Growing up in a household with parents who only had middle school and no education is marked with various kinds of difficulty. My mother never had an education because her family was poor and the Chinese culture along with her family were/are sexist. The cultural influence is strong and even more so when you’re not educated. I grew up with lots of old fashioned ideas fed to me as truth and the only way to see things. I was quite the rebel growing up because I didn’t want to trust my family’s perception of things. I rebelled against them telling me how to look, dress and think about my birthmark. The remarks were along the lines of something about me being ‘ugly, smelly and distasteful ‘. Most of the comments come from my most negative sister of course. Instead of being constructive, her words were more destructive of my self-esteem. She carried on the language others use with her and never thought to be helpful but criticize. They think it’s normal way of handling a situation until it’s them who are the novice at something. As I got through high school and college, the negative comments about my appearance decreased and also I forget them occasionally. One concept I had the longest time getting over with was being taught that the value of a woman is all dependent on her so called ‘ purity & virginity’. My mom is so adamant about this idea being true that she reminds me consantly. I can only nod and sort of agree dismissively. I know that, her lack of education is the cause for her non progressive ideas passed on in the culture and family members. My father in his age (70s) is more stuck in the Mao era than anything. His stubborn nature of doing things doesn’t help either. So, for him to have some education is close to being none as he doesn’t use any of it.
The language I predominantly use in my daily life is English. It’s my stronger language to use than Chinese. When I was a young child, my mother often joke about me speaking only English the moment I open my mouth. However, she seems to have forgotten that to be true. When I tell my parents that I can’t fully explain something or understand phrases and words they say, my father automatically goes to attack mode. He attacks my education. Calling my college education useless whenever I can’t explain it in Chinese to them or don’t understand how to take care paperwork. I see no logic or connection between the two. Apparently my high education should have taught me how to handle life’s paperwork esp. ones for older adults.
Much like many immigrant children growing up in US, I ended up being the ‘adult’ in taking care of any matters since I was 7yrs old. There’s a disconnect in the real adults’ belief that a child who can speak English and being automatically able to take care adult matters.
Yeah, college, why weren’t we taught how to fill out paperwork and understand how slow and bureaucratic systems can be?
Nevertheless, I know how fortunate I am with what I have even if compared to others, I have little. It’s because I know how China’s countryside children spend their lives. I’ve been blessed with parents who didn’t care about the sex of their children but love children in general.