It has been months since my last post. And it’s not an excuse, rather it’s just life. Things came up and they took priority over my ability to journal them. 

We wonder at times what a survivor of toxic parenting is like and how it affects their willingness to have a family or become a parent. Personally, I always knew I wanted children, but it never crossed my mind that having children would actually equate to becoming a mother. Seems like a silly thought at first but I think there is so much truth to that; the physical delivery and journey of pregnancy doesn’t make someone a parent – it makes them baby machines, not parents. 

The responsibilities, worries, lack of sanity moments and everything in between of being a mother meant nothing to me then. But it is so real now. Every part of being a decent and good parent is real: real hard, real emotional, real work, and real happenings. 

But the other side of being a parent that I did not give enough credit is the continued existence of the self. Yes, we are a mother, a parent, a caretaker – but all of this happens simultaneously while we continue to also being a woman or man, employee or boss, wife or husband, etc. And each and every one of those titles brings with it many many more responsibilities and duties, and wants and needs. 

And that’s what crept up in my life. 

I was so consumed and overwhelmed in trying to become a gentle parent that I forgot: first, I am me. 

I spent the last bit of 2016 reflecting and more importantly, making changes to my marriage to revive it. But also, tending to my own self. It’s crazy how little has been done yet how great it’s affected me and my marriage. There’s a lot at stake, and there’s a lot of work. But we’re making it work; and we’re enjoying it every bit of the way. 

Someone once asked if love and normalcy is possible for adult children of toxic parenting. Nothing is impossible. But it sure doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. 

I like to believe that I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses but that doesn’t make me immune to the tides of everyday life carrying me whichever way it wants. I still overlook things, I still get emotional, physical and un-gentle. 

It’s about adopting a real, gentle lifestyle – not just gentle parenting. 

… This post is all over the place. It’s life though, isn’t it? 



It has been a couple of months since my last post, and the reason is simply: I was too busy mommy-ing. Today, though, I felt like I really needed to get something off my chest.

Growing up as a foreigner is not easy.  First off, when you are growing up, the immense pressure to fit in makes it that much harder to find out who you are.  Assimilation is so convenient and powerful – first it started with my clothes, then my friends, then my thoughts.  It eats away at you – little by little – and if you are like me, eventually it completely consumes you.

My husband is American, with little to no idea what his heritage truly is.  I am Vietnamese – I speak, read and write the language. But I also speak, read, and write English and French.  And like my husband, I don’t know my true heritage.

My husband has not dealt with racism – other than racist comments his family blurts out.  Usually, I smile politely when someone is being racist – it gets a little hard when these “someone’s” are your in-laws/family members/friends.  And I personally never saw the harm in it – I always justified it as “everyone’s racist, unless you act on it, it’s okay.”  But is it? Is it okay to be racist?

No.  The short answer is No.

It is NEVER okay to racist.  And when you’re a parent, it means that much more.

Racism starts in our thoughts. So if we can curtail our thoughts, we can change our perception and then, our behaviors.  Children are not born knowing races and colors – and I will ensure that my children are not going to be racist assholes.  This much I promise.

I am a parent and I am going to protect my children from ignorant fools who are out there bashing, degrading, belittling, name-calling, bullying, and hurting others by teaching them that that is wrong.  My children will not be racists.  They will not be jerks.

My children will learn to love, accept, understand and respect everyone.

Today – November 15, 2016 – I failed.  I did not stand up for me or my children’s heritage against racists.  Let this be the last time I fail.



Am I in a toxic relationship?  Should I just leave? Do I need help?

So, today was an okay day. I had a long commute home; music was on in the car but I didn’t really like it. I complained a couple of times and the music was changed. Ugh… The sky is blue and the sun is shining – ugh it’s too bright and it’s in my eyes!  I just hate it in my eyes. It’s blinding! My seat belt is bothering me. I tugged at it and it is still tight. Ugh… I hate the seatbelt. I complained again. Music was changed again. I complained again; I got water this time. Anyway, we’re home. I  screamed. I didn’t want to be home. I’m tired but I want to go out, maybe Target or something, just to walk around. But no…we’re home. I may have complained a bit too much.

