Translating for mom and how it saved our relationship.

Posted By on May 4, 2011

When may parents were learning to survive in New York City shortly after immigrating from China, I was their translator for many essential purposes. By age 8, I translated: bills, contracts, directions, movies, music, the news, I was even the translator for the parent teacher conferences. When there is a need, we must decide, can we do without it or must we adapt and learn to meet it. Though I was young, I learned to meet it.

Twenty some odd years later, my mom requests less of my translation services due to her growing vocabulary, the help of my younger brother, 2500 miles and comfort in a city she now calls home. What I now do with my skills with translation is bridge the gap between us generationally, culturally and philosophically so that when we are together, like when she visited last week, I still look forward to her visits in the future. What I am talking about is translating or alchemizing her language so my  soul will hear the love and positive intention hidden in the core of the words, she just doesn’t know how to say them yet.

Example 1:

Mom: “That’s all your kids wear? No wonder they’re always sick.”

Translation: “It’s chilly in the morning. I care about the health of your children. I’m concerned they may not be warm. Do you have a vest or sweater for them?”

I respond to translation not original text: “Thanks for caring about my children. I’ll see what I can find.”

Conclusion: eruption avoided and love supported.

Example 2:

Mom: “This house is a mess.”

Translation: “I feel more comfort when my space is neat and clean. I try to keep my home that way and I have to admit, this is a little different and will take some getting used to.”

I respond to translation not original text: “I would feel more comfortable too if my home was more neat and clean. With all my responsibilities, I choose to put my energy into some things and not others. The kids and cameron help clean when they can though.”

Conclusion: collision avoided and love supported.

(I have a million of these.)

I’ve come to the conclusion that I no longer want to change her or judge her or compromise my spirit. All I do is what I’ve always done: translate for mom. It’s become a game now and rather fun one at that. I’m happy to say, this is the 2nd visit I’ve had with my mom where there has been lots of differences and no arguments.

About The Author

I am a Chinese-American mother of three boys, parenting with the traditions worth keeping from the East and West. I continue to learn new ways of raising a family and myself.


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