free and eagerly skip ahead to the unknown.

‘Come back here! Mabel, come!’ my dad would shout immediately without a beat. ‘Don’t let go of my hand!’ This happened until I was about 14 or 15 in front of my classmates who took the public bus home from school. Seniority is deemed as superior in Chinese culture: normalisation of the masculine patriarchal protector in front with eagled-eyed view, deserving of calling the shots.

In these moments of pulling my hand away and shouting ringing in my ears, I went from feeling like a daredevil to small fry in a flash. Certainly the world is dangerous with situations and people you should avoid. But too much of staying sheltered and following the leader, you only know what you’re told to do.

4. Not greeting my parents

When I was younger, the moment my parents came home and walked through the door, they expected me to greet them right away.

‘Mabel! Where are you? Come out right now!’ dad would exclaim before the door slammed shut. It didn’t matter if I was reading in my room or taking a dump in the bathroom. Not being right there at the door to welcome them home was already suspicious or a failure, reminiscent of a servant getting into trouble and punished by the Emperor in a Chinese imperial drama. This happened so often that I simply got used to it.

A lack of respect for your personal space, privacy and boundaries is common in a stereotypical Chinese household. At times seniority desires control and ownership of everything within the household and so nothing really is yours, in line with the natures of patriarchy and collectivism. Arguably it can come across as impolite to ignore someone when you see them. But some need their space and not be bound by rules to feel a sense of inner peace.

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5. Not serving the rice correctly

Food and eating well is a big part of Chinese culture. There’s this Chinese saying that goes, ‘Disease comes from the mouth’ – be mindful about eating for your health in other words.

Rice accompanies Chinese family dinners alongside the meat and vegetable dishes. The rice has to be served just right. Not undercooked, watery or raw for a Chinese dinner at home, as comedian Jimmy O’Yang wrote in How to American: An Immigrant’s Guide to Disappointing Your Parents.

Each time my mum scooped the steaming rice out from the rice cooker for dinner, she ordered, ‘Mabel! Call daddy from over there to sik fan (eat) now! Now! Or else the rice get cold! Call louder!’. I would obediently call for my dad to come to the table. Sometimes he didn’t walk over immediately – maybe he didn’t hear my soft-spoken voice. Maybe I was to blame.

Of these times when my dad finally sat down at the dinner table, he’d take a bite of rice. Mouth chewing rice, dad raged, ‘The rice is not warm enough! It’s cold! Take it back to the pot!’, slamming his chopsticks down on the table. Silence echoed through the house.

During these occasions eating at home felt small and unappetising. Having a meal hot or cold is something to be thankful for. But no matter how good the food tastes or how cosy the ambience, you’d probably never forget the unhappy diner who sat next to you.

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Strict Asian parents arguably show tough, practical love and it comes from a place of care. They hope for opportunities and a comfortable future for their children, shaping them to be tough to face the world and its challenges. Often they put their own interests and more importantly their own time aside to make sure they learn life’s lessons.

Different people have different wants and needs, different reactions and feelings in each situation. The constant insistence to conform to cultural expectations certainly has its consequences on your personality, emotions and mental health – your individual outlook and how you feel about yourself.

In her book Quiet is a Superpower, author Jill Chang writes that ‘finding your core values is never an easy journey, especially in Eastern societies’ and especially when you’re introverted too – but such values can be developed independently over time through work or broader society. Research on psychological behaviour shows Chinese American individuals tend to value emotional suppression to preserve interpersonal harmony but this may not be the case in Western cultures. A study also found disempowering parenting and intergenerational cultural conflict creates mental distress among Asian youths.

In other words, the collectivist mentality and hegemonic power dynamics in Asian cultures can considerably suppress individual identity and confidence to speak and live your truth. At times, such culturally commanding actions borders on abuse and leads to long-term trauma, intentionally or unintentionally.

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In general, people don’t want to upset each other if they can avoid it. That includes not wanting to disappoint your parents – and you may get stuck in the cycle of the fear of disappointing others. Aside from feeling guilty and struck by fear of being the cause someone is unhappy, you might constantly focus on avoiding disappointing your Asian parents – submitting to cultural stereotypes and unable to see past what you’re being told behind closed doors or see what’s possible elsewhere.

You can’t please everyone all the time as everyone will have their opinions. As self-care coach Cheryl Richardson wrote in The Art of Disappointing Others, you have to learn to disappoint others to live a life of meaning. But moving forward amidst the criticism of not living up to cultural values can be easier said than done – because those cultural values may actually be who you are.

For one, you may desire and feel the pressure to make it without the help of your family. If you don’t be successful on your own as how you imagined, you might be horribly disappointed. More specifically, disappointed in yourself alongside that perfectionist side within you, which likely stems from the strict cultural values you’ve always known and a place of lack.

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Being creative and a writer doesn’t always come easy to me. While I love writing, I struggled to articulate my voice. It took time to unlearn feeling unimportant amidst the discouragement ingrained within me and believe in writing, which includes setting boundaries with both yourself and others, surrounding yourself with supportive people and finding middle ground between you and those who disagree – keeping in mind this last suggestion isn’t always achievable. This is something I write more about in my upcoming book, and part of this post was an excerpt.

Sometimes you might disappoint your parents. Sometimes if you don’t follow your own truth, you might disappoint yourself even more.

Have you ever disappointed your parents?

171 thoughts on “Ways I Disappoint My Asian Parents Again and Again

  1. Enjoyed your article. But parental pressure to succeed is also seen in other ethnic groups. My parents grew up poor during the depression in the midwest and worked and saved very hard to provide the life for our family that they did. I think they were terrified of poverty and instilled in my siblings and I a sense that we had to succeed to shield ourselves and our families from the possibility of what they endured. They took thrift to a level unheard of today with the mantra ” Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. Despite a nice house and the accoutrements of middle class life, they were very conscious of money, its power and utility. I would not say they loved money but had a deep respect and reverence for what it could do. So we were expected to perform in school, go into a profession, work hard, save, and uphold our cultural values and heritage. Deviation was disapproved of and pressure, although not oppressive, was ever present. Was it good or bad, I don’t know. They were who they were.

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    • Thank you so much for reading and sharing your reflections, Angus. You bring up a great point there, that parental pressure to success is seen elsewhere too. It really did sound like you parents worked hard to get themselves to where they are today, and passed on what they learnt and always looked ahead. It is thoughtful of them to wear clothes as long as possible – my parents still do that too these days. After all, consumerism has a dark side.

      I also liked how you summed up your thoughts, questioning if parental pressure is good or bad. Perhaps it really comes down to the individual and how they perceive life and where they want to be. There are always pros and cons to everything, and each situation and how you react to others is how you make of it.

