According to Vietnamese kids, there are two types of Vietnamese moms: the quiet, patient mother, and the aggressive, demanding tiger mom. Regardless of which category she falls under, she's definitely always trying to feed you. OK, so those are tropes. Obviously not every Vietnamese mom is going to make you wear a jacket, regardless of the weather. But without resorting to stereotypes, it turns out there are things most Vietnamese moms do that other moms can, and should, learn from.
I don't have a Vietnamese mom myself, but I am one. You see, my family structure is different than the presumed "normal," whatever "normal" is. My mom is white and my dad is Vietnamese. My father's family escaped during the fall of Saigon, and he and my mom met teaching English to refugees. My parents divorced before I was born, and thanks to a Vietnamese stepmother who wanted nothing to do with me, I had limited contact with that side of my family growing up. I've been estranged from my father almost my entire adult life.
All that changed when I became a mom and my Vietnamese family reached out over Facebook. The last two years have been a time of reunion and reconnection. It's been my first opportunity to watch the women in my family be mothers, and I'm learning so much from my aunties, cousins, sister, and friends. Not all Vietnamese moms are the same, but what they do have in common is worth our attention:
Traditionally, the Vietnamese have a lot of requirements for a postpartum woman. There's a veritable laundry list of restrictions for 30 days after a birth, including a moratorium on showering. Most of these are designed to avoid problems later in life. For example, no citrus fruits to prevent later incontinence.
Of course, there's no research to support the aforementioned "rules," but anecdotal evidence has me looking into it. At the very least, the rest of us can take a note by exercising a little more care during what should be a healing period. I don't know about you, but I'm definitely making my partner carry me up the stairs next time.
In Vietnamese culture, family is everything. It's who you can count on at the end of the day, especially when it comes to financial matters. I think what I admire most about my Vietnamese family is the way they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and worked after the war, living together under one roof in a new country, until every individual family had their own home. I love that, even now, the sibling groups all live close together, and the children of the family have an amazing network of relatives to support and love them.
In some families a B really is an F, but the Vietnamese know that education can make the difference in one's quality of life. So of course they push academics. For most Vietnamese moms, it's enough that their kids work hard and to the best of their ability. It's a demand placed on the child, yes, but I agree that it's a completely reasonable one.
Vietnamese kids are taught to treat other adults with respect, and at a large gathering they can usually safely assume that they're somehow related to everyone. Even if they're not, though, they'll generally confer that "aunt" or "uncle" status anyway.
The first time I met my Vietnamese friend's daughters, they called me "Auntie." I think it's a lovely way of honoring the special roles different adults play in children's lives, and I'm all about it.
Again, respect is the order of the day. You'll never catch a Vietnamese kiddo calling their friends' parents or *gasp* teachers by their first name. That's a definite no-no.
Furthermore, they're expected to properly address everyone in the house when coming or going. "Dad, Mom, I just got home from school." "Grandma, I'm leaving for soccer practice." To anyone with a surly teenager, I'll bet this is sounding really good.
I feel like American parents are big on research and the newest parenting methods. That's great, but there's also something to be said for what's worked for centuries. In my opinion, one reason we're so insecure and hyper-defensive as moms (let's not pretend we're not, OK?) is that we don't get to watch all our female relatives parent anymore. I'll bet breastfeeding is a whole lot easier for a woman who's seen her mom, aunts, and cousins do it around her.
New is not always better. I mean, let's not go back to pre-vaccine days or anything, but we might do well to do as Vietnamese moms do, and ask the advice of our parents, grandparents, and relatives when it comes to child-rearing.
Vietnamese parents require their children to take care of their individual spaces as well as their personal presentation. They teach them that the work they present to others is a representation of who they are. This sets kids up for good first impressions, and that's a skill they'll need their whole lives. Now to get my toddler to clean up her toys.
Vietnamese moms are as modern as the rest of us, but they work hard to preserve culture and tradition for their children. For many Vietnamese kids, Saturdays are for language school and Sundays are for temple or church. And you better believe that on Tet, the girls will be donning their ao dai for a family picture. No excuses.
The Asian kid playing piano or violin is a pretty tired stereotype, I'll admit. But Vietnamese parents seem to have always known what research now tells us. Music education, according to PBS, is associated with everything from increased IQ to spatial intelligence to improved test scores. And when your kid plops down at the piano and produces a beautiful Yiruma piece, well, that's just icing on the parenting cake.
It'll cure what ails you. Just trust us on this one.
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