I’m now in my room. It’s lonely and quiet in here. My bed looks comfy, but I don’t want to be in bed. I want to go to Target! I want to walk around. I’m not tired enough for a bath or bed. He’s going to let me out soon, it’s going to be dinner soon. Oh, here he comes.

Fish? Why would you make fish on a day like this? If we go to Target, I’ll get chicken nuggets or something. Not FISH?! I don’t want fish. Oh no, I pushed it off the table. Ow. He hit my hand. I guess I deserved that.

And, I’m back in my room. I want chicken nuggets. Ugh. My eyes hurt. I’ve been crying. Why didn’t they ask me how my day was? Oh, my hand hurts. If I screamed louder, maybe she’ll let me out. Ok, that didn’t work.  Now my head hurts.

Oh, I’m supposed to say sorry when she comes. Then, I’ll get chicken nuggets.

“What’s wrong with you?” She asked.  What is wrong with me? I should grow up. Stop this crying or throwing a fit. People keep telling me I’m growing up.

“I’m sorry, mama.” I said.

We got to the dining room table.  There’s chicken nuggets.  Yum…I like chicken nuggets.

If I told you that the scenario above is between my husband and me, no one would hesitate to tell me to leave him. I may even get help!  But when you learn that it’s a toddler and his parents, all of a sudden the above scenario is applauded and encouraged with comments like, “that’s what I do with mine.” Why? 

“Oh you’re being oversensitive. You don’t know anything about parenting, I have 4 kids, I think I know what I’m doing. You just wait until they’re a little older, you will wish you had listened to me. I spanked my kids, I did timeouts, my children are fine. It’s parents like you that raise irresponsible and disrespectful adults. I discipline my children because I love them. Only I love my children this much. I sacrificed so much for them. I gave them life! How could I be hurting them?”

My mother said those words to me when I told her I won’t be adopting her parenting approach. That level of put-down and negativity is what I have been used to. Her toxicity overpowers her love, but I don’t think it’s entirely her fault; her mother said those words to her too. And I’m sure her mother before her, and so on and so forth. My mother loved me in the best way she knew how.

Toxic parenting is passed down from generation to generation.

Toxic parenting is more common than the common cold.  But we don’t see it that way, do we? In fact, it can be very difficult for someone to even realize or challenge how they were brought up.  Humans don’t like dissonance, and questioning one’s upbringing creates a lot of chaos.  How we are raised and what we are taught at a young age leaves invisible traces in our lives; these childhood events and experiences shape our mindset and value system, our confidence and ego, our expectations and needs.

We think we turned out fine, because we were raised to believe so. We think spanking and discipline makes the child happy and respectful, because these thoughts were instilled in us. We were raised to believe  timeouts corrected naughty children – that by isolating them, children will somehow turn good. And we can’t question or bare the discomfort that comes with questioning our upbringing because we were raised believing that our parents are always right and there is no challenging that.

Being a parent is the most powerful role you’ll ever be.  Don’t abuse your power.

Parenting is not love. Parenting is not discipline. Parenting is a journey, an education. You would think that as a parent, this is your time in life to be the teacher; the truth is, we never stop learning. Parenting is a journey in which you help your child explore the world that you’ve come to take for granted, while your child helps you explore the depths of your inner self. If we spend more time listening to and letting our children be children, instead of correcting their behaviors and aligning them with how we see fit, we can actually enjoy this journey of self-exploration that is parenting.

Positive and gentle parenting focuses on the emotional well-being of a child.  Happiness is deeper than a smile on their face, the applause from the numbers and letters they’re able to recite, or whether or not they hug and kiss you.  Happiness is the most valuable gift you can give your children and it starts with love, grows with understanding and ends by passing on the torch. For when a child is truly happy, they develop self-reliance and resilience. They grow into confident and capable adults who believe that they have control over their lives.  How you treat your children today will affect them and the generations of children to come.

