I remember reading an article long ago that talked about when a Korean mom says, “I love you.” It was something like: when you are born, when you graduate from Harvard, when you become a doctor, when you marry a doctor and when you have a son. This embodies the high expectations and perfection associated with life as a Korean child. Luckily, my mom says, “I love you,” more than that but the expectations were always very apparent.
Piano lessons, “Korean school” (weekend classes learning how to read and write Korean plus Korean cultural arts), tutors etc. are the usual elements of a Korean kid’s life. You will constantly hear about the huge sacrifices of your parents giving up their lives to provide these things with the understanding that you will be great and take good care of them in return (i.e. buy them a Mercedes and a house they can tell their friends about).
I remember looking to my American dad in hopes of rescue, only to get, “That’s your mother, she’s Korean and you are part Korean.” The truth is all she wants is for us to be happy, financially stable, healthy and she worked very hard to do so. That doesn’t keep her from constantly mentioning things like how she just got back from a wedding for her Korean friend’s son/daughter who is an orthodontist and just married an OBGYN.
We were at the mall one day recently and were browsing separately. I went to find her and she was chatting with a Korean grandma sitting in a Nordstrom seating area with her infant grandson in a stroller. I joined, greeted the woman in Korean and my mom introduced us which includes telling me all the show-off stuff the Korean grandmother had told her about the daughter. I look over to where the women pointed out the daughter. She was perfectly trim after obviously just giving birth to this chubby 2 month old boy. She was fashionable with a large, Louis Vuitton handbag and browsed the Nordstrom shoe selection that Tuesday afternoon, while her mother happily sat with the grandchild like some kind of accessory. She and her husband were doctors (pharmacists). Obviously.
I said, “oh she is beautiful,” in Korean and her mother replied in typical Korean fashion, “Oh, no, her sister is the good-looking one, she is Lady Gaga’s accountant.” Right…so Korean to be so matter-of-fact/depreciating-in-a-show-off kind of way. My mom told her I was an acupuncturist and married to…a banker with no kids. Yikes. I saw at that moment how much she wanted to be that lady! How cute. She couldn’t stop giggling all afternoon about how fat the baby was (that is a good thing to her).
So, I’m part Korean. I guess I’ll be doing that stuff too. Perfect.
P.S. I totally adore my mom.
P.S.S. She is SOUTH Korean-I heard someone once say they didn’t want to buy a Kia automobile because they didn’t want to support the bad Koreans. Kia is a South Korean company. North Korea doesn’t make anything you’d want anyway.
What specific hopes do you have for your children? Did you feel pressure from your family growing up? Are these expectations true for all cultures? Do you wish your parents put more on you or less?
Here’s a funny blog called “Stuff Korean Mom’s Like.”