Monday, November 17, 2008

Honor thy Father and Mother--the Asian Way

As my children run past me, I like to catch them, hold them tight, and just sit there with their cheeks close to mine as they wiggle, and scream, and sometimes cry because I won't let them go.  Then, I ask, "Will you please stop growing?  Will you stay this small forever?"

The younger ones always say yes, or burp.  The older ones say, "No, people don't stay the same size.  Everybody grows up."


  I wake up one morning when I feel a heavy weight on my legs.  Groggily, I look down and find my mom kneeling next to my bed hugging my legs tightly.

"Um, Mom, what are you doing?"

Without even looking up, I hear her reply, with her Asian accent "Just holding on to my baby."

I pause for a moment and say, "Mom, I'm in college."

"I know, but you are still my baby."


I know, you have a few questions.  Why was I living at home when I was in college?  Because I loved being with my family, and I didn't know how to cook, I was too cheap to pay for rent, and I may have been a little bit spoiled.  

What did I do next?  Well, I just laid there, and waited for her to let go.  

Why would my mom do that?  Because she is a native, and they were taught about filial piety.

What the crap is filial piety?  It is basically respecting your parents (or elders), sometimes to a very extreme level.  

And they learn this in Asia?  Yes.  Growing up, I argued with my mom a few (hundred) times.  Then, my mom would whip out the big gun--guilt.  "I would never talk to my mom this way."  "Whatever, Mom.  Everyone talks to their mom this way!!!"  Well, that is what I thought, until I lived there, and I realized she was right.  She probably never did talk to her mom that way.

What makes you say that?  A lot of the Asian culture and religion revolves around filial piety.  It stems from the idea that your mother, from producing you within her body, to giving birth, forgetting the pain of birth, giving you the milk that sustained you as an infant, to raising you, protecting you, clothing you, washing you, worrying about you, and being compassionate toward you, has given you all that she had, even the nutrients from the very core of her bones.  The dads do some stuff too.  Anyway, the idea is, after all that they have done for you, you could never repay them.  In fact, part of Confucius's teachings says that if you were to carry your father on one shoulder, and your mother on the other, for one thousand miles until your bones were ground to powder by their weight and you were ankle deep in your own blood, you have still not done enough to repay your parents (believe it or not, I chose the least gory example).

What can I do to be a filial child?  A man named Kuo Chu-ching (1280 - 1368 AD) compiled 24 examples of filial children.  One of those examples was a grown man who, to make his parents happy, would dress as a little child and act like a baby, thus allowing them to feel young again.  

Really?  Dead Serious.

So, is that why you laid there?  Yes, because I was being a filial child.

And, because I hope some day my grown children will understand why I grab them, awkwardly cradle them in my arms, and with my cheek smashed next to theirs say, "Will you please stop growing?  Will you please stay this small forever?....

...Will you please put on those footed sleeper pajamas I made for you?"


*MARY* said...

holy cow holy cow holy cow
I know EXACTLY what you are talking about, and have so much to say on this topic but I'm saving it for a post. The relationship my husband has with his mother kind of makes me sick.

Token Asian Friend said...

Mary, my condolences. I can't wait to read that post.

I have to admit, though, I now have a greater respect and better understanding for/of my mother because she had to raise children in a culture that at times must have seemed opposite of how she was raised. I love her and give her much deserved credit for doing an AWESOME job.

michellejohnnie said...

Maybe I should have born in an Asian family. My parents would have received A LOT less cr*p from me!!!

Kristina P. said...

TAF, this post sort of scares me. And makes me glad to be a regular old Mormon where we can have more than one wife.

Token Asian Friend said...

Kristina, I think you might be a little confused...

pamc said...

My youngest is now three years old, and I miss my babies terribly. It's so hard for me to see them grow up, but I'm grateful that she no longer unrolls whole rolls of toilet paper, and especially that she has stopped biting the ends off of markers and sticking the inky ends up her nose: blue snot is so unappealing.