For ChineseAmerican immigrants, most of the pressures they face today are the same as those they faced during China’s Cultural Revolution, only internalized. In my childhood, I remember never spending money for anything that was not absolutely necessary. In restaurants, we always ordered inexpensive food and no drinks or dessert, and they rarely ever bought anything until they needed to. Even today, when we are relatively well-off, my mother concerns herself with finding the cheapest possible replacement for a tenyear old broken toaster. This attitude may come from China, where everyone lived in poverty due to the policies of the government. These conditions taught them to carefully manage their spending, forgoing comfort in order to survive. From habit, my parents continue to emphasize saving money to their children, clinging to all they have ever known.
My parents, especially my mother, also focus much of their energy on my grades and anything else remotely related to college admissions. Little else will draw as much passion as that subject. For example, social interactions with friends are deemed unimportant, as they do not serve to advance that goal. The poor educations they received taught them to make sure their children do not suffer the same fate. In the United States, my parents attempt to ensure a better future for their children than what they have faced. But their insistence that their children always get A’s and not dreaded B’s leads to many avoidable confrontations.
More pressure draws from their desire to become rich. As the owner of a small company, my father believes he is more intelligent than my mother, and condescends towards the rest of his family. However, my mother prides herself on the belief that she works harder than my father. She often scolds him for being “lazy” and undeserving. Were they not so obsessed with the desire for wealth, these conflicts would not be so prominent.
Respect means everything with my father, who angers at the slightest hint of an insult from his family. However, this does not work both ways. When my father insults his children, it can be passed off as exaggeration or a “joke”. We are expected to deal with it in a way he cannot, to be considerate and not retaliate in kind. Much of this stems from filial piety, taken to extremes in that parents should not care about what their children think, but trust in their own infinite wisdom. Such an attitude may be what the ancient Chinese practiced, but it is unlikely to lead to a satisfying life in the modern world.