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  2. YES, thank you! I grew up with Asian parents, and I can especially relate to #1 and #2, as I have a Bachelor of Arts degree and am far from being a girly girl. However, I didn’t know about the particularities of #5, as honestly, sometimes my parents have undercooked or overcooked rice (and myself, too, haha). Despite my parents having had successful careers in the medical and engineering fields, they have been very-accepting of my aspirations to, first, pursue studies in English literature in university, and second, to have let me go abroad for four years to live in Europe and travel freely. They’ve even been accepting of me being gay, which I’m aware many Asian households (and society, even) have yet to be completely on board with. While I’m sure they would’ve loved for me to have been a doctor/working in the medical field, their unconditional love for me overpowers the status and materialistic goals in life.

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    • Your response made me smile, Rebecca. It seems that we have quite a few things in common. Being a girly girl always felt so limiting to me, and I was drawn more to Hot Wheels cars than Barbie Dolls. That is great your parents have been very accepting of your studies, choices and who you are – and many Asian households aren’t accepting if you don’t identity with a particular label. I think for some parents and people in general, there comes a point where they want their child/other people to simply be happy living their life.

      It seems that there is a good level of trust between you and your family – and trust is what is needed to make any relationship work. Hope you are doing well 🙂

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  3. Wow. That was NOT nice of your father to yell about cold rice when he took his time getting to the table. He could at least microwave it himself, jeez. But sometimes people just want an excuse to be mad.

    I have witnessed many traditional Asian families surpressing individual needs to an unhealthy level, choosing their children’s hobbies, careers, and even life partners. But on the other extreme, you have Western cultures like the US allowing the rights of the individual (if it’s a cis white male) to become so protected it endangers other members of society: “How dare they forbid me an assault rifle! How dare they try and make me wear a mask instead of letting me infect and kill people!”

    I think you’ve done a good job carving out your own identity while remaining respectful of your obligations to society. Good job, Mabel.

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    • Most of the time my dad would take a few minutes to get to the table. Not that long. And it’s not like the rice was served straight out of the fridge. You suggested a sin there – microwaving rice yourself. In many Chinese households, rice should be served fresh. We did microwave leftover rice though, but it was almost always rice freshly cooked.

      That is a great point, that individual rights can become highly protected at the expense of very select groups, eclipsing the bigger picture. That manifests into so many problems.

      I do feel a desire and need to write book for society. That is a big thing to do. It will happen. Thank you for supporting, Autumn.

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  4. A well written blog my friend. Very personable and vulnerable. I cannot imagine what it is like to grow up with Asian cultural expectations. It sounds like a lot to live up to. As a parent myself, all I can hope for is that Abigail is happy and healthy. If she is, I will be happy too. I am proud of you for chasing your creative dreams and being true to yourself. You are a great daughter and any parent would be lucky to have you x

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    • Thank you so much. This was an interesting post to write, something I wanted to write for a long time and wanted to articulate it well. Abigail always seems happy and healthy, and to have people we love happy and healthy is the best thing. Miss you my friend. Hope you are well xxx

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  5. Hello Mabel,
    I just want to say, I admire your beautiful writing style, and thank you for sharing your talents with us. Everyone’s situation is different, yet we all have in common in that we strive to live a full life (following our hearts) while also keeping balance within our own societies. My warmest wishes always!

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    • Hello Takami. It is lovely to see you here. You said it so well, that we all have it in common to live a life of heart while balancing our place in society. It’s important to stay true to ourselves and at the same time important to recognise we have a part to play in society. Looking forward to visiting and admiring your photography, hopefully soon. Sending my warmest wishes to you and your family 🙂

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  6. Thanks Mabel for sharing your story! It’s a common theme among Asian kids to feel this way and to live up to familial values and hold up traditions as not to lose face. I came from a strict Korean family and all the points you mentioned resonated with me. I felt so conflicted with the different messages I got from culture vs. home. It’s enough to have a mental breakdown; always second guessing yourself.
    Parents are tough but deep inside they love much. Take care and you’re writing is beautiful.

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  7. Oh Mabel, to some extent I feel your pain/anguish, in other ways, I feel privileged because I acceded to some of the expectations. I think being a bloke also helps, although Mum beat it into me that my attitude to all people must be respectful, there was no expectation for being demure.
    I’m grateful that in having three daughters I gave them no expectation linked to Asian upbringing. The most important thing is they have hearts filled with peace, joy, and hope which abounds. Their desires, not my desires are important.
    I hope you continue to wear what you want, walk ahead or behind who you want, and study and enjoy what you want.
    On the subject of rice, it’s remarkable how non-Asian people cannot see the convenience of a cheap rice cooker. Mum was embarrassed when she was first married she made rice for Dad and she burnt it. From then on she used a rice cooker and Dad was always happy. I’m a bad Asian because I’m happy with 90 seconds microwave radiation rice. I don’t care what Uncle Roger thinks. 🤣

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    • That is a great attitude to have, to treat people with respect. Everyone deserves respect, and if they are being not nice, it’s not an excuse to not be respectful. It is so important to be happy and joyful, and follow your heart – and it sounds like your daughters know that very well thanks to good, supportive people in their life.

      I have to agree that a cheap rice cooker makes cooking rice to easy. Also nothing wrong with cooking rice with radiation in a microwave. It gets the job done. I’m pretty fond of cooking rice in a pot of water over the stove. Not exactly the proper and fastest way to cook rice. Then again I am like you. I don’t care what Uncle Roger thinks either 🤣 Thanks for reading and supporting, Gary 😊

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  8. Your writing is always interesting to me but this is one of the most fascinating things I’ve read from you. I grew up in an individualistic area of America with parents who were just happy if we went to college. I think our upbringings were very different.

    Since I’ve been teaching in Taiwan I’ve been amazed at how over scheduled the students are here. A lot of the students go straight from school to even more school, and then sports and music after that. It isn’t uncommon for little kids to be going to after school programs late into the evening when they should be sleeping.

    The rice story is the strangest to me. Is part of that due to an idea that if you can’t cook rice properly you won’t find a suitable husband? My family never trusted me to cook anything!

    Thanks for sharing about your culture and family.

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    • Thanks for reading and reflecting, Jeff. I felt this was one of the more nuanced pieces I’ve wrote, both in thought and presentation. It does seem we have different upbringings, me from as I wrote in the post and you in a more individualistic, carefree lifestyle.

      It is so interesting hear that students in Taiwan are very into routines to learn and pick up as much extra-curricular activities. It seems no one really questions this way of life – it’s just a way of life and normal to focus on achieving. I remember seeing similar sentiments in Malaysia and Singapore.

