12 Lessons from Momma

Every mother is unique. They take on multiple roles as the nurturer, teacher, breadwinner, expert negotiator, master chef or party planner. It’s no joke when they say that mothers know best. They are a great source of influence and wisdom in our lives, whether we realize it or not.

In celebration of Mother’s Day and all the mothers out there, Cold Tea Collective and Hues That Girl partnered up to ask our friends to share some of the invaluable life lessons passed down from their mothers.

I’m biased, but immigrant mothers always give the best advice. By advice, I mean a one-liner, with undertones of “hey, I had a hard time growing up, so suck it up.” You wouldn’t find this wisdom on the likes of Full House, but that’s exactly what makes them so great.

Growing up in Canada, my circle of friends transitioned from fresh immigrant kids to Canadian-born Asians. The upside — better integration into western society. The downside — the mental and emotional connection to my parents widened further and further. I relied on television and movies to teach me social norms and behaviour (shout out to Nickelodeon). But one thing that I could always rely on my mom for, is vague, blunt, one-liners in place of resolutions.

If I blamed someone else for my own problems, she would say: “don’t blame the toilet if you can’t sh*t” 拉屎拉不出来,别怪马桶.

Alright, fair.

If I complained about being busy, I’m greeted with: “time is like cleavage, if you push hard you’ll get some” 时间如乳沟,挤一挤就有了.

Okay, odd metaphor choice.

The one piece of advice that resonated with me the most was: “petty (small) people cannot accomplish big things” 小人做不了大事.

Don’t let the negative actions of others affect you. Don’t choose to navigate through life focusing on the littlest things, otherwise you will never see the bigger picture.

Maybe, this is why she chooses to convey vague phrases only. Because giving me solutions would only limit my own imagination and independence.

Angie, Vancouver

Duōli 多礼 in Mandarin is a Chinese custom of politeness where it is considered a crime if you show up at your friend’s house for a visit without a gift (even if the host said don’t bring anything). It is an adjective, and although it sounds like it is a criticism, in the Chinese culture, you actually want to be called this! It is also something my mother is known for. As a kid, it was great as I became popular for being known as the one whose mom had good treats at their house and always came with an interesting gift or food. On the flipside, it can cause a headache as sometimes I didn’t want to stand out when no one else was bringing gifts. However, over the years, I have had these customs instilled in the way I interact with others and I’ve come to realize that there are values in having a gift-giving tradition.

  1. Gift-giving is a way of building relationships. This shows you value this person and your relationship with them.
  2. Gift-giving is a form of gratitude. The reason you give gifts is because you appreciate the person that is receiving them.

Belinda, Vancouver

My mom is very passionate about anything related to Chinese arts and culture. At our home she has a large collection of Chinese furniture and art pieces. I have been immersed in a surrounding full of Chinese elements and she also made my siblings and I learn Chinese calligraphy and painting. One of my sisters even played the Zheng (Chinese string instrument). Growing up we were always meeting different Chinese artists from painters to oracle script sculptors to Yixing clay teapot makers. She would encourage us to wear qipaos or Chinese style dresses (we have some custom-made qipaos to wear on special occasions).

Overtime I realized the bits and pieces I’ve grown up seeing and hearing from my mom have influenced me significantly. They have instilled an increasing interest and appreciation for Chinese arts and culture which inspired me to leave Vancouver and explore Asia for 10 years. The cultural experiences I gained during this ten-year journey have further strengthened my sense of identity and given me a better understanding of my roots.

Carina, Vancouver

Since childhood, there was never a shortage in our household of advice and instructions from my mother. I thought I would share an excerpt of our daily conversations, aka. “Asian mom sayings”. Though we may not agree on certain things, I am thankful for our differences.

Mom: Why aren’t you like Mrs. Wong’s daughter? Masters from the States! Has a high paying job! Happily married! Gave birth to a cute baby daughter!

Me: Why aren’t you like Mrs. Brown? Likes travel and has many hobbies! Happily retired! Gave birth to well adjusted children!

