What can an Asian mother to do when her "americanized" daughters leave her?
Medical School. I hear from Ba Hong that her daughter just get accepted into medical school. Harvard University, she say to me. Just like her brother. A dentist. And she just marry. Remember Ba Lan’s son? The lawyer? I ask. No, another doctor, already finished medical school. Johns Hopkins. Good girl, I say. Listen to her parents. Do good in school and go to be a doctor. Marry nice Vietnamese boy. Parents introduce so know that is good family you marry. My mother always say, you marry a boy, you marry his family, especially his mother.
I listen to my mother. I go to school and become pharmacist. I did not like to study it. Very difficult for me with new language. Lots of memorizing. But I finish. And look! I was right. When I graduate, starting salary for pharmacist is 40,000 dollar. Now starting salary for pharmacist is 80,000 dollar. I tell my first daughter, Hanh. You study pharmacy. Is really easy, just memorize and then for rest of life, no worry about money. First daughter says to me, I’m not good in science, I want to study History or Enlgish. I say Phhhfff. How you eat with English or History? Your father is right, you study business. Maybe you can be lawyer. Make us proud.
Is too late for first daughter. I tell second daugher, Hai, you are good in all subjects. You maybe become a doctor. I say orthrodontist, you know for the braces. Both my daughters had the braces. One half hour and he charge 150 dollar. I say, my daughter can do that. Is easy kind of doctor. No blood or surgery. If I better in English and better in science, I would have studied to be doctor.
But this girl, my second daughter, she tell me that maybe she want to study music and art. I tell my husband, why we send her to this Andover when it teaches her these things. She is good student, all 5’s in her classes. But all these activities she does. Editor of literary magazine, musical director of Cabaret night. She even has a band, all girls. Guitar day and night. I say, stop playing the guitar and start studying. She says in a minute mother, not in Vietnamese, but in English. I say Hai, you speak Vietnamese to your mother, otherwise you forget. Her eyes turn up and she say, How can I forget.
I tell my husband, look what this school does to her. They want her learn too much, give her too much freedom. They should tell her study hard first, then other things later. I pay for her a private teacher to study classical guitar. But she sits and she writes all day her own songs. I do not understand what she sings.
One day she walk up to the stage and she sing a song about about a boy standing too close to her. I move in my seat when she sing that song, but I do not ask her about it. I do not speak to her of these things. I tell her boys are bad. Only want one thing. I tell her concentrate on your studies. After college, maybe we find a nice boy from a nice family. Vietnamese and Catholic. Then you marry and have my grandchildren. But before then, no boys.
But this daughter, I tell my friends, she is good student at Andover. They do not know of this high school because many of them are not good in English. I am a pharmacist at a CVS in North Andover. Other Vietnamese woman I know maybe stay at home or work in Vietnamese stores. Maybe you can say we are more money than they are. My husband is in business. He speak English very well.
I am not very interested in America. Yes, I work because I need to. I go to church and I pray. I read books about Jesus, the Saints and how to lead good life in God. I see what America is like. I see the girls and their bellies. My second daughter, she wears a shirt that when she bends, you see her back. I tell her tuck in and wear belt. She say she is just going to school. What if the boys see that? They think of her.
But she is good girl, she listens to me. She will go to Yale or Columbia. I tell my daugher, your father and I worked hard, studied hard without knowing English to give you nice house, always food, private school and new books. You have no reason to not study hard and get all 6’s.
They don’t appreciate, my daughters. They yell at me. They tell me I don’t understand. I understand, my mother never let me go out or talk to boys. I never talk back to her. I listen and bow my head.
I bring my oldest daughter food at her apartment. She says mom, I can take care of myself. You think I can’t do anything by myself. If I not take care of her what I should I do. I am always her mother. Always. She thinks she is big adult at 22. But I know she always needs me. She will always be my child.
This one I really don’t understand. We put her to a good college and we teach her how to be a good girl. Her second year in university, she tell us that she want to stop school and move away from us. I cry and yell at her. I cannot even ask her why. She tell me that we don’t let her live her own life.
I say, we only want the best for you. We know what is best for you. We have made mistakes for you. We don’t want you to suffer. She tell me I am suffocating her. She says she cannot live to please me. I say, who pleasing me? Just want what is best interest for you. She tell me she will move to Seattle with a boy. Jesu, Maria, Guise. Jesus, Mary, Joesph. We take her to church every Sunday for 18 years. Is like I do not know this girl.
What I tell my friends if she not live here or in school? What about her soul? Yes, this is sin, but what about pregnancy? I worry that he cannot take care of her. Aya. I cannot know what to do with her. She comes back to Boston, she says. Not for me, but for her. I never ask her to do anything for me. Everything I do is for her.
All I can do is pray. I pray for her, I pray for her sister. I pray that my daughters know what it is they do. I pray they are happy. I do not understand why these daughters do what they do. But I always think of them. I am their mother.