Why my mom demands gifts on my birthday, by Elaine 'Lainey' Lui
By Elaine Lui, as told to DNTO
My mother doesn't believe in giving me birthday presents.
In fact, she expects on my birthday that I should be calling her and giving her a gift because I need to be thankful for the gift of life that she gave to me.
So, on my birthday, I call my mother and I say, "Hi, Ma."
She says, "Yah?!"
I say, "It's my birthday today. Happy birthday to me and thanks to you for my birthday present, which was life."
And in Chinese she'll say, "Okay, great. What are you giving me?"
Then we negotiate denominations. Her birthday is usually good for $500. This Mother's Day was hefty because we went and got a new stove and range situation that was $1,500.
She doesn't need the money, but in Chinese culture it's a way for you to pay back the generosity that your parents have given you. It's a concept called filial piety. Filial piety means honouring your elders and bringing dignity and respect to your elders should be one of the priorities of your life. In fact, more prioritised than your own dreams.
Therefore, my mother should be receiving joy and glory from me in the form of straight-up, hard-core cash.
My mother takes filial piety to the next level.
As a child, I remember I made her a pottery bowl once and her reply was, "Oh, that's nice." She put it aside and was happy for it.
But the next thing she said was, "When you get older, you can buy me things like this, instead. You don't have to make them and they'll be a lot nicer."
I know there are parents and people out there who are appalled […] because in Western culture it's the exact opposite. When you have kids, you give everything to your kids. That direction of giving goes one way, but not the other.
But I will say this: Without my mother's tough love, her narcissism, and—some would say— her self-centeredness, I wouldn't have worked hard, I wouldn't have become an observer and I wouldn't be an observer of narcissists and self-centred people in Hollywood.
But also, I wouldn't have a work ethic. I wouldn't have a sense of appreciation of where I am now. In many ways, my entire career has been based on her teachings. I would say to my mother, "I would be nothing without you," and she knows that's true.
Elaine Lui is the author of Listen to the Squawking Chicken. Her story is just one among many we're thankful to showcase on DNTO's second-last show about gratitude.