A Chinese immigrant made a life for herself in the US.
After years of dedication, she believes she has perfected her English language skills. However, she feels like she is failing at communicating with her teenage daughter.
Most parents can relate to having a rebellious teenager and are aware of their children's tendency to be embarrassed by them. But for Redditor "ThrowRA364," the challenges in her relationship with her daughter were unique.
So she turned to Reddit's Relationship Advice thread to seek some insight on how to bridge the deepening gap between herself and her daughter.
The Original Poster (OP) wrote:
"I (F[emale] 45) think my daughter (F[emale] 17) is ashamed of her race and me as well. I'm not sure how to approach her about it."
She began the post with her background history:
"For background context, we are both fully Chinese. I immigrated to the United States by myself when I was 26."
"I had to learn English on my own and after living for so many years in the United States, I think my reading, listening, and writing skills have become good."
"However, I have a heavy Chinese accent when I speak and I am still mixing up words that I normally wouldn't when I am writing. I also grew up poor when I was a child, having grown up in a village that still doesn't have plumbing to this day."
"Due to this, I have a habit of saving takeout containers, using food past its expiration date so long as it still looks good, amongst other things."
The OP talked about the things her daughter would do to limit her mother's interactions with people in public.
"My daughter has always been a bit self-conscious and I think she's embarrassed by me. Whenever we go out to eat, she always asks me what I will order and then order for me or she'll begin to speak for me whenever I have trouble with words."
"I don't think my English is horrible to the point where I need someone to speak for me and I have told me that I dislike it when she does that but she feels that it is easier if she is the one speaking."
"I will sometimes shop at the local thrift store for clothes or yarn, but my daughter never wants to come with me and disapproves of me going as well. We are not in need of money, but I don't feel the need to spend more money than I have to on myself and the items I find are perfectly fine."
"However, I don't mind spending more money on my daughter and I will buy her the clothes and makeup that she wants even if they are expensive. There are times where her tennis team has asked for parents to bring food for cookouts and she gets upset whenever I suggest bringing something like homemade scallion pancakes or spring rolls because they're not traditional cookout foods."
The OP also mentioned how she is affected by her daughter constantly fighting against a stereotype.
"I think she's also conscious of stereotypes about Chinese people. She always insists on tipping at least 20% even if the service wasn't good."
"When she was younger, we went on vacation and decided to eat out. Out of the two restaurants we went to that night, none of them served us. We were sat down and forgotten about and she kept coming up with excuses that it was because Chinese people don't tip well so restaurants aren't as friendly and so it's not their fault because they've most likely had bad experiences with Chinese people."
"When we go on trips, she'll always read this rules and then make sure that I understand as well. For example, when the rule is to stay on the path, she will constantly be looking over at me to make sure I'm not moving too close to the edge."
"If she thinks I am, she will pull me back to the middle of the path and I'm uncomfortable because I also try to be conscious of my behavior because I know the reputation Chinese tourists have. I feel that she doesn't trust me because I am Chinese."
The ongoing pandemic seemed to have exacerbated her anxiety.
"With the [pandemic], her mood has gotten worse. I heard from other parents that some of her classmates insisted on calling it the 'Chinese virus.'"
"Ever since the pandemic broke out, she's been really down and I've been trying my best to support her, but she just ends up upset at me to the point where I'm not sure what to do."
"There have been times where I hear her crying in her room, but she's never willing to tell me about anything."
"I'm wondering what I can do to support her and make her feel better. I also want her to respect me more as a person and not be so ashamed of me because it really does hurt but I'm not sure how to talk to her about it because she always brushes me off."
Redditors provided their encouraging words.
"You seem like a very strong, sweet, good mom with a big heart."
"Teenagers can be insecure/difficult and are often embarrassed by everything their parent(s) do. I would love to go to a bbq and have spring rolls... I guarantee other guests would love them too!"
"And I am sure your English is perfectly adequate to order from a menu! Your basic life story is quite amazing, I have a lot of respect for you."
"I am sorry your daughter is 'embarrassed' but 99% of kids grow out of it and really learn to appreciate how amazing and unique their parent(s) are."
"She might feel different because she is a Chinese teen in a white area who wants to blend in with her peers... and be accepted by her friend group without anyone pointing out her differences...but one day she will see how wonderful it is to simply be her."
"Keep supporting her and tell her you are there for her. You sound like a wonderful person who hates to see her daughter struggle." – outdoor18
This Redditor suggested ways for the OP to improve her English speaking skills if she wished to boost her self-esteem.
"If you're wanting to practice your English speaking have you considered joining some groups?"
"There might not be any local to your town but online (if you have a microphone) I'm sure you could find a group to help people practice speaking from home."
"It might be helpful for you to build your confidence in speaking and you could even help out other group members who may be less fluent than you!"
"That being said, your written English seems fantastic so I wouldn't fret about it too much." – Atrivo
A Redditor who said he was "a white guy in the South" had these supportive words that were relevant to our current humanitarian crisis.
"It's a hard time in our country to be different right now and I'm sure your daughter feels that even more because she is in the process of shaping her individual identity."
"I don't really have advice but I do want to thank you for sharing because it's a good reminder of why it's important to have diverse representation of Americans in popular culture."
"It would likely be easier on your daughter if she saw that America didn't only view her as a stereotype."
"Chinese immigrants helped build this country through contributions that are often forgotten or were never discussed to begin with."
"It saddens me to hear that your daughter may be pulling away from her heritage but it also sounds like you are an awesome, supportive parent, and I'm sure once she gets past the self conscious teenage years she'll appreciate you all the more because of it." – WakeoftheStorm
This person—also with a Chinese heritage—provided hope and was proof of someone who eventually grew out of a similar phase the daughter seems to be in right now.
"OP, as a 24 year old with a similar background as you, I used to be embarrassed by my mom when I was in high school, too."
"But I've totally grown out of it, love speaking in Chinese with my mom, and teaching her when she's struggling with English."
"My friends love her too, too! And think it's so lucky I have a mom that can make all these different things and taught me my mother tongue." – whitechapel98
The OP took many of the comments to heart and wrote about her plans for a solution to bring herself closer to her daughter.
The update was amended to the top of her original post, and it read:
"Hello. Thank you for all of your kind responses and your heartfelt stories. I am still reading through all of them and I am planning to sit my daughter down tonight to sincerely talk about my past and my feelings."
"I emailed her school counselor last night and will also bring up finding a family counselor that she likes. Your advice has been greatly helpful and I would like to thank everyone again for your kindness."
Hopefully, the daughter will someday recognize that the very part of her identity she is running away from will be something worth embracing.
*If you enjoyed this article, you can read more like it by clicking on the Relationship Advice link below.*