I don’t know what my Chinese husband was like when he was little, but I’m sure of one thing: He must have been a strong-willed child. If he weren’t, we’d never have met. He would have listened to his father who wanted him to have a stable, predictable career and life by becoming an official in his hometown. Or something similar. He might have walked a road of choosing convenience over adventure. But he didn’t, and thus we met.
Choosing adventure over convenience
Before we married, my husband once said about our relationship: “It will surely never get boring.” And he’s right. By choosing to marry someone with a different citizenship, we have chosen instability, unpredictability and inconvenience. But we have also chosen adventure. Parenting with vastly different cultural backgrounds is an adventure. Not knowing if that visa will go through is an adventure (one that made me wake up in the middle of the night many nights in a row when I was pregnant with our second child). Applying for all the documents, translations, and notarizations our family needs so we can be together is not so much an adventure as it is an inconvenience. Taking the bus alone with my son and buying groceries in a country where he doesn’t speak the language is an adventure (for my husband).
My toddler son is also a strong-willed child. When I look at him, I imagine that he must have inherited a lot of his strong-willedness from his dad.
For my son’s two year health check-up, I take him to a pediatrician in Austria. The doctor’s office is located in one of Vienna’s many pre-WWII area buildings that feature high decorative ceilings and hardwood floors. My son loves the waiting aka play area and rides on a red wooden horse until the doctor calls us into his office. Once the doctor wants to perform the check-up, my son resists in his strong-willed way. He screams a bout of noes in both German and Chinese and kicks with all four arms and legs. The doctor, a blonde-haired guy in a white coat, is nice and good with kids, but two stickers and many unsuccessful attempts of coaxing our son into complying later, he has to send us home without doing the check-up. He asks me to take our son’s measurements by myself at home.
I can’t help but feel proud of my son. Of course it would have been good to do the check-up. But I’m proud that my son stuck to his will and could not be coaxed into doing something he really did not want to do. He was able to see through all the coaxing and couldn’t be bothered to comply.
Although parenting a strong-willed child can be challenging at times, I wouldn’t want to change my son’s strong-willedness for anything in the world. His strong will is as much a part of him as his generosity and willingness to help others. The two strong-willed men in my life sometimes butt their heads over their mutual noncompliance, but I love this wonderful trait they have in common. Weren’t it for my husband’s noncompliance in the path his father had set out for him, we would never have met, after all, and I would never have given birth to our beautiful, strong-willed child.
Photos courtesy of Ruth Silbermayr-Song
Ruth Silbermayr-Song is an Austrian illustrator, German teacher and mother of two. She writes about life in China as a foreign woman, her cross-cultural marriage to a Chinese man, and child rearing bridging cultures and languages on her blog China Elevator Stories.