Like Mother, While Daughter

Part of 6 of in
By Bok-Hee Evergreen Park
Feb 01, 2016 | min read
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DEAR MOTHER,

When I think of you, I remember how caring you were and how you treated being a mother as a privileged duty. And when I think of myself as a mother, I am so awkward! I'm the youngest daughter of six siblings, so when I started, I wasn't comfortable being a mother. My character was formed mostly by my role as the youngest child, not by being a mom.

You remember, I was always a follower. But all of a sudden, I needed to be a leader of my household?  I wasn't skilled — that's why I wasn't a demanding mom. Because I was the youngest, I never needed to take initiative or make decisions. I had the responsibility to take care of my children, but I had the spirit of the youngest child: carefree, no pressure. I learned from my older siblings' mistakes, and I was smart so I figured it out.

Becoming a mother when I was so used to being a daughter felt like a very natural transition. Still, I remember exactly how I felt when I delivered my first child in the hospital — not by myself, but in public. They showed how I was delivering the baby in front of doctors and nurses, and I couldn't get away! I was so embarrassed and felt so vulnerable. It was difficult to accept that I was a mom during that physical delivery time. They were measuring the baby, measuring me — I don't ever want to repeat that.

Becoming a mother when I was so used to being a daughter felt like a very natural transition.

Without choice, I became a mother. I don't remember how I lived in my 30s and 40s. But I remember being 27, single, and having a growth mindset. I wanted to improve myself and pursue my goal of becoming a better teacher.

You didn't have a chance to experiment with who you were. You always liked to learn and acquaint with new people. You were a good listener. When I was young, I didn't realize what kind of a character you had or what kind of goals you had. After you passed away, I realized that I felt your feelings in my spirit. When I see my children or have conversations with my daughter, I think I'm continuing your journey.

When I see my children or have conversations with my daughter, I think I’m continuing your journey.

I think I got all my values from you — and of course from school, literature, and classic sayings I learned in language class — but the basic things were from you and Father. I saw it through how you lived your lives. No makeup. Very thrifty lifestyle. Not placing big value on material things. Tactful. And I think my children are the same.

I tried to enjoy every moment. I tried to capture moments by taking pictures. My husband and I married a little late — in my 30s — we knew that being with children is a precious short time, and we kept reaffirming this was the best time.

But sometimes I like to forget that I'm a mom and feel released from dutifully and endlessly paying attention to things like basic physical and emotional needs. With those things, I thought we did enough for our children. Maybe, I think I was in too much of a hurry to stop being a parent.

Like Mother, While Daughter

When my kids were in high school, I devoted most of my time to them. I was always "on". Back then, I tried to be positive and have no regrets; I really enjoyed it, but it was not easy to maintain several roles as a mom, wife, and full-time teacher.

I don't drive by their high school anymore. Every time I do, it reminds me of how crazy my life was back then. I felt like I was being chased by time or chores and had no free time for myself, or even a hobby. It wasn't a joyful feeling. There wasn't any time to enjoy what was going on or to simply relax. Leisure and rest didn't exist in my dictionary at the time.

I felt so released from feeding my children when they went to college, and not just physically. This idea of being a constantly guiding parent — I had enough time with my children. Whenever they were ready to go, I was ready to let them go. My children and I had been together since birth, and I missed personal time with just my husband and me.

I felt so released from feeding my children when they went to college.

Logically, yes, I am still a mom, everyone says so. But now it feels like something else — not quite a friend, not a co-worker either ...  we are improving each other. I shared with them what little I have, and I want to adopt what I don't have from young people around me; they are the closest ones to me.

My children are now individual adults who hang out with me every now and then. And I'm learning from their independence and how different they've become. We catch up. Of course, I'm curious about what they're doing and who they're associating themselves with, but I'm not eager to guide them, not anymore.

Now I'm old! With more time available, I try to shape up my own physical strength and hobbies. I never had time for it before. I realized it was important to have passion, but in order to be passionate, you have to have the energy to be passionate. Even though I'm old now, if I don't have energy, I can't be passionate for my young students, for teaching, and as an individual person. Without energy, you don't have the desire to do anything. Keeping energy at the same level is not easy either at this age. It has to be maintained. I'm at my best physical condition right now, and I know that at a certain point I won't be able to improve, but I keep trying.

Keeping energy at the same level is not easy either at this age. It has to be maintained.

Without a relentless spirit, it's just preparing to die. When your energy dies, it means you're in a dead condition.

I see so many young kids without any energy. My students take their energy for granted. They ignore it and don't think it's important. I always ask my children, "Did you eat? Did you exercise?" They should translate my blunt nagging! I want them to live an energetic, spirited life! They think it means "I love you," but if I want to say "I love you," I would just say, "I love you."

If I had built my physical strength when I was young, I could have had a better quality life overall. Even though I was not strong enough to maintain everything perfectly, I was hypnotized into thinking that was the best time. But now, I see I wasn't strong enough. I could've been. Now, the time in the gym adds to my life span by that same amount and I have the energy to enjoy my life.

I know I can't get my childhood back, but nowadays, I still try to do the things I wish I could do when I was younger. Every Saturday, I go swimming. I played the piano for several years, but now ping pong is dominating my time. Sometimes I go twice in one day, usually for three to four hours. The problem is I can't improve a lot. I'm so sad.

I still try to do the things I wish I could do when I was younger.

Anyway. I miss you. Let's talk again soon.

Love, your daughter

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Bok-Hee Evergreen Park

Bok-Hee Evergreen Park is the Korean language teacher at Cerritos High School and considers herself a student for life with a growth mindset. She loves spreading positive attitude, inspiring her students with “guest speakers”, and supporting troubled parents. She is 57 years young and an avid ping pong player.

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