When you practice positive and gentle parenting, you’re also focusing on your emotional well-being. You can’t teach gentle unless you’re gentle. You can’t teach positive unless you’re positive.

Happiness starts with the little things.



I ran across this picture on my Facebook feed. A family friend had posted it and people reacted to it thinking that it is funny.  Here’s why it’s not:

Bottling up emotions is one of the worst things you can do to yourself, your life, and those around you. When you bottle up emotions, you are feeding and building up brain fog, which is why, like the quote says, you blow up over something so little as not finding matching socks. It intoxicates your bloodstream with irritation and anger. It prevents you from seeing matters objectively and making logical decisions. It blocks your ability to constructively communicate.  And it prevents you from being able to foster healthy relationships with those around you.

One of the most important qualities to have when in a relationship – in any kind of relationship: personal, marital, or professional – is the ability disagree amicably.  By this, I mean the ability for you and your partner to see value in the opposing perspective and positively communicate the difference.  When you adapt a habit of bottling up emotions, you are in essence running away from your troubles.  It is the easy way out.  And as with all shortcuts, it does not always yield the best results.  You may not see its effects for hours, days, weeks or even months at a time, but when it does explode, its debris scatter everywhere.  What can I do to prevent bottling up of emotions? 


Continue reading

Change of perspective. 


Have you ever thought of how little credit we give our loved ones as opposed to a random stranger? For example, you see a young woman aiding an elderly across the streets. If she were a stranger, you’d think ‘wow what a nice person’ – yet if you were told they were related, your perspective of the young woman may change. Some of us may think it’s her duty or responsibility to help that old woman. When did family and responsibility become synonymous? 

I can’t speak for other cultures, but I was raised in an Asian household and typically, children never grow up. They age and become adults and get a job, but even if they move out of the house, parents continue to be parents. They make the rules, you follow. No matter how old you are, your parents are always right and it is your responsibility to take care of them when they get older.  I have time and time again needed to reassure my parents that I will take care of them. The only difference is, and I don’t think they can understand, I want to care for them because I want to and out of love, not because I’m supposed to or out of responsibility.

Recently, my extended family has been overwhelmed by mixed emotions and so, I’d like to share a story I read. The original story was written in about language and I will try my best to translate and paraphrase. 

Mrs. Smith is 88years old. She lives with her son, daughter in law, and grandkids. The multi generation family live in a friendly neighborhood. Mrs. Smith had knee surgery a few months ago and has been recovering.with her daughter in law’s assistance. From feeding, to bathing, clothing, and exercising, the daughter in law is glued to Mrs. Smith’s sides. 

Because of this, they’ve become the talk of the neighborhood. Many mother in laws are gossiping about how lucky Mrs. Smith is to have such a kind, caring, and wonderful daughter in law – let’s call the daughter in law, Emmy. 

One day, a friendly neighbor catches Emmy coming home from the grocery store and they chat for a bit.

Emmy explains that she’s making soup for her mother in law because it should help with recovery. The neighbor commends her for her thoughtfulness and tells her everyone is absolutely jealous of Mrs Smith because no one has daughter in law that could even compare to Emmy! 

“Thank you,” Emmy replied. “You say that my mother in law is lucky to have me because you’ve seen me take care of her. But what you have not realized is that when I had just given birth to my first born, I wasn’t allowed to do anything. My mother in law believes that this is the weakest time in a woman’s life and she required me to stay in bed for a whole month.  For that entire month, she cleaned, cooked, bathed, dressed, and helped me walk around the house. She talked to me every day because she thought I’d be bored. She cared for my baby, day and night, because she didn’t want me to exhaust myself. So no, my mother in law isn’t lucky to have me and no, I’m not lucky to have her. We are blessed that we both want this relationship to work and we put a lot of time and effort into making it work.” 

So there you have it. The age old tradition and innate rivalry between a mother and daughter in law does not have to exist. 

Some cultures make it almost impossible for family to treat each other with love, understanding and respect. But if we just take a step back and realize what it is we want – what it is we value – we can put our differences, pride, and ego aside and create a fostering environment that may just work.