If I were a parent

Every week in my culture class I give 7 students a short essay to write.  I can’t give everyone homework because that would give me about 300 papers to mark.  I’m not doing that.  So I pick 7 and give them a topic.  The topic from the week before which I now have to mark is “What would you different from your parents when you have a child”?

You could say nothing along with the reasons for saying that if you are satisfied with the job your parents did.  Out of 42 papers, I had 1 student who was quite content with their upbringing, which was nice to read.

Out of the remaining 41 papers I read, many broke my heart.  You really have no idea what it means to be a kid in China.  You know at the end of the year when the newspapers show the best high school students?  There is a reason that most of these kids are Chinese.

The average Chinese child has no life.  They go to school and after school they go to a training academy.  I’m not talking about every student, just the vast majority of them.  A high-school day lasts 12 hours (not including homework).  It really does break your heart.

Some of the stories I got were very difficult to read and I have no idea if they would write the same thing for a Chinese teacher.  Somehow I doubt it.  My 3rd year students writing ability is abysmal.  I asked them if last year in writing class if they had writing homework every week and they said no.  I just banged my head against the wall.  How can you get better at writing if you don’t write?  These are foreign teachers shirking their responsibility to make an effort.  It makes me sick and it embarrasses me.  I have told my 2nd year writing students if next year they write like my 3rd year students of this year, I will lose face.  We all laugh, but I am serious.

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand.  I have tidied up the writing somewhat because you are not experienced Chinglish readers.  I have not changed a lot of what they wrote, and the meanings I never changed.  Read them and you’ll learn a lot.  It’s much better to hear from them, than from me about this topic.


When I was just about 7 years old, I often played with other children in our village and forgot to finish my homework.  One day, when I got back home, I suddenly found that all my books were gone.  Finally, my mother told me that my father had burnt them.  After that, for a long time my father did not say a word to me, he thought that I was not a good learner.

When I was in middle school another thing happened.  My classmate, a beautiful girl, got pregnant.  All the teachers and students laughed at her.  Nobody helped her, even her parents.  When my parents heard the news, they told me I couldn’t be friends with that girl and I couldn’t play with boys.  I think if I am a parent, I will put some books about sex on his bookshelf.  If he asks me, I will let him know that it is usual to make love when we grow up, but we should be careful about getting pregnant because it’s harmful if a girl is pregnant and you don’t want to have a baby.  So you should take measures to prevent conception.  You can buy medicine or condoms.


Third, when I am a parent, I will let my children be free to choose their own friends, select their own classes in school, plan their own future and generally run their own life in a more independent way.  I will just give them suggestions when they need help.  My parents often ask me to do thinks that they like.  For example, they compelled me to study English as a major, and asked me to choose Baotou Teacher’s College.  They also regard it as their responsibility to teach me traditional beliefs.  They want me to be obedient and study hard in school.  They also blame my behavior and criticize the style of my clothes instead of caring about what I think.  They think rock music and popular songs are garbage.


When I was a little girl, my parents prevented me from doing many things.  I could not go outside except with family members, nor could I play with someone they did not like, let alone opposed what they said.  Study is the only thing I can do and must do, and even after the National College Entrance Examination, they decided which college I was to go to and which major to study.  They ignored my own choices.


My parents were so busy that they had no time to stay with me during the day.  I stayed with my grandparents and at night, after I fell asleep, they came back.  So I couldn’t see them everyday and I knew they worked hard for the whole family, but in my heart I think staying with my parents is more important than everything else.


When I was 8 years old, my family moved to the outskirts and lived on the prairie.  The most depressing thing is that there was no school at all.  So my parent’s decided to send me to my uncle’s home, which was located downtown.  Frustrated and unhappy, I stepped into this strange place.  Everything was so strange that I dare not speak a word.  My uncle treated me well while my uncle’s wife always shouted at me.  “You’re so slow!”  “Be quicker!”  At the same time, their child also ordered me to do something.  Therefore, living in this environment, I became more and more solitary.


“Honey, it’s time to get up.  Yesterday you got quite low marks and just ranked tenth in the class.  If you are less hard working than before, you’ll never catch up with the others.  Don’t be lazy, hurry up, hurry up!”.  A nightmare suddenly wakes me up and almost scares me to death.  Fortunately it’s just a dream.  Since attending college, I have got rid of endless complaints and the scolding of my mother.  Being a grown-up, I can live independently to do whatever I like with no limitations of my parents.