      I think there can be different interpretations of the value of rice in Chinese culture. For most part, it takes rice a while to grow and harvest and farmers bend over all day planting and picking up the harvest under the sun. It’s also generally one of the cheaper things to put on the dinner table. So combining these ideas, having rice to eat at home is something to be thankful for and so should be cooked right. And there’s the perception that hot food is good for the body – but that can also be down to the individual’s personal taste of how they prefer rice. As you mentioned, if you can’t cook rice well you won’t find a husband – and some people do look out for that trait in someone.

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  9. Reading your post makes me sad for you, but we all have baggage from our upbringing we have to offload eventually and realize that our parents thought they were doing the right thing. I don’t know a female who doesn’t have to deal with patriarchy. I wanted to go to university, but my parents refused. After all, I was only a girl! Later I managed to pay for my own university education. My advice is get your parents to watch a Korean drama I enjoyed on Netflix recently—The Green Mothers’ Club. It is all about pushy mothers and what it did to their children when they expected them to overachieve.

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    • You said it well, that we all have baggage from our upbringing. Maybe some have more baggage than others. Good for you on going after your university education, Well deserved amidst your parents saying no. I hope they were okay with it in the end. I haven’t heard of the Netflix drama you mentioned. I’ll have a look. Thanks for chiming in, Mallee. Take care.

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  10. Mabel, you have shared wonderful points about Asian upbringing! I have never disappointed my parents but I could relate to cultural compulsions that Asian children have to face, the most prominent being getting the best degree, going to the best college and getting top grades. But there is a positive side too. All expenses of the education are still borne by the parents. there are no loans on the heads of adult children and they can live in the house of their parents as long as they want.
    I haven’t heard about the strictness about food or the way it is cooked. Attitudes have been changing with the modernization of society but one thing which remains unchanged is religious beliefs and the efforts to pass on the religious traditions to the next generation. Its not that all families are religious but those that are, go to any extent to expect being respectful toward their religion. Patriarchal control is the norm but modern, urban children have learnt to resist it once they grow up.

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    • You bring up such good points there coming from an Asian household and it’s so true. In many typical Asian families, expenses and education are taken care of by the parents, no questions asked. It’s such a normal thing and to start adult life without student debt is probably one of the best things you can get. And yes, children are often accepted and allowed to live at home as long as they can – to save on rent until they are able to purchase their own home. It’s not a bad thing at all.

      It’s true that times are changing surrounding traditions an beliefs. These days learning and finding information is fairly easy and people are learning to speak their truths and be their own person. That said, we can always learn from traditions and long-held beliefs, and move forward with what we learnt all the more wiser. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Balroop. Hope you are doing well 🙂

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  11. Your post resonates with me and although I am not Asian, I am ethnically diverse. I was raised in a middle class family but expectations were high and I felt compelled to try and reach them. An impossibility, of course. I am glad you are sorting it all out at a very young age for it took me a lifetime to do so. I path not taken and a life not lived in fulfillment is not a life. Thank you for being frank, honest, forthcoming and willing to share with others…most of which…(and you might be surprised)…share much of what you have posted here…with you. Take good care.

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    • It sounds like you learnt a lot and stayed strong amidst the challenges within your upbringing. The expectations put on you can seem so far away especially if your heart is not into it.

      It can take a long time to sort through and unlearn what’s been ingrained in you throughout childhood. I think the sorting out doesn’t ever completely stops and we’ll always have reminders of what once was. Thank you for your kind words, Renee. Much appreciated and you take good care too.

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  12. I heard of the terrible story about an Asian man who put himself through medical school. Upon graduation, he killed himself, leaving the diploma for his parents and words that he had become a doctor as they had insisted.

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  13. Thanks for sharing your experience with your Asian parents and high expectations. I’m sorry that you feel you disappointed them Mabel. I’m glad you’re able to be yourself and keep to your values and interests.

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  14. Growing up under strict cultural rules must have been extra tough especially as you were not in your parents native home land, So being surrounded by friends in school who accepted such freedoms of expression must have been doubly hard for your Mabel…

    But having endure all of that, I think from our long blogging friendship you have managed at least to weather those storms in life, and I know such storms carry scars…. Inwardly we do hold onto guilt and we often made to think we are to blame. But we are conditioned as a child to conform, obey and don’t question….

    I always questioned lol.. and from what I see Mabel you turned out just fine in adapting all you learnt, along with the respect you had for your parents .. You also held respect for yourself… In order that you respected your own rights of independence and you found a middle ground to honour your own uniqueness and career pathway..

    Be proud of who you are…. I am also certain your parents are proud of you..

    Did I disappoint my parents.. Oh I most certainly did…. And it took me many years of peeling back the layers of how unworthy I had been made to feel growing up…. Yet even that as I deep dived into my shadow self, and my Mother’s and our relationship, it showed me how this too served to strengthen me in the long run.. So all things, even disappointments allow us to grow..

    Take heart that you despite being petite…. you are Strong and Tall…. for through our adversities we gain our strength.. We grow and we are able to pass on wisdom as you have just done by your experience..
    So we help others see themselves never as being disappointing, but as individuals with unique qualities . Its all perspective…. All of it…

    Much love dearest Mabel… ❤ The main thing dear friend is learning not to disappoint yourself by holding onto that emotion…. KNOW you are a beautiful soul, who is loved ❤

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    • This is such a wonderful comment, Sue. As always, I love your input, and openness, compassion and kindness. For most part of my childhood, my parents were indeed not in their native homeland – so they would feel the pressure to adapt themselves to their surrounding. We did however commute back to their homeland Malaysia quite often, but it was still an upbringing that wasn’t ordinary.

      Writing and blogging has taught me a lot, not just about myself but also others and the wider world in general. Doing something you love, in my case writing, and putting it out there, you hold yourself accountable for what you desire and the values you stand for. While there are many parts of my upbringing I don’t agree with, I do respect what my parents tried to achieve and what they themselves achieved.

      It sounds like you know how to dig deep within yourself, let yourself feel those layers as they come off and be free of all that held you back. You said it, ‘So all things, even disappointments allow us to grow’. Agreed. Some disappointments can be harder than others especially when you don’t have that support around you. But there is so much strength that comes from standing on your own two feet by yourself. I think your strength and ability to reach out and emotionally relate is reflected through your blog a lot. You write and speak wise with wisdom and not afraid to share what’s different…and what we’re all actually feeling.

      You are a beautiful soul too, Sue. Hope you are doing well. Hugs across the miles ❤

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      • Awww loved your response here too Mabel. Only through experience and going through our trials and tribulations do we grow..

