I used to think that all parents were sent to Mind Trick School before they had their first kid. Well, at least I was convinced that mine were. I mean, where else to you learn to have conversations with your kids like this:
Them: (in Chinese) Do you want us to go buy you a sandwich?
Me: (in English) No, it's okay.
Them: No really, it's no problem. We can stop and buy you a sandwich.
Me: No, I'm fine. You don't have to.
Them: No, it's okay. We'll go get you a sandwich.
Me: Okay then, I'll take the sandwich.
Them: See how much your parents love you??? See how much they do for you???
Them: (Yelling in Chinese from the other side of the house) Pam!
Them: Come get some fruit.
Me: I don't want any. I'm full.
Them: COME GET SOME FRUIT!
Me: (Going to the family room to get the fruit) Okay, fine...
Them: God, you'd think we were trying to force you or something...
Or how about this one...
Them: How come you're not drinking anything with your breakfast?
Me: I'm not thirsty.
Them: You should have something to drink.
Me: OK, I'll have something to drink.
Them: What do you want, milk or orange juice?
Me: Um, orange juice.
Them: Why? What's wrong with milk?
Them: (Having just heard about the Mad Cow Disease outbreak in the U.S.) Did you hear about Mad Cow?
Them: Well are you eating any beef?
Them: Are you sure???
Me: Yeah, I'm sure.
Them: Make sure you don't eat any beef okay?
Me: I know. (Pause) Wait, I still have some ground beef that I bought from Costco a few weeks ago in the freezer.
Them: Well, maybe you can finish it. Just don't eat any beef after that.
Well I just came home from a weekend with the Chinese Costanzas (you remember George's parents from Seinfeld right?) and had a harsh reality check. My parents never got sent to any Parental Mind Trick School. They were taught all their little nuances with food from the very start from their parents--years and years of mental conditioning by my grandparents showing their love primarily with food, using food as guilt, and teaching them to never, ever, waste food. So that only means one thing...that I am being conditioned as we speak.
But me? Become like my parents? Never!
Remember those arguments you used to have with your parents back in your rebellious teenager days? You'd be like, "I am soooooo not going to grow up to be like them." Back in the eighties, I used to storm out of the room and into my bedroom, adorned both with Laura Ashley Cabbage Rose bed linens AND Siouxsie and the Banshees posters. I'd plop myself down on the flowery bedspread sobbing, lay my asymetrical-coiffed head down in my black fingernail-polished hands, and promise myself that growing up to be like my parents was NOT an option.
Well let me tell you, sweetheart, that it's inevitable. You soooooo will grow up to be just like your parents. I did. Granted, I don't have any children yet, so I haven't reached my full freakazoid potential, but I think I'm subconsciously practicing for parenthood on Isaac. He'll offer to cook dinner, but I'll insist that I do it instead, then ask him if he appreciates the fact that I just finished slaving over a hot stove after a hard day's work. Sometimes I'll have a craving for something and instead of saying, "Hey, let's eat this," I'll beat around the bush about it, asking him instead what he wants to eat, and try to turn it around to seem like my craving was his idea. I'll throw one little nugget of leftover food into a plastic container and even if it sits in the refrigerator rotting, by golly, I tried!
And sure, there are some differences between the folks and me, their spawn. Whereas they show their love mostly with food, I do the same, but also require a lot more physical love from my own relationships. I'm also a lot less frugal. A dinner that costs more than $20 per person on a non-special occasion would be unheard of for them. But nothing's concrete yet, right? Just wait 'til I get older and have children. I'll be cutting the rotten part off of a piece of fruit and forcing my kid to eat the good part telling them that its a sin to waste food 'cause their parents slaved away all day just to even get food on the table.