I can’t remember my mom or dad ever saying I love you to me. I can remember homemade hot lunches being dropped off at school, always being served first and getting the best pieces of meat, being moved in and out of the four colleges I attended before graduating. My parents are like most other Chinese parents and expressed their love through action instead of saying the words, “I love you”. Growing up, I never wondered why they never said it. I would hear my friend’s parents say “I love you”, give kisses and hugs, but my family was one of a handful of Chinese families in the area so we did a lot of things differently.
Articles, research, and videos point to reasons for the lack of verbal expression to be because Chinese culture is a high context society, where few words need to be spoken because tradition and history are so strong, or Chinese culture is conservative and stoic, or Chinese parents are not good at expressing positive emotions. I would agree with them all.
As American as I am, it is the Chinese part of me that I express my affections and emotions. As much as I love my daughters, it is hard for me to say “I love you”. I don’t say it often, usually during special or necessary occasions like getting a good report card, or with a good night kiss after a hard day at school, or after being in time out. As hard as it is for me to say, whenever I do, somehow everything is made right in their little worlds.
Love is an action, not a word. My parents never said “I love you” to me but I’ve always known they loved me because of all of the things they did. I want my daughters to know I love them because of my actions. I’m going to work on saying “I love you” more because even though they are just words, they are meaningful.
I love you,
The Dumpling Mama xo