Love? Love?! Love!

Ever been asked how parents in China show their love for their children?

Parents from western countries tend to express love by kissing their kids on their cheeks or foreheads, and by telling them “I love you”. In China, however, elders hold a different way of saying “I love you” to the young.

Ever heard of the phrase “Beating implies affection and scolding expresses love”? It’s so famous in China that nearly every parent exercises it.

Before today I would’ve had a different answer to the question at the start of this passage. Before today I thought, well parents here show affection the same way western parents do, minus the kisses and the “I love you”s.

Today, however, I have some new thoughts. And frankly, in the eyes of my parents and their peers, the following may come as a naive concept, a concept so nonsense that with a wave of their hands they can dismiss it.

I can’t speak for all parents in this country since I haven’t done my research. However, I can talk a bit about my parents.

They express love by two simple things. Scolding and downgrading.

I did a little non-so-intended experiment yesterday. After about 15 minutes inside the kitchen (a confined space with the door closed) I started to feel unwell; so unwell, in fact, that I was slightly suffocating. I couldn’t breathe right. So I hurried back to the living room where my father was. He saw my face, asked me what was going on, and I told him. The next thing he said, not surprising at all, was,”I told you to drink more water, but did you do as you’re told?”

That was the first thing that came out of his mouth after I told him it was hard for me to breathe.

It confirmed what I’ve been thinking for quite a while. Ever since I could remember, every single time that I wasn’t feeling well, that I caught a cold, that I had a stomachache, the first line they would say to me was always in this format: “I told you to blah blah blah, but you blah blah blah.” Followed by a stream of blaming and scolding. They never really asked “how are you feeling” before the two-hour-interrogation about my recent behaviours.

Okay I’m exaggerating; “interrogations” never went as long as two hours. But suffice it to say that scolding is probably their most-used way to show their child they love her.

Weird, I know. But definitely not as weird as downgrading.

Downgrading. The chief reason why I stopped telling them about my dreams and the things I want to achieve since maybe 12. Not that they don’t encourage me, but that happens on rare occasions. Most of the time it goes like this:

Me: Hey I want to be a reporter at BBC in the future!

Them: You? Oh hardy har har, drop it.


Me: I think learning another language may be nice!

Them: (sarcastically) Yeah right. Focus on perfecting your English for the time being okay? Enlarge your vocabulary!

Or simply:

Me: I want to learn how to play the guitar.

Them: Huh. Mmm.

So yeah. Pretty much the response I get. Now I just cut all those crap and say nothing.

So can anyone feel their love for me seeping through every letter of their words? No? Well let’s just say, opinions differ.

I’ve lived under this roof long enough to know the reasons behind their actions. They care about me, sometimes too much. And I’m not exactly the obedient type. They care too much, get annoyed by me too often, so, they scold.

As for downgrading, that’s just their twisted way of encouragement. By laughing at me they think they are igniting the morale inside me, so that I can achieve better. But there’s one other aspect they have ignored: downgrading me can also make me think less of myself. And unfortunately, this neglected point is exactly what is happening.

They ARE my parents, for heaven’s sake, so of course they love me. It’s just that they have a strange way of showing it.

Side note: when I was writing the first line down I was so angry and hurt by them misunderstanding me that I swore I could rip something apart. But after a whole passage’s time, everything’s fine.