        And if we have experienced something of a simular nature, I feel it allows one the perspective of viewing life from another’s shoes. Though I would never presume to walk in them .
        For each of our experiences is unique unto us.

        But I feel very grateful that some of those ‘disappointing’ experiences of mine stand me in good stead to hold compassion and insight to how another may be feeling.

        And I allow my posts and comments to express those feelings.
        Which in turn I hope will help others expand their perspectives.

        You should be proud of your achievements Mabel, and for standing in your own uniqueness in following your passions , not that of someone else’s wishes for you..

        I’m very honoured knowing you dear Mabel. ❤ and your wisdom 💖

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  15. I was going through your list…. well, there were things my parents gave up since there were 6 kids. And just hard to demand same old thing for every child all the time. There is also a 10 yr. gap between myself as oldest and youngest. So no, I was not expected to greet my parent(s), whoever was home. I just spoke or said something to someone so someone knew I came home. It didn’t matter who. The academic performance thing was major like many immigrant parents. Though keep in mind, some lower educated parents don’t understand university education much at all. Yes, there is a terrible price to all that ….child’s self-worth beaten down temporarily. Like you, I resisted alot against the maths/STEM route. My parents already knew I was different since I won some art and poetry awards as a teen.

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    • Growing up with quite a few siblings sounded like it was never really quiet at home, and your parents worked hard to support the family. Great that you won some art and poetry awards when you were a teen – you must have really enjoyed, and openly enjoyed art and creativity.

      It can be annoying when parents see their children as ‘different’ and try to ‘correct’ that. In general university education is something many immigrant parents cater towards as they believe it leads to other opportunities and you get no where without it. But as we all know, you don’t need to go to university to be successful. Sometimes you just need to be different to succeed.

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  16. Mind you, I think some parents shouldn’t be praising their child/teen for everything, every step. The world outside isn’t like that at all. So only at the highlights, some good words.

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    • Yes. I totally agree with this. Praising children or someone for everything that they do, that may lead to an inflated ego or head in the clouds. Some praise at the right moments can go a long way.

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  17. Nice to be in your place Mabel after a long while and that too in a discussion on Asian cultural values. As a non-Chinese, my immediate observation is the similarity with India in norms and familial standards. Did I disappoint my parents? Yes I did, because I could not quite align my academic / career attainments to their expectations. I followed my trajectory and life progressed with some variations from the script. Collectivism is good but it cannot be allowed to be rigidly so; beyond a point it must yield to individualism. That said, such orthodoxies are slowly opening up to more liberal ways influenced by the free flow of cultural winds. I have experienced it in the healthy manner my two sons grew up to adulthood and their own individual lives thereafter. You will see it happen in your life too. Be well, and best wishes.

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    • It is so lovely to see you here again, Raj. I always look forward to your thoughts and comments – and this one no exception, this one both philosophical and poetic. I hope you managed to pursue what you’ve always wanted to do, even if it was not aligned with expectations. I think there has to be a balance between collectivism and individualism, be it at home, wider society and within ourselves. Each of us have different roles to play and desires, and often it’s a matter of respecting different perspectives.

      That is great your two sons are live their own individual lives – and I am guessing they are doing well. It will take time for each of us to listen to our individual potential and power, and use it constructively within our lives and elsewhere. You be well too, Raj. Best wishes to you as well.

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  18. Our cultures are so similar, Mabel. A few of these are also common here in India too, especially no1 & 4. I think there is something common in traditional Asian cultures which are family oriented. I think the world is changing and so we all must. Given the exposure due to globalization, parents and kids both are under pressure to adapt. And parents also need to grapple with new reality while kids must keep in mind the sensitivity of the traditional mindset. Excellent choice of topic and write-up as always, Mabel.

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    • Yes, it does seem Indian and Chinese cultures share similarities, and the collectivist and family-oriented mentality. Indeed globalization has forced us to adapt. There will be new inventions and belief systems that may need to be acknowledged, and we can draw on traditional belief systems to find solace or lessons to move forwards. At the end of the day, I think we should all be more respectful to each other, and that will bring about more peace. Thanks, Arv. Hope all is well with you 🙂

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    • Thanks for reading, Frank. Much appreciated. Those are some great thoughts. While I’ve had times where I felt frustrated with writing, for most part I’ve felt very certain of myself and my values as a person. I think any relationship, whether be it with your parents or romantic partner or friends, is always a work in progress – some moments and some seasons will be better than others. Take care and enjoy your walks.

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        • Yes, work-in-progress applies to pretty much all relationships. And individually, we’re all a work-in-progress too. We all learn and grow together at the end of the day. Hope you had a good weekend and enjoy the week, Frank.

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  19. Have I disappointed my parents? Oh yes for sure! Your dad sounds just like my dad. I remember he was okay with me not getting a perfect mark for social subjects. But if I didn’t get a 10/10 for math and science, I would be grounded for a week. He was tough on me in this particular matter. However, as I managed to get into a good university, get a decent job, and is reasonably stable financially speaking, they gradually allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do. With my mom, I feel like now we have reached some sort of understanding of each other’s line and tried not to cross it. It wasn’t easy to get to this point though.

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    • Your dad really does sound like my dad. Hope you didn’t get grounded too many times. Many Asian parents think education is important as it opens up doors and in your case, did set you up financially. Which is always one less big thing to worry about in life. Good that now there’ some understanding between you and your mum. It never really is that easy to rebuild relationships with family, but over time it can be done. Hope you are doing alright, Bama. Stay safe.

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  20. Most of me is Euro-American, though my parents were similar to yours. Though, serving rice isn’t a big deal in the Euro household. Also, the hand-holding was done away with by the time I was nine years old. Like you, I’m quite sure I disappointed them in many ways. Looking back on it, I still wonder what they really expected from me.

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    • That is interesting to hear your Euro-American parents have similarities to mine. Maybe you made your parents happy and proud in some ways, and don’t realise it – and I think this could be the case for many of us. Hope you are doing okay, Glynis, and your writing is coming along. Take care.

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  21. What an interesting article. The comments are also–so many people with childhood stories. With my kids, I was strict, but more centered around honesty, hard work, never quit. I didn’t care a lot what they picked as long as they pursued it with passion. They tell me that worked!

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    • That is a good approach to your kids, and to others in general, haring honesty, hard work and never quit. These values go a long way. Thank you for reading and for reading the comments. I am sure the commenters and other bloggers appreciate your presence. Enjoy your writing and take care 🙂

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  22. Mabel I felt my parents were quite strict and they too had high expectations of me. However reading your list my heart aches for you and others faced with those standards. They seem impossible to meet and to be true to oneself. Do you think the expectation of this generation of parents is changing?
    It took me decades to be true to myself and be confident in doing so. I believe at the end of our days if life was spent pleasing others there will be much regret.
    Sending hugs to you.

