It drizzled on my sunglassed face today. Ellis and I were basking in this last gift of a bright and sunny fall day with temps in the 60s, playing with our friends in the park before lunch, nap, and picking up Hyung.
When it rains while still bright and sunny out, there is a Korean saying: “The tiger groom and fox bride must be getting married today.”
I wanted to know more about that so I asked my mom via our Skype session during Ellis’ lunch. She guessed that it must mean that it is both a hilarious and unlikely event so you laugh AND cry at once, like the rain and sun at once? I guessed that it means a bright, sunny, rainy day is as likely as a tiger marrying a fox. Just a super-colorful and eccentric metaphor, confirming that if I could come back as any ethnicity, I would choose Korean all over again.
While trying to feed Ellis his oxtail soup and rice, he started getting upset, pushing his bowl away and pointing to something else. It turned out that he saw my bowl full of the same soup and rice but with kimchi floating around. He wanted to eat that one. I don’t even know how he saw my bowl hidden behind the open laptop and why he was so interested in having his first taste of kimchi today of all days.
I obliged as my mama said, “Make sure you tear the kimchi into small pieces for him. Wash it real good.”
Then again. “He’s eating like a grown man. But make sure you tear the kimchi into small pieces. And wash off the spices.”
And again. She said it a total of five times. I spoke up and said, “Can you PLEASE not say it again? Unlike OTHER FAMILIES, we take care of these guys MOSTLY ON OUR OWN, so I know how to feed him and if I cut it too small, he gets upset. I know what I’m doing.”
This fell on deaf ears because she immediately said again, while beaming at Ellis, “The kimchi should be torn into small pieces.”
“UMMA! I know we’ve had this conflict before. You keep saying the same thing over and over again and then when I ask…no actually, when I BEG of you to just stop, you say, ‘Hey, you really need to know I’m only saying this aloud for my own sake. Can’t you just let it go and lemme say what I say? Let it roll off your back? I’m just talking to myself.’ But that’s not fair, Umma! I obviously can’t let it roll off my back after you repeat it six times in a row so it’s not just Bad Jihee, Good Mommy. You can also try to help out by not saying things that I ask you to PLEASE PLEASE stop repeating.”
I should have added that it also hurts because it seems like she doesn’t trust my parenting skills when she repeats herself like this. Our Skype sessions sometimes end with my hanging up abruptly because I only hear repeat instructions in lieu of something that is pretty foreign in my family. AFFIRMATION. That is why when I see my friends get affirmed for just about anything from their parents, my mouth falls open like I am watching science fiction unfold before me.
Also, this reminded me of how sometimes, conflict with my parents is usually explained away with, “This is just a cultural and generational difference. If you were raised in Korea, you would know that we don’t mean any harm by _________.”
When my mama graciously helped us out by taking an unpaid leave from her job to stay with us for about a month or more after Ellis was born, Kevin and I had to take Ellis for one of his first doctor visits. Micah started bawling when he saw us trying to leave without him. My mom brought Micah to the elevator as we waited for it, trying to make the most peaceful getaway. As he bawled, she started to fake cry with him!
I snapped at her, “Please take him AWAY and back into the apartment. Distract him. Don’t let him stand here and bawl as he WATCHES us leave. You’re making it worse.”
I couldn’t believe that I had to not only watch him bawl, which was making me sweat like crazy and my boobs squirt more milk into my nursing pads, but watch my mom, his caretaker for the moment, also fake-cry as she held him.
She said this was a cultural difference, that Korean adults of her generation always try to cry along with the baby in order to distract the baby who may stop to watch the adult “crying.” I guess I can understand that but he was near hysterics and it clearly wasn’t working.
Also, when I had my first baby, nursing round the clock, each time he cried and I was frantically unclasping my nursing tank top to feed him, my mom would say, “mma-mma jooh seh yo, mma-mma jooh seh yo!” meaning, “please give me food, please give me food.” It added so much stress as I practically ripped off my shirt to feed him, as an overly ambitious first-time mama. Again, she said it is a cultural difference and her just talking by herself.
I guess this is my Korean entry. I don’t know if it is just a cultural difference or a difference in personality but it keeps recurring because we both won’t give in. She wants me to just LET her keep saying things OVER and OVER and OVER again while I want her to just refrain from saying stuff.
Though it may be a cultural / generational difference, that blanket statement doesn’t help actually resolve anything. How about we both try? I will try not to let it get to me as much but she should also try to stop saying it so many times!
I love her dearly and believe me, I appreciate having a living mama who cares so much for her grandkids but it struck me again that communication in any love relationship can be such a challenge.
However, I must admit that her original song “mma-mma jooh seh yo, mma-mma jooh seh yo!” has become a staple in our household. God bless Gramma Lee. I must go wake up Ellis to go pick up Big Bro now.
It is pouring outside.
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