When I met my husband on the first day of medical school, the first question he asked was, “Are you Korean?”. I said, “Um…no…”, rolled my eyes so hard in my mind and assumed he was one of those people super into Asian culture. I certainly was not…
But every time I ran into him, I couldn’t stop thinking about him, and he was obviously head-over-heels for me😂. He ended up being the first Asian guy I dated, and I realized I had carried a lot of stereotypes and judgement. He was really cool, funny, and we had so much in common. Hours of studying were filled with laughter, pizza, and talking about life.
You know how the story goes: we got married and had kids. Along the way, I began to learn Chinese with my children, and my kids learned Korean when we used to have a nanny.
Turns out, my husband was the one who’s VERY lax about culture and language. He is comfortable with who he is, understands his limits, and has zero guilt for things out of his control.
Last year, when I was grieving over our kids’ rapid loss of Korean, he said “Why? I don’t feel bad, so why should you?” He knows he’s doing enough, that we’re both doing more than enough.
I struggle with enoughness.
No matter how hard I try, or how much my Chinese language skills have improved, I feel like an outsider. I am trying to teach my kids about a culture that feels intangible with my parents in Heaven. I can’t recreate my mother’s recipes, and my parents’ stories are harder to remember each passing day.
Meanwhile, every year, my in-laws call and email us with a brief refresher on Korean Soellal 설날 customs. We usually don’t integrate these customs when they’re on the other side of the country.
So this post came with the self-imposed pressure to post something for Lunar New Year. Crafts my kids enjoyed, books my kids read. They are important to know and share; you can read more about Korean Lunar New Year activities and Chinese New Year crafts here.
I’m aware of the responsibility I have for representation in this corner of the internet. In that vein, I need to use that privilege to say that:
- Most of us are doing more than enough.
- Culture is dynamic and looks different for every family.
Your family’s intimate connections matter more than a whole nation’s Lunar New Year festivities, however simple your traditions and whether or not you speak other languages.
If you still aren’t convinced, just think of my husband. His only regular Korean words are 방귀 (fart) and 똥 (poop)! He never posts on social media, because he doesn’t need approval for who he is or what he does. Instead, he focuses on spending the little free time and energy doing ordinary things with us.
We are really enough for him, just as we are.❤️
Expanded on original post published on Instagram, February 10, 2021.
More bilingual parenting reflections
- Surprising Changes in the Last Decade: Family, Career, and Language
- Overcoming Asian Guilt on Lunar New Year
- Learning How to Declutter After My Immigrant Mother’s Sudden Death
- Auntie’s Advice on Accents: Be Patient, and Take the Time to Listen
- Memory Journal with Letters to Our Children