My in-laws live in Seoul and visit us about once a year. Our relationship is fraught and complicated, but (hopefully) improving with time. Regardless, they love our two sons and I know they try their best to be good to us.
When my first son was three months old and I was returning to school to finish my last quarter of undergrad, my mother-in-law pretty much offered to take him to Korea with her for the next three months. She was worried I wouldn't be able to handle a baby and school. I, on the other hand, was so appalled at the very suggestion of living an ocean apart from my infant for three months that, in my shock, I blurted out rudely, "I would never do that!"
Fast forward a few years and now we have two sons who are four and nearly two. Every visit, my in-laws drop hints that in a few years they expect us to send the kids to Korea for the summer to stay with them. I know that, as much as they want to spend time with the children, they also think of this as a generous way of giving us a much-needed break. But, much as my reaction to my mother-in-law's initial offer so ungraciously showed, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea. As much as I think that spending a summer (or summers) in Korea would be a wonderful experience for my kids, I still can't imagine sending them anywhere without me. I can barely leave them overnight at my parents' house when Yubo and I manage to plan a night away for necessary romantic purposes. And not just because I miss them, but because they seem insecure and overly irritable for days afterward.
Is this just me being overprotective and overly attached? Perhaps. But, to be honest, I'm comfortable with that. Even if the idea of a whole summer without the kids is mildly tempting (freedom!), I'd still much rather spend that time with them than without them. And as someone who tries to practice attachment parenting, I have a hard time believing that young children benefit from being away from their parents for extended periods of time. I know that there are plenty of Korean American kids (including some of my friends growing up) who spent summers with relatives in Korea and they turned out fine blah blah blah, but I'm still not sold on the idea.
Last time my mother-in-law was here, I was not quite myself.
I had been living with my mom for about a year by then and she was literally driving me crazy. Her constant nagging and criticizing to her taking over the house and putting everything where she wanted, etc... was slowly chipping away at my sanity.
So, when my MIL was visiting, I was not the perfect hostess that I would have otherwise been. (Who am I kidding, I would NEVER be the perfect hostess.) But yeah, the last LAST time she was here, she seemed to like me enough and I think she had a good time even though the jet lag and plane ride was taxing on her frail health.
The main reason my MIL visited this time was because my mom was going to Korea for about a month so my MIL came to watch and bond with her only grandchild. It was kind of like an excuse for her to visit... we could have put him in daycare or something but I think it was around his dol (1 year b-day) too so yeah, she came for about 2 months (it ended up being 2 months because my mom stayed in Korea for longer than expected and then even when she came back, my MIL stayed longer.)
My MIL called a couple of days ago and unfortunately, I was napping so the hubs answered the phone. When I woke up, he informed me that our second son's Korean name was Hyung Ooh. Interesting.
I didn't like it or dislike it all that much... but it didn