Chinese parents typically give the best to their children and push their own needs and priorities to the backburner. In return, they expect their kids to follow their advice and guidance, excel academically, earn a well-paid career, honor the parents and take care of their physical and emotional needs when the youngsters have the abilities and means to do so. None of the expectations are communicated explicitly, but parents wishfully hope their children will get it someday.

Unfortunately in China today, the only child in the family isn’t getting it. Recently my friend complained to me about her niece who came to Chicago with her boy for a 9-day vacation. In addition to visiting with her aunt, she and her boyfriend also went to Vegas and did a lot of shopping of luxury goods. The young lovers have a place of their own in Shanghai, but they go to her parents’ home for dinner everyday. My nosy friend asked her niece, “Do you offer anything to your mother for buying the grocery and preparing meals for you guys?”

The girl looked at her with a proud smile on her face, “My expense in Shanghai is zero!”

The $30K worth of handbags, shoes and clothes was mainly for the girl. The boy didn’t buy any gifts for his parents, because in his own words, “My parents are farmers. They don’t appreciate brand name stuff.”

It’s natural for parents to take care of their offspring because it helps the survival of the species. However the reverse isn’t natural. So we have to teach our children to care for our needs and the needs of the family by giving them opportunities to do so. For starters, we have to let them know that we have needs and the things that are important to us. And when they do offer gestures of appreciation or actions of support, we ought to love it genuinely instead of feeling bad about them spending time and money on us.

Joe, Jake and I were supposed to spend the weekend camping in Michigan with my friend from high school, her husband and their daughter who is also seven. We decided to cancel the trip last minute because her mother who is living with her has been sick in bed, plus the weather forecast had been predicting unfavorable weather for the weekend. So I thought it’d nice to plan a little family getaway before the girls had to head back to college. My brilliant idea was to find a house on the lake in Michigan. July is booked solid but there are limited vacancies for August. When I was about to put down the deposit, I thought it would be a good idea to ask Jane and Michelle if they’d be interested in spending a weekend in Michigan Silver Lake, enjoying the beach, boating, horseback riding, fishing and jeep dune rides.

“It’s so far out. I don’t know.” Michelle replied.

Jane looked at her phone and didn’t say anything.

I was a bit ticked. After all the time I had spent on searching for feasible locations, this was what I got?

“If you guys don’t want to go, just say so. Otherwise, mark it on your calendar and don’t let others things get in the way. We booked our Cancun vacation 6 months ahead, and you guys made a commitment to the dates, right?”

At the back of my mind, I knew I was being demanding. I needed an escape weekend to replace the camping trip. Because I wanted it so bad, I was pressuring them to go along with the idea immediately.

“When you make up your mind, please let me know. The rental properties are going fast.” I returned to the study room frustrated.

Jane popped in 15 minutes later, “Mom, Michelle and I’ll go to Silver Lake. It sounds fun. But I have a question for you.”


“Jim’s family is having a big celebration on July, 20th. Everyone will be there. His mom asked me to go. But it’s your birthday… We normally celebrate your birthday on Friday. So can I go?”

“But my book signing is also on July 20th.”

“Oh, yeah! Can you change it?”

“The date was set 6 months ago.”

“Do you want me to go?”

“It’ll be really nice if you are there.”

“What time is the book signing?”

“From 1 -3 pm.”

“It ends so late. What should I do, mom?”

“I can’t tell you what to do. You need to make that decision on your own.”

Jane reappeared 10 minutes later with a grin on her face. “Mom, I’ve made the decision.”


“I’ll go to Jim’s after the book signing!”

“That makes everyone happy! Good decision!” I was smiling from ear to ear.

I certainly didn’t want to make Jane show up at my first official book signing out of guilt. It will hurt me knowing that she’d rather be somewhere else. On the other hand, I didn’t want to let her off the hook and resent the fact that she put her and other’s needs ahead of mine. So I made it clear to her that the event was important to me and left the choice up to her. Jane made me very happy and proud with her wise decision.