Thursday, May 03, 2007


In her book "The New DON'T BLAME MOTHER - Mending the Mother-Daughter Relationship", the author Paula J. Caplan, Ph. D. suggested to the readers that they should get to know their mothers as a person and not to worship or condemn. The author further explained that when we understand the struggles, the real-life trials our mothers have experienced, we become connected with our mothers in a more humanness and a less perfect image of what mothers should be.

There is a Vietnamese expression, "Con hu tai me", when a child is spoiled/astrayed or misbehaved (you get the idea), it is the mother's fault. An article in Psychology Today argued that there are other factors contributing to the children's problems and that mothers are not always the root of kids' behavioral and emotional problems. Researchers who follow theories that say mothers are responsible for kids' psychopathology will always find mothers as the cause for any kind of disorders in the children's development and troubled mental state as adults.

In the case of the recent tragic at Virginia Tech, the writer in a commentary in the online magazine blamed the parents of the gunman for their long hours of working in the dry cleaning business, for pushing the children too hard when it comes to education, getting into the right college, the highest SAT/ACT scores and in their quest to pursuit the American Dream, forgot to show love to the children. The writer implied that because the parents were strict, did not hug and tell the child "I/We love you", the child felt unloved and cannot bring himself to love others, thus became a psychotic mass murderer.

The first time I hugged my parents and kissed them on the cheeks was at my wedding when I was 28 years old. Growing up in Viet Nam, under traditional Asian culture, my parents did not hugged and kissed me when I went to school in the morning and again greeted me with hugs and kisses when I came home. We did not expressed our love through physical closeness or frequent touching. I just knew my parents loved me and they would take good care of me.

In Viet Nam, constantly reminders of family pride and honor were expressed verbally, "Do not shame the family", "Do not let us (parents) down", "Behave properly so people will know that you come from a good family." After we came to America, my parents often commented about individuals, especially young Asians, whose manners did not meet their approval and warned us children not to bring shame not only to the family but also to the entire Asian race. While my parents encouraged us to seek higher education, to master the English language, to get good jobs, to be productive citizens and become a part of American culture, they reminded us that we, as Asian Americans, would never find complete acceptance in American society. As Vietnamese American, we should try to prove that we are a "worthwhile ethnic minority in America".

Other comments were posted to the commentary blaming the parents for making the children's lives a living hell with their "dog and pony show". Another person wrote that parents who worked long hours more likely neglected their children physically and mentally; therefore, implying that the gunman was not responsible for what he did and his parents were accountable for not providing the love he needed.

As society, we have become a nation of victims, blaming someone else for our mistakes, believe that we are free from moral responsibility because something happened or caused by mothers, parents, employers and that we are entitled to sympathy, thus our actions are justifiable. My parents were strict and they never hugged, kissed or said that they loved me, yet I did not turn out to be a psychotic killer. There are many first generation Korean Americans who worked 12-14 hours to make a better life for their children and the children in turn understand the sacrifice the parents have made.

I see the physical closeness between my brother, VL and his son, much different with my parents when VL was growing up. VL and my nephew spent more time on outdoor activities and working on projects as father and son. Do I wish that my parents hugged and kissed me more often when I was growing up in Viet Nam? Maybe. Do I think my parents loved me less because they did not express their love verbally or lack the physical closeness? Absolutely not. The only regret I now have is not telling my Dad often how much I love and respect him and that I am blessed to be his daughter. But of course, he already knew all that because he is my Dad and he always loves me beyond the earth and sky.

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