I clearly remember when I was in primary school my parents forced me to have extra Mathematical Olympiad classes and English classes on weekends no matter how much I hated the boring classes.  Actually I was fond of singing.  When I told my parents that I hated Math and English classes and wanted to try singing, my father said it was no use learning singing and insisted I should concentrate on academic study.  Afterward, I had to obey him with my musical dream nipped in the bud.


I remember when I was 8 years old, I had to learn many courses and did a lot of homework which burdened me a lot.  All of these annoying tasks were just for the final exams.  The most important thing was my parents cared more about my grades than me.  So every day they stressed me to do all the studying tasks.  Although I really hated to do them, I had no choice because they would punish me if I got a poor mark.


When I was a little boy, my parents left me alone, and they just wanted to earn money.  Only at Spring Festival time could they come home and stay with me.

I remember my parents only cared about the marks I got on the exams.  High marks made them happy, while low marks made them angry.


I have more examples but I think these will suffice.  I only hope these kids remember these things and make changes when they have children.  You are supposed to have a childhood when you’re a child.  It’s similar to Korea and we all know (or I know) there are more student suicides in Korea than any other country.  Hello!  Hello!  Is anyone home?  Bunch of fucking idiot parents.

Parents will say it’s terrible but they must do this because of the competition to get into good schools and get a good job.  Hello?  Anyone home?  You want to get into a good school, know someone in power.  You want a good job, know someone in power.  You want a good grade?  Prepare to give the teacher or the principal a “red envelope”.  The “red envelope” contains the bribe that will advance your child.  This is a corrupt society where rank and power mean everything, everyone is afraid of their boss, and the workers are forced to be incompetent due to fear.  And the usual boss only wants dumber people to work for them so the boss can look good.

If you are lucky and do get a job, then be prepared to be on call 24/7 for less than $1000 a month.  And guess what?  If you don’t like it, you can quit.  There are 1,000’s more people who are more than willing to take your lousy demeaning job.

It’s freaking sad.  I can’t do anything.  I can show and tell them how things are in the West and they are not perfect, but it’s a life these people will never have.  Only when the students grow up and decide to change things, will things change.  But it’s not going to happen in my lifetime or the lifetime of my students.  They get a 2-hour refuge every week in my classroom and I’m glad to provide it.  I’m glad to share a different way of life.  Does it serve any purpose?  Maybe for a couple of them, I hope.

There are a lot of menial jobs here.  There is an older woman who looks after the bicycle garage where we put our electric bike and others put their bikes.  She was informed that she had to get rid of her dog.  Her dog was tiny and never bothered anyone.  She was so depressed.  Why does she have to do this?  Because some moron decided to exercise their power.  I told Shujie I wanted to complain to someone but she told me not to.  She said if I complain then they will blame this lovely and kind older woman, so I have to keep my mouth shut.  They really have you trapped.

Why do I live in this place?  There are good things and I learn a lot.  But there are a lot of things that literally break your heart.  There are simple little horrible things that happen.  The kids get brainwashed (Chinese are hard workers).  I had to tell them Chinese are not hard workers and are next to useless.  The reason they work 12-hour days is because it takes 12 hours to do what a Westerner can do in 3 hours.  The bureaucracy doesn’t make it any easier.  Everyone has to check everyone else’s work because they live in fear of making a mistake and suffering the consequences.  I usually don’t say these thoughts to my students, but sometimes when they are so off base, I feel I must speak out.

I’m not going to change anything.  I adjust and try to follow the culture but that doesn’t mean I have to like everything.  But when we are in my classroom, we do things my way and we can say what we want.  When I leave the classroom I must follow Chinese rules.  Yesterday we went to the bank to do a simple transaction.  It took two hours.  I admit it makes me a little nuts.

“What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger”.

Our Vietnam trip is booked and I’m looking forward to that.  We are going for 2 weeks and we will spend about 5 days in Baoding with Shujie’s family.  I want to visit Harbin which is supposed to have an amazing ice festival.  It also has a Jewish museum that was made from an old synagogue.  There used to be a large Jewish population in Harbin but now there are no Jews.  But it should be interesting.  And it’s only a 29-hour train ride.  Shoot me now.  But I really want to see it.

Life goes on and sometimes the things you know that stay hidden in the back of your mind, make it to the front.  It can be upsetting.  Yes, we are lucky in the West.  I have/had parents who loved me first and foremost.  Maybe they could have paid more attention to how I did in school, but I never worried that they didn’t love me.  And that’s number one, isn’t it?

1 comment
  1. Tomas (The crazy Welshman) said:

    Wow … Thanks for sharing, mate … make one appreciate living in America (as an upper middleclass child) … with Education (even the Nuns sounded better – rulers) … and all the Sandlots to play in … they didn’t have choices to start with – we did (more or less)

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