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    • That is so inspiring that you learnt to be true to yourself and be the confident person whom you are today. I remember when I met you, you were so confident, warm and sure of yourself 🙂 I do think the generation of parents are changing as we move forward since these days people are more open and accepting of each other and choices. At the end of the day, I think each of us learns and grows, and in the end find courage to be who we really are. Hugs back to you too. Travel safe and stay safe ❤

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  23. You articulated this post perfectly, Mabel. It was fascinating to see how upbringing can be so different in different cultures. Immigrant, aspirational families also have impossible expectations for their children. Our Catholic was full of refugees and migrants from all over Europe who had moved to Scotland for safety after WWII. I was in the top stream with all the other Irish, Italian, Polish immigrants. We were not allowed to fully choose our subjects as it was assumed that we would study Medicine or Law (and make our families proud). Some did but I failed miserably because of some home difficulties. The shame was palpable.

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  24. Interesting piece, Mabel. And just my kind of topic. The psychological effects of our upbringings. I related to the “act like a lady” section. I’m American (Italian heritage) and didn’t have the kind of pressure you’ve been under. But I think “be lady-like” thing is generational. I’m likely your parents age.

    I’ve struggled with pleasing my parents in other ways. Mine isn’t cultural, but rather, dysfunctional behavior. They never really had expectations for me to live up to for my life, but rather, what I could do for them. Of course, they always provided what I needed as a child, but that meant I owed them. If I wasn’t available when they needed a favor or asked me to do something for them, well then I was a terrible daughter who didn’t care about my parents and all they did for me. I use past tense, because it happened when I was growing up, but it’s still happening today as well. I’ve never lived up to what they want from me. When I give them one thing they ask for, they tell me about others things I should be doing for them. It’s a bottomless pit of need. I’ve had to learn to choose carefully what I can do, make boundaries, and try very hard not to feel guilty.

    What’s really good for you is that you recognize the cultural pressure and are finding yourself apart from those expectations. Who really is Mabel apart from her culture and family? Who is she inside? What are her values? What touches her deeply and what experiences have shaped her?

    I posted a blog about finding myself back in 2015, in case you’re interested. It’s an old one, but relevant to this topic. https://loreezlane.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/just-think/

    Sorry this is so long. You always discuss topics I find interesting and like to discuss. Thank you.

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    • Your comment is so honest, personal and heartfelt, Lori. You said things that many who come from strict families are afraid, or coerced, into not saying – that at times as a child, it’s about what you can do for your parents and you owed them, and that such tensions can carry on to the present day. I am very sorry to hear you still experience that and it sounds like an endless cycle. You do wonder how you get out of it and at the very same time you don’t want to hurt your parents because they are people too. I’ve been careful and trying not to say ‘your family’ because sometimes when you come from an unhappy upbringing, family has mixed connotations.

      Agree with you that ‘be lady-like’ is generational. As I grew older, I’ve met so many girls and women who weren’t your average lady-like, and were succeeding in ways based on their skills, minds and character. It is very inspiring, and I am sure inspiring to others out there in the same situation. I’ve always enjoyed writing such pieces exploring and asking the hard questions about cultural nuances, though I do also feel I have an identity and interests outside of being Chinese. Moving forward I know I’ll be writing a bit more about introversion as a subject.

      Thank you for sharing about yourself and your post, Lori. I’ll have to come back to read it and hear your perspective. Hope you are doing well this summer.

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      • Thank you for your kind response, Mabel. My parents behavior is something I’ve long come to accept. I can’t change them, and I just have to work on how I handle things. Sometimes I handle them well, sometimes I don’t. 🤷‍♀️

        You are so right about not wanting to hurt my parents. They are elderly now. My mom has severe health issues, and I want to do what’s right for her, but for me, too. It’s a real balancing act, but accepting the way things are is key.

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        • You are welcome, Lori. You are wise. Sometimes some people and behaviour we have to accept. Trying to change someone’s behaviour can be the equivalent of stirring the pot and causing trouble and grief. Good on you for working on how you handle things and wish each other well. Hope you are doing well 💕

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  25. Firstly, thanks for the Lego pictures. 😁

    Probably most kids disappoint their parents in some way (I know I didn’t achieve to the level expected of me) but it sounds like your experience is all that and more. Expectations on steroids. I’m glad that despite that you’ve been able to find your own truth and voice.

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  26. Oh my God, this is funny in a sort of tragic way. Some of these I knew already, simply from reading all the first person accounts in China and Japan that I have read. Some I did not. It must be difficult when you know your parents have your best interests truly at heart. I grew up with random expectations and random violence. The kind of steady influence you had from your parents will likely stay with you for your whole life. I am sure you can filter out all of the awkwardness to come to the conclusion that this is a good thing?

    I am glad you became a writer, Mabel! You are such a good one. be sure and let us all know when you finish your book?

    I can relate to the expectation for straight A grades. Out of seven children, I was expected to be at the top of the heap. As a child, of course I wanted to please. And I usually succeeded, though I certainly remember that C in chemistry, otherwise I would’ve become valedictorian in a class of 1200 kids. But you know, I have no regrets how my life trajectory has gone.

    Two things leap to mind: I think guilt is a strange emotion. It does lessen with age and mindfulness, I am sure. We can never fully understand other people and their motives, drives, and expectations. I try to work with my own, that really is all I can do. My guilt remains only for my own parenting, my necessary mistakes, and my sadness at not having been able to maintain my marriage with their father, though none of us has regrets about that, in the end. Guilt itself is virtually nonexistent at 69! 😂

    The other: I laughed so hard when you talked about dressing in black as a teenager. Inviting dead people, indeed!! Many of us morose little confused people as teens might have invited ghosts just for the experience of walking on the wild side!

    It must’ve been super embarrassing to have your parents holding your hand at 15. You were a wise child to understand that they meant well. I probably would’ve run away from home! 🤣

    Excellent post as always, Mabel. My heart always flutters a little when I see you in my reader. 🙏😉💓

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    • What a wonderful comment and reflection, Bela. You gave me quite a bit to think about. Writing this post, I was wondering how this piece actually felt – and you nailed it, ‘funny in a sort of tragic way’. I am sorry to hear tha you grew up with random expectations and violence. It must not have been easy at all. You are right, such experiences will stay with you for a long while. And such experiences are what we make of it. With the right mindset and asking the right questions, we’ll all turn out okay.

      You sounded very hardworking when you were younger and it must have shaped you – and perhaps in some way helped you deal with your challenges down the track which you mentioned. I have to agree guilt is a strange emotion. When you feel guilt, you often feel like you owe someone something or just aren’t good enough. Sometimes that someone can be you yourself and others around you at the same time.