Mom: *Asian mom side eye*

Mom: Daughter, you need to turn out better than me in life. All parents ever want is for their children to have a better life. Strive for higher goals — better education, better job, better lifestyle!

Me: Exactly why I’m not keen on procreating!

Mom: …

(mom vs. me: 0–0)

There’s no winning, but on a good day, at least it’s a tie.

Anonymous

As I grew older and started being interested in the opposite gender, I remember being super secretive with the fact I was dating someone. My mom would see me walking out the door and ask me where I was going, and with who, and I would answer with a little white lie of “dinner with friends.” For most teenage males, dating was not a topic you discussed openly with your mom. However, like most parents my mom had this sixth sense zeroing in on the fact I just might be seeing someone, especially when my little excursions became more frequent.

Out of nowhere, my mom dropped this one line of wisdom, which was “I don’t care who you go out with, or if you’re even seeing someone, but when you find that person, try to make each other better.” A few relationships later, I can’t say I’ve successfully done that yet, but I’ll always keep trying. Thanks Mom.

Jasper, Vancouver

There are many things my mom has taught me and continues to teach me, but one of the best things I’m learning from her is how to be a BOSS. My mom is a boss in her career, a boss when it comes to our family and the boss of her life. One thing she always tells me is “be smart, take charge and never forget to appreciate what you have”. She never backs down from any challenges while staying humble with her successes. She’s thrived in the field of information technology, even when facing the challenge of being in a male-dominated field. That didn’t deter her from persevering. She’s a boss when it comes to our family because she always puts our family first and she’s made a lot of sacrifices for us. And lastly, she’s a boss of her own life. Growing up with a single parent and being a middle child in a family of 7 kids, she learned to be independent, smart and grateful to get herself to where she is now. My momma taught me how to handle life like a boss and I’m so grateful she’s my mom.

Arianne, Surrey

Like many people in our generation, our parents were immigrants to Canada. My parents settled in a very small town on Vancouver Island and opened a restaurant working 7 days a week to make sure my brother and I had a comfortable life. My job as a kid was to attend school, obtain good grades and get into university. In grade 12, I worked hard to ensure that I had the highest GPA possible. I was under pressure to follow the footsteps of my brother who was the valedictorian just the year before. One day, the principal pulled my friend and me into his office. He told us that we both had the highest grades in the class but since my friend had a slightly higher GPA overall that she would be the valedictorian. Immediately my friend burst into tears because she did not want to be valedictorian and did not want to give any speeches at graduation. I was so shocked. How can this be fair? I took harder classes and actually wanted it whereas she didn’t even want it at all. When I got home I broke down and confessed to my mom that I had failed. Immediately my mom hugged me and said, “it’s okay. All I care about is that you tried your best. If you do that then you have not failed”. That is the most important lesson my mom has ever taught me and I remember this every time I attempt something new and scary. Try your best as the real failure is not trying at all.

Miranda Wong, Vancouver

My mom taught me that hard work can get you exactly where you want to get to in life. She is a dedicated woman who puts all of her efforts into achieving her goals. The lesson was so important to me because it gave me the understanding that all goals can be attained through hard work and dedication. The drive within a person is what pushes them over all challenges in life. My mom overcame many obstacles, such as not having a proper education after immigrating from China, and also language and cultural barriers. However, this did not stop her from finding work, earning an income, and raising a family of three kids. She is a living example of the power of perseverance.

Warren Mui, Vancouver

My mom and I have very different personalities. Hopefully I inherited her good heart and her selflessness. She always feels the need to take care of people and animals around her. Her father passed away when she was a pre-teen. With 3 sisters and a working mother at home, my mom developed this ‘superwoman’ mentality and approach towards others around her. While there are countless life lessons my mom taught me, it’s also important to acknowledge the important lessons my mom taught me indirectly via her shortcomings. Without the presence of a male figure, my mom grew up in a very progressive feminist household. As a result, her experience negotiating diplomatically with male counterparts was lacking. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely stand for equal rights. However, I have learned that being a feminist doesn’t mean women are superior than men; everyone is equal. This especially resonated with me after becoming a newlywed myself. A balanced dose of give-and-gets across multitude of matters between a couple is essential, and the approach is the key. Nevertheless, I have to admit my mom also taught me the importance of being clean and organized, which I think I learned with an A+ — although she may disagree!

