Can someone Chinese please explain to me why I shouldn’t describe Angus as cute (even though he is), label him as chubby (even though he is – I mean, come on, you only have to take one look at his big fat cheeks), say that he’s smart (even when he makes developmental leaps like grabbing his very first rattle) or – the worst offence of all – call him ‘a good boy’?
Okay, so I know you’re not meant to spoil your child, but surely positive encouragement and praise where relevant and appropriate is acceptable? Plus, why shouldn’t I be allowed to call my own baby cute and chubby if I so feel like it, especially when they are in fact true and accurate descriptions?
I honestly don’t understand this business of not praising your baby/child/infant for fear of them turning out to be the opposite of what you say.
Don’t know what I’m going on about? Let me explain with a very simple example:
Even though Angus is ridiculously cute (I know I am unequivocally biased as his mother but he is at the very least – cute), Chinese belief/tradition stipulates I’m not allowed to call him cute (much less ridiculously cute) because he might hear and understand me and deliberately turn out to be ridiculously ugly.
Allow me to point out a few fundamental holes in this line of thinking:
1) It is not logical.
2) It makes no sense whatsoever (oh wait, is this the same point as above?).
3) Little babies like Angus usually don’t have the capacity to understand words or language yet. I think? Maybe they actually do but they wait till we all go to sleep and then they wake up and phone each other on their baby iPhones and proceed to talk for hours?
4) Even if Angus was a super-smart and super-brainy Asian baby (see what I’m doing? I’m calling Angus super-smart and super-brainy in a roundabout, hypothetical way) and understood every single word that I utter, he doesn’t actually have much control over how his nose is going to end up, or how big his eyes are going to be, or whether he’s going to have nice hair or bad hair (without radical surgery anyway).
5) Even if Angus was some freak of nature and was able to control the abovementioned, why on earth would he deliberately make himself ugly just to spite me? Just so he could say, “Ah hah! You were wrong mum”?
6) Repeat 1 and 2 above. Ten times. No, a hundred times.
The amazing thing is that no matter how many times I explain this to my mum, she refuses to agree with me and in fact I’m sure she thinks that I’m the weird one for not following this historic Chinese tradition (more commonly known as plain old superstition).
So basically, if your child is cute, call him plain. If she’s beautiful, call her ugly. If he’s smart, he’s dumb. If she’s obedient, tell her she’s naughty. If he’s nice and chubby, you better call him a stick.
Welcome to Chinese mind games for little kids. You’ve just had your first lesson.