      I think we’re all rebels at some point in our lives. Wearing black clothing as a teenager seems to be commonplace. It’s a phase, some say. But sometimes, being different is not a phase.

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Bela. Writing has always resonated with me, and thank you for supporting. Of course I will let you know and everyone here know when I finish my book. Hope to blog again too. Hope you are well and take care 😊🙏💓

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      • I love what you say, “being different is not a phase.” It would be amazing if everyone would own their differences early on. It would really lead to more genuine lives, and greater satisfaction in the living. Funny enough, here is what a friend responded to my Facebook post this morning, along the same lines:

        “I am not much of an off the board diver, but learned something amazing in the midst of my ordinary life as an office worker. My company was going through some dehumanizing changes, and my boss suggested taking a test designed to help people make life changes. I was skeptical but did it, and found out my inner self was at the far end of risk taking. Meaning, my comfort zone was not best met in the office chair. It is always better to be true to self.”

        Got to love these synchronicities! ❤️❤️❤️

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  27. Thanks for sharing, Mabel. My relationship with my parents was different, and even though I know they were proud of me, I’m also sure they were disappointed in me at times. Now that my children are adults, so many things become clearer and I find myself looking upward, whispering, “I get it, Mom.” They both have passed away.
    Every relationship takes compromise and massaging. I hope things have improved for you and your parents. I also love the Lego photos. My son played with Lego when he was young and they were such an educational option, not to mention, lots of fun for him.
    Take good care, Lauren 💞

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    • It sounds like you’ve experienced and learnt a lot over the years about yourself and relationships, and come out all the more wiser. With time, things tend to improve and I think you learn to appreciate the small things so much more.

      So glad you love the Lego photos. Lego is amazing and yes, they are such an educational and fun option to pass the time. Hope you are well. You take good care too, Lauren 💕

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  28. As a teacher, I must say parenting is tricky business. And as I get older, I find myself understanding why people behave the way that they do. Of course, this doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but it does come down to values, doesn’t it? Bad days and personal issues aside, values is at the core of why folks do what they do.

    This is what makes the “Western” vs “Eastern” mindset so fascinating.

    In any case, I’m glad you stepped out of your comfort zone and wrote something so personal. Jimmy O. Yang is a great comedian. There are actually a lot of AA comedians these days … and I think the old ways will be a thing of the past when our parents generation passes on. For better or worse, social media and the internet has created more of a mono-culture. Take heart, Mabel, you are not alone. xo

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    • Such a good point, Lani. That behaviour can come down to values, personal values. Values in some part can be influenced by how others behave but also by how we perceive the world as an individual. I hope you learn more about why people behave the way they do. If we get to meet some day, you have to tell me all about it. I’ll buy you a coffee or drink 😛

      There really are many AA comedians out there, breaking the stereotypical mould. As time goes on, I think more of us will feel called and inspired to do what we really desire. You take care, Lani.

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  29. Great article Mabel. Never feel that you are not an engaging and inspirational writer – ‘cos your are 🙂
    My parents were never controlling or really disapproving of my choices in life. Maybe they were worried when I decided to leave home early and then embrace the ‘rebel motorcycle’ and freedom lifestyle. I left school before completing year 12 and eventually went back to school to finish and went on to get Technical Trade Certificate – Mum and Dad happy.
    I try to maintain a healthy and open relationship with my son. I encourage him with his career choices although I do wish he would finish his degree 🙂
    You know Mable, sometimes, when he tells me what he has been up to, I wish we didn’t have such an open relationship 🙂
    Stay safe and happy (and warm)

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    • Thanks, Andy. I hope to continue to be an engaging and inspirational writer 🙂

      It sounds like you had a relatively carefree childhood and that is great. Your ‘rebel motorcycle’ seems to have continued throughout the years and good that you stayed safe – and hope your parents didn’t mind too much. Hope your son doesn’t do too many things that are shocking to you. I guess at the end of the day, you live and you learn and be thankful for the support that you have. Encouraging as opposed to controlling someone is such a powerful thing – and it could be very good most relationships.

      You stay safe too, Andy. Stay warm too 😄

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  30. This is very similar to what happens in African households, especially the middle class. Our parents “made it against all odds” so they know better. A different view, opinion or wish is frowned upon and taken for disobedience and/or being ungrateful.
    Unlearning these behaviours has been the hardest thing for me. You find yourself constantly second guessing your every move and.

    Thank you for sharing.

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    • You said every single sentence so well, and each sentence so powerful. Sometimes strict parents think they know better simply because of the hard times they’ve been through. Maybe they are right – respect to them for turning their life around. But every person is an individual. Unlearning is not only hard but it can take years or even a lifetime. Thank you so much for reading, reflecting and commenting.

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  31. A raw and honest share Mabel. It’s a clash of generations for sure. Parents have ideals of what they want for us, and when we don’t conform it raises so many issues. I am glad you are doing what makes you happy, yet, trying to keep the peace with some of your parent’s traditions. It can’t be easy. ❤

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  32. Hi Mabel,
    I enjoyed your post. I couldn’t help seeing the similarities in the parent-child relationship between cultures. Although there are cultural differences too, I think the expectation that children will please their parents is across many cultures as is the parental disappointment when the chidren don’t please. Also similar are the feelings of disappointment in self when one gives in to others’ needs and requirements rather than being true to oneself. It’s funny that, although our situations are and were very different, this week I also wrote about displeasing and disappointing my parents, and perhaps even disappointing myself. I think we must always try to be true to ourselves. Our upbringing is a big part of that though, as you say, but somewhere along the line we learn about other ways that we incorporate into who we are. We are not just carbon copies of what’s gone before. There’d be not much point in that. We create ourselves and our future from all that we’ve experienced and all we want to experience. We are the writers of our own story and can choose our own ending. Good on you for choosing truth and happiness while still respecting your parents and your culture.

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    • What a wonderful comment, Norah. So thoughtful and insightful about parental expectations, upbringing and disappointment. You said it with, ‘We are not just carbon copies of what’s gone before.’ Times change and so must we as individuals and as societies. We all mean well and want the best for each other at the end of the day. Our upbringing is indeed a big part of us but so is our learning and engagement with the world and others – and the development of our core identity. It can be easier said than done to stand up for ourselves without the right guidance or support. Respecting your parents can go a long way, and also your parents respecting what you do.