Cherry Mao, San Francisco

My mom has always been thrifty. When she graduated from high school, she moved to the big city to find a job. She worked tirelessly and lived simply. She never spent a lot of money on herself, getting by with hand-me-downs from her older sister and cheap eats so she could save as much as possible. Her minimalist ways continued after she got married, but she always had a special talent for finding joy in the simple things. Thanks to my mom’s creativity, I had many happy memories as a child. I remember when my mom would drive me on her Moped to the public art gallery for one of our weekend mother-daughter escapades and sneak in a tea and croissant at a French cafe nearby, which was our little secret from dad. When we were stuck at home during a massive Hurricane, I begrudgingly worked on my homework as instructed. When I finished, I noticed that my mom had drew a bubble bath and brought out bathrobes. She had turned a dreadful, boring evening into a home spa date!

My family has been through thick and thin, but my mother has always been a pillar of strength that held us together. She has taught me the importance of appreciating what you have and creating meaningful memories that last a lifetime.

Cecilia Huang, Richmond

As far as motherhood goes, my Mama is a pro. She is the embodiment of selfless love; loving fully and wholeheartedly and always putting Dad’s and my needs or wants before her own. She is fierce and beautiful inside and out and so radiant and youthful that she often passes for my older sister. “Is that your mom!?” is a constant, daily byword from friends and sometimes strangers. I am incredibly lucky to have her in my life and am so grateful for all the little slices of knowledge and life hacks she bestowed upon me when growing up that helped shape the woman that I am today. In my reflection, I happily share the following words of wisdom from Mama Lau (translated from Chinese). You cannot control what the world throws at you, but you can control your reaction to it. This is one of the most uplifting and empowering pieces of advice given to me by my Mom when my Grandma passed away and it resonates with me still. It’s true the external world is beyond our control and life continues regardless of our willingness. We cannot control other people’s words or actions but we can be cognizant of our own thoughts and consciously react — and that is an amazing thing. Whenever I feel a heavy burden of stress, whether in my studies, my relationships or my work, I remember I can propel forward and manage anything so long as I work at things from the inside out.

Thank you mom for being the best caregiver and the best friend I could hope for. I am who I am today because of the lessons you instilled in me and the unconditional, unwavering love you provide endlessly.

Cathy Lau, Seattle

Sometimes love isn’t loud, it isn’t always in your face with a box of chocolates and flowers. No, sometimes, it is a plate of scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese.

Yes, scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese.

Whenever my mom made those special eggs and took the extra time before work to gently scramble the eggs just right and grate copious amounts of cheese on top; to me it was pure luxury. Not just from a food standpoint, but now in hindsight, luxury in time. She was so busy all the time, but to take an extra few minutes to do a simple gesture of quiet love is what made those eggs more valuable than any precious metal. And knowing my mom, like most moms, purposely never waited for a thank you.

These unspoken lessons of love have given me a perspective that love shouldn’t be pigeonholed into a single definition. To do so is short sighted and infringes on the ability for us to be open to someone’s idea of love. Because as I have learned, sometimes their idea only whispers, and if you are open to it, and listening, you would begin to see how most things done by moms, are powerful little lessons of love.

Derek Ikoma, Coquitlam

Do you have a lesson from your Mom you want to share? Post it in the comments section and spread the love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Making Asian American media

We believe that our stories matter – and we hope you do too. Support us with a monthly contribution to help ensure stories for us and by us are here to stay.

accessible

The future of Cold Tea Collective depends on you.

People chatting at the Making It documentary screening.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top