When I was a child

September 9, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

There’s an unwritten rule that all parents abide by when raising their children. This rule supercedes all other rules of parenting, whether it is applied intentionally or not. Though the following may not be the formal title of this rule, I believe it is generally recognized as the “When I was a child…” method of parenting.

Comedian Bill Cosby once described how his father invoked this rule when noticing that young Bill was none too eager to walk to school. As I recall, his father said, “When I was a boy, my school was 20 miles away. I walked in bare feet, with 30 pounds of books, uphill…both ways!”

My parents never used the rule intentionally, but then again, they never really had to. Having come from China, my parents both lived in stark conditions devoid of all the conveniences we take for granted today, but there was also the ever constant threat from the Japanese invasion during World War II, as well as the communist takeover of the country. Compared to my childhood in the 70’s and 80’s in a middle class neighborhood in San Diego, I didn’t need many reminders – I knew how fortunate I was – I had a happy childhood.

Of course, this now leads me to my problem. I am now a father, who along with my wife, are raising three kids. While I have every intention to continue the tradition of the “When I was a child…” method as it has been passed down from generation to generation of parents before me, I am having a hard time coming up with appropriate examples of my own that would instill a measure of guilt in my own children. So far, none of the examples I have from my own childhood inspire much sympathy.

I’ve listed a few examples and you can be the judge. Here goes:

When I was a child, we didn’t have a remote control to change the channel on the TV. I had to get up from the sofa to change the channel myself until I started ordering my little brother Steve to be the remote control.

When I was a child, automobiles didn’t have child safety restraints or car seats, for that matter. In fact, you weren’t even required to wear a seat belt. When we got in the car, my brother and I were usually in the back of our Ford station wagon with the back window rolled all the way down. Any sudden turn would fling us from one side to the other. It was just a part of growing up. Head concussions build character.

When I was a child, public bathrooms didn’t have sinks that turned on automatically when you placed your hands in the bowl. Back then, there was a button on top you pressed to get the water started and it only lasted .65 seconds every time you pressed it. In order to wash your hands properly you had to perform an elaborate yoga move and place one foot on the button to keep the water running.

When I was a child, we didn’t get anything fancy for our school lunch. Our menu consisted of bean burritos, fish sticks, soybean hamburgers, and milk. Each day during our lunch break, I would try and open the small, individual sized carton of milk, which was nearly impossible because every time you folded back the carton flap, the spout never opened forcing you to jam a finger into the lip of the container to get any milk. On top of that, the school supplied each of us with one straw made from wax paper, which would immediately go limp after the first sip of milk. Struggling to suck milk through a limp, soggy straw one drop at a time, I’d often black out halfway through the carton.

It’s ironic how a happy childhood could lead to a parenting crisis. I’ll put some more thought into it after I finish my soybean burger.

Two Waynes are Better than One

September 9, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I’d like to apologize to my parents.

I have done my best to be a good son. I went to college, and even went on to get a masters degree, despite the fact that I went through it reluctantly. At the time, I think I made a very good case for not going to college.

Let’s see – my reasons were:

1. I’m not going to learn anything useful in college that I don’t already know now. Why do I need to learn calculus?
2. I’m going to be the world’s number one tennis player. What do I need college for?
3. I’m already making plenty of money being the “Dough Specialist” at Round Table Pizza.

After listening to my thoughtful reasoning and very sound logic, I believe my mom’s response was, “I don’t want to hear it. You’re going.”

Now that some time has passed, I can see my parents were right (although I still have never been in a situation where calculus came in handy). In every respect, I owe my parents for everything I have in my life.

But right now, I owe them an apology. Let me explain.

I don’t like my name. “Wayne Chan” – two one word syllables. It’s too short. It sounds like a doorbell chime.

Obviously, there’s not that much that my parents could do with my last name. But “Wayne”? Is that the best they could come up with? Why not something more macho like “Bronson”? With a name like that, I’d go around introducing myself to strangers just so I could say my own name.

Yes, the name’s Chan – Bronson Chan. Please, just call me Bronson.

You don’t like “Bronson”? That’s fine, there are a lot of other names that I would be perfectly happy with. How about “Daniel”? I’d be fine being Daniel Chan, despite the fact that you can’t shake a stick without hitting another Chinese guy named “Daniel”. Why not? It’s a nice name.

But “Wayne”? Where did that name come from? Actually, I know the answer to that question. I once looked up the etymology for my first name. According to my research, the name “Wayne” was an old English occupational surname that meant, “Wagon maker.”

I doubt that my parents were actually thinking about 18th century modes of transportation when they were trying to name their son, but maybe I’m just not giving them their due credit.

All of this leads to the real reason I’ve written this column. Several weeks ago I came upon a young man who pens a number of comic strips, many of them drawn from the perspective of an Asian American. I think his work is truly terrific.

We got to talk and we thought it would be a perfect match if we worked together, combining my columns and his strips. We work in different mediums – I write columns, and he draws comic strips, but we do share a commonality in our perspectives – as Asian Americans who find humor in our daily lives.

So, without further ado, let me introduce (and I am not making this up)…Wayne Chan.

Wayne is based in the Bay Area, and yes, the strip you see next to this column is by him. We’d like to name our collaboration – column & comic strip, “The Waynes of the World.” We hope you enjoy it.

By the way, Wayne, if you’re reading this – I guess I owe your parents an apology too.