As someone who came to the United States when I was only 2 years old, it was always expected that I would go home to visit the “mother” country. It was never hard to imagine doing, as I had plenty of relatives who still lived in Taiwan. But, my parents never had the money or the time to take me when I was growing up. The only times they ever went was because someone in the family was sick or dying. And then, only one of them would go and the other would stay and take care of the kids. My first trip back to Taiwan wasn’t until I was in college, using a frequent flyer ticket from my mom. I’ve been back many times since, and now I’m a parent struggling with the same issue. My own daughter is getting older and I’m trying to decide when is the best time to expose her to her roots.
It turns out I’m not the only parent facing this same dilemma, as Wayne Chan writes this week about his decision to take his children to China in Northwest Asian Weekly. Chan’s wife confronts him the with the 8 simple words, “Maybe we should go to China this year”, and his immediate reaction is dread, as he has visions of the long plane ride, and the the hot summer weather (the only time he can go as his kids are school age). But in the end, he reminisces on his own first trip to China, and the life-changing event that it was for him, and he realizes:
I went to China that year as an American who happened to be Asian. I came back as an Asian American. So in all seriousness, “Maybe we should go to China this year.”
It’s that same life-changing experience I dream of for my own daughter, and I know it’s really too early for her, since she’s only 4. But there are a lot of other reasons for taking her back to Taiwan. We’re going for our Thanksgiving break this year. It’s actually a trip I’ve wanted to make for the last two years, but we were never able to go. Originally it was supposed to be three of us who were going, my mom, myself and my daughter. I had even purchased the tickets 2 years ago, but my mom got too ill from her cancer. In the end we had to cancel the trip, and cancer won the battle.
I view this trip to Taiwan, partly as a way to honor the memory of my mom. I’ll be taking my daughter to do all the things I wanted to do with her and her grandmother. She’ll get to meet all the relatives (many of whom are also getting on in age), including aunts, uncles, and cousins. I’ll make sure she sees the sights of Taipei. She may not remember any of it when she’s older, but at least I’ll have the photos to show her, and I’ll know I’ve done my duty to her and to the other elders in the family. My only wish is that this isn’t the only trip to Taiwan she gets to go on before she’s in college.