Sometimes I watch The Real Housewives of Orange County.
We’re not going steady or anything, but I am one of those suckers that happens to catch an episode during a marathon… which inevitably leads to me watching the entire freakin season as I morph into Jabba the Fatt on the couch. Before I know it, there are chocolate wrappers and Hot Cheetos strewn everywhere, and I’m shouting obscenities at Noob Daddy intermixed with an occasional “Tamra!” “OMG! Gretchen!” and “Whores!!!”
But what really gets under my skin, what reallllly makes me want to just dropkick someone in the face, is not the wives… but their kids! Their sense of entitlement. Their rude, disrespectful behavior and complete lack of self-motivation and ambition, just really pushes me over the edge. Most of the Real Housewives kids share the common douchebaggeriness of not wanting to work, regularly insulting their parents, whining endlessly, dabbling in school, and just acting like 7-yr-olds.
It’s when I watch this show that I wonder, really, what kind of parent will I be? What are my expectations of my daughter? And what are those expectations fine-tuned to reality?
How do you express… I expect the world from you because I know you’re capable of it, and I love you… but not force your child to crumble under the weight of those expectations?
How do you free your child to become the best version of herself, without completely letting go? Or rather, how will I know when to push just a little bit harder and when to take a step back and simply — accept?
When I watch the Real Housewives kids –spoiled, irreverent, and complacently running at below potential — I find myself whispering a silent “thank you” to my mother. The hard-ass, bad cop, I-won’t-accept-B’s, typical Chinese mother. In those rare instances, I can finally admit that I needed a little kick in the ass many times throughout my childhood to push myself just one step further.
I must thank my mother for teaching me manners, showing me what it means to respect my elders, and reminding me to always say thank you. (Simple things I was very surprised to find were often lacking when I was in the classroom.)
Yet, there is also that child in me, the one that sobbed bitterly in bed… grounded again for not practicing piano, not getting straight As…. that watches that darned show quietly, perplexed, and feeling somewhat jealous of that youth — having the freedom to laze about without a plan, or having the audacity to demand a Beemer for my birthday and then wreck it. Above all, that part of me still wonders what that weightlessness would be like… to not have every fault slapped under the microscope.
How do I weave these two versions of myself together to become the mother I so badly want to be? Is it possible to take carefully chosen pieces of my mother and match them with my own best intentions, with the expectations that tiptoe on the fine line of too much and just enough?