      I really enjoyed your piece about disappointing your parents. It was so touching. Thank you for writing. Hope you are well 😊

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  33. A real eye opening topic, Mabel. You’ve truly become independent now, but knowing where you started in a nuclear family with such strict traditions, it is astonishing. You should be so proud of YOU. I think that book about the Tiger Mom was a real whistle-blower. Telling the truth about your life can also bring shame on the family (I am speaking from my own experience, too). I have probably been the most disappointing child to my family yet I have also accomplished a great deal. I am proud of ME.

    It’s amazing how your family’s traditions put so much pressure on you as a child. A real lack of autonomy is so unhealthy. I could relate to the patriarch role. My father was a fussy eater and in addition, he chose the dinner table as his place for disciplining his children. One never knew when it would be their turn. I used to be so nervous at the table, whether it was my table manners, or what I had maybe said to my mother that day–I could be in ‘trouble’ at any moment.

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    • You bring up such an important point many are afraid of speaking up about, let alone acknowledge, that telling the truth about your life can bring shame on the family. I am sorry that you feel you might have disappointed your family but so encouraged that you accomplished a lot and are proud of yourself for being you – and being you is a powerful feeling.

      That is so interesting the dinner place was the place for disciplining when you were younger. Sounded so nerve-wrecking. It reminds me of how in Chinese cultures – and probably other cultures – certain people had certain seats at the dining table. My dad or the most senior male person in the household would naturally sit at the head of the table or the seat facing the door during family dinners at home as a mark of seniority. This also applied to eating in restaurants and as one of the children of the family, I’d have to sit in the corner seat.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing, Lisa. Always lovely to see you, be it here or over at yours. Take care 🙂

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  34. Thanks for sharing such a personal experience, Mabel. I’ve heard a lot about the strict Asian upbringing but obviously I never experienced it personally. Nor did I see it in my Chinese husband, as his parents are super laid back and he has a strong character, so he always did what he wanted (which ended up having positive results).

    I’ve never felt like I’ve disappointed my parents, they were always supportive of my choices, although my mum sometimes made some comments that made me think she didn’t trust my judgement. Like when she wasn’t sure if I would be able to live on my own when I moved to another city for college, or when she asked me if I was sure I wanted to marry my husband (as if I was an 18 year old wanting to marry her first love… I was 32 and we had been together for 4 years, haha).

    About the pics, was that a Lego shop or exhibition? My son has that same concrete mixer, haha.

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    • That is interesting to hear your Chinese husband came from a super laid back family. That is great and great he turned out alright with positive results. Some people do have supportive parents. I think making big decisions on your own is always a worry for most parents especially those who are, say, helicopter kind of parents – no matter what age you are. But it really did sound like you knew what you were doing when you were moving to a new city and marrying your husband!

      The photos were taken in a Lego shop quite recently. The shop had many Lego sets on display and it had a stand where you could build your own minifigures. So cool your son has a Lego concrete mixer, and it must be not too long ago that he got it. Hope he has a lot of fun with Lego 😄

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  35. Mabel, your post is a very thoughtful and carefully crafted one. Our school had some exchange teachers from China. One observed my class and praised me at how good a teacher I must be because my class was well disciplined! I smiled inwardly. At the same visit, they remarked that American students are very creative and have more freedom to express themselves. I just think that a loving family environment is best for the child. There are cultural and social norms which may be different, but I think as long as there is love and caring inside the home, children will grow up to be functioning and tolerant adults. Thank you for the enjoyable post. oxox

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  36. Hi Mabel, this is probably the most intimate, personal and relatable piece you’ve written. Growing up in an Italian family I thought my parents were pretty strict but in comparison to yours I see they were really quite reasonable. But still I often felt like I was never quite good enough, confident enough or successful enough but I realise now that was more about me and not them. I’m sensitive as I can see you are too. Ultimately we all forge our own path but it takes courage to be a “rebel”, to do things differently and to stand on your own two feet. I think you should be proud of who you are. I bet that deep down your parents are too. Still, I can understand your angst and I really admire you for writing this and delving deep. I hope it was cathartic. Love yourself dear Mabel and others will mirror that. 💜❤️💙

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    • Sometimes you really do feel like you’re not good enough for those at home or whom you call family. It seems like your Italian family was relatively strict too, and you found the strength within yourself to believe in yourself. You have come far, forged your path and now wander the world and see beauty that’s all round.

      I’ve wanted to write this post for a while, and felt it was time and this was a cathartic write, Thank you so much for your kind words, Miriam. Stay safe and take care out there ❤️

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  37. Hi Mabel, I appreciated what it took to write this, with all the burdens and personal bruises you shared. Your ability to overcome and stand up for yourself and be who you are is a triumphant success. It is great that you can share your success with others on their paths.

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    • Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, Jet. Sometimes it takes time to believe in yourself and stand up for yourself. There’s much to be learnt along the way, and I hope to share more of what I learnt. Hope you and Athena are well and take care.

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  38. I would have ended up being a damaged adult if my parents put that much pressure on me. Ouch – so challenging for a child growing up with so many rules of “must be” and “must never be.” On the other hand, it bothered me that my parents had NO plans for me growing up and what/who I’d be when I was an adult. I was ‘only a girl,’ so it didn’t matter. They figured I’d ‘just get married and have a family.’ Urgh This stirred me on to do really well in college and to go on to graduate school. They didn’t see that coming! Ha. Oh, childhood is probably the most difficult thing to grow up from, isn’t it? Thanks for the informative post, Mabel. As always.

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    • Thank you so much for reading and reflecting, Pam. Very insightful thoughts from you. I share the same sentiments as you on ‘just get married and have a family’. Each of us have infinite potential. Good on you for going on to graduate school and today you are an amazing writer. Childhood is probably the most difficult thing to grow up from…or maybe not. Sometimes I think the hardest part is keeping the child in us and keeping a good head on our shoulders 😄 Thanks for your lovely words too. Hope you are well ❤

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    • Thanks for stopping by Thomas, and for sharing that article with research on Asian families. Very interesting findings. The notion of tiger mum is prevalent and it will be interesting to see if it holds up as time goes on, and also the pressure to be a the perfect Asian kid. Hope you are doing well.

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  39. Mabel, I am happy for you that you insisted on being you. What a huge load of pressure to be brought up like the way you described. I too was brought up very strictly but in different ways and I just wouldn’t do what my mother wanted, so I too was a continual disappointment. I encourage you to keep on writing and do what brings passion alive in your heart. That is your compass to success. Every post I have ever read that you have written, is perfectly written and given a deal of of thorough thought. You are the authority of who you are and no one else …… and that is not easy to live for it seems we all have voices demanding to be a certain way. No thank you. I am me and you are you.

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    • What a heartfelt comment, Amy. I am always so honoured to be in your presence. I will keep on writing and yes, it is my compass to success. I feel it around me and the cosmos whispers that to me. So I will enjoy the writing ride and passion see where it takes me.

      It is so inspiring to hear you kept on being you even though others around you may have seen you as a disappointment. You have come so far with your art and photography, and you will certainly continue that with much heart. Keep being you and thank you 💕

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  40. I really loved the thought you shared here “Sometimes if you don’t follow your own truth, you might disappoint yourself even more.”

    So so true! Hang in there! ❤️

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    • Thank you so much, Tish! We all have our truth to connect to and follow that truth. I left a comment on your blog, not too sure if it’s appearing. Thank you for stopping by ❤️

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  41. Hi Mabel
    Enjoyed your post and my favorite section was the part about the rice and how to serve jt
    Your details let us feel some of those experiences
    And the book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, sounds good and has quite the title!!

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  42. You’ve covered a great many points with this article, Mabel. I believe the parents
    that migrated to another country or state, with the mindset that there is a better life for us there,
    creates greater expectations for and of their children. My parents were extremely strict about everything.
    We weren’t allowed to speak Spanish outside the home or have friends. Sometimes, my dad would scream at my mother and grandmother to speak English as they visited in the house. My life growing up was filled with chores, learning wifely skills – ie: cooking, laundry, taking care of babies, and studying and getting all ‘A’ grades plus being respectful at all times. Corporal punishment wasn’t excluded either. I feel like I am a kinder, caring and well-prepared person because of it. But, sadly, I never felt the warm fuzzy feeling a parent and child should feel. A very thought-provoking essay … Isadora 😎

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    • Thanks for reading and sharing, Izzy. That is interesting to hear that you weren’t allowed to speak Spanish outside of the home. Some see English as the language that will bring you opportunity – but there is so much to be gained in speaking different languages. Interesting too that you mention corporal punishment which is something I’ve seen when I was younger – something that is rather normal in some cultures and societies. You are reflective, thoughtful and most certainly a kind person – and artistic too. Hope you are well and stay safe ❤

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  43. I would like to read “The Art of Disappointing Others.” I think my husband falls in that category. He’s been a “model” child for years. He always thought of it as a good thing until the pressure to keep it up got to him. Though I am Asian, I am perceived to be more “Americanized” — I called out things I did not feel were okay. He taught me things like saving face and what it means to be a dutiful son. Sometimes I wonder if dutiful is synonymous for “door mat.” There were times when his parents came over to our house unannounced. There was even a time when they called letting us know they were in front of our house but we were at work. We ended up leaving our jobs early that day to greet them.

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    • That is something to think about, it ‘dutiful’ is synonymous with ‘door mat’. It can seem way at times when you are from an Asian family. It sounded like your parents have good intentions by coming over but at the same time, sometimes turning up unexpected can be such a stressful thing. Personally I don’t like people coming over unannounced, even if it’s those whom I’m close with. I guess there are pros and cons to being dutiful and at the end of the day, each to their own.

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  44. Wait, your book’s going to be published? When and where? But knowing the bookstores, I think it’ll be a while before they’ll stock hardcopies of your book.

    Back to the topic. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but some Asian parents are keen for their kids to pursue law, medicine, accounting, and engineering because there’s a notion that these four are areas that pay well.

    After reading your explanation, I suppose that makes sense why my parents prefer cooked food or hot drinks straight from the kitchen (which made it difficult during the lockdown when we got takeouts).

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    • I am still working on my book! I would love for it to be stocked in stores and it’s something I’ll be working on. I will let you know when the book comes out.

      It’s true that the areas of law, medicine etc. generally pay well. But there are other areas that pay well too. And I think more are realising that money doesn’t bring happiness all the time.

      That is an interesting observation with takeouts. Sometimes you get takeout, take it home and it becomes sort of cold. I guess sometimes, some hot meals taste better than others.

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  45. Beautifully written, and I think you nail two aspects: one is the stricter standards of Asian parents and the other is the general disappoint we feel as kids. My Asian friends did have it more difficult than me ~ not because they were held to higher standards (my parents had the doctor/lawyer ideas for me as well), but rather their parents were strict with no flexibility… whereas my parents threw up their hands knowing this is simply a part of life. I do think families with western values understand that rebellion is a part of growing up and perhaps even invited in because it helps define “us”. Through discussions with my Asian friends, eastern cultures lack this flexibility.

    The other point, which I agree wholeheartedly, is when we disappoint someone it can have a monumental impact that brings guilt and sadness that does linger. I do not think there is a worse feeling, but fortunately in my case it just made me work a bit harder in other areas to try to erase such feelings (even though, I imagine, the people we disappoint really were not all that disappointed in the first place). A very large difference in cultures I do think is the “saving face” aspect of life ~ it seems to be a huge weight on my Asian friends no matter the age. Great, great, read Mabel ~ and your use of the Lego designs fit perfectly with your message… and I love sardines, so loved the opening shot! I very much look forward to your book ~ any update?

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    • What a thoughtful comment. I think you hit the nail on the head there objectively – that there is less flexibility when it comes to facets of Asian cultural values. Generally speaking, parents from so many backgrounds want their kids to be well off (like how your parents had lofty ambitions for you!) – but I guess Asian families have it more rigid and structured. In many Eastern cultures, rebellion is a sin: downright disobedience and it could be something that gets you disowned by the family pretty easily.

      That is so true, when you disappoint someone or even yourself, it is a monumental impact that lingers. You try to make up for it but still can end up feeling empty or feeling the same. In Asian cultures, that may be made up by tangibly achieving something like a good grade or coming in first place to ‘save face’ whether or not it really means anything to you – which is a marker of a collectivistic society, others before self.

      Glad you loved the Lego shots especially the sardine opening shot. What I love about Lego is that no matter what age you are, Lego will make you feel youthful or like a kid again in some form. As for my book, I am chipping away at it. It will happen in due time 🙂 Hope you are doing well, Randall. Wishing you a wonderful season ahead and take care.

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      • You say it well; there is much more ‘intensity’ within the Asian culture regarding respecting your parents, whereas, in the west, there is a certain expectation that kids will rebel… and parents allow it.

        My good friends in Hong Kong, Chinese, really surprised me when they focused on the western way of raising their daughter (it has been great!), but it caused significant problems with their families as the grandmothers who had expected to play an essential role in raising their granddaughter found themselves out of the picture because of the more ‘western’ focus. Again, a great post, Mabel.

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        • I always feel that intensity among Asian cultures whenever I visit Asia, or just being around those who share that sentiment. It can cause rifts within the family. At the end of the day, it comes down to different people having different mindsets and views of the world, and what is important or more so meaningful to them. Thanks, Randall. Writing is hard. I try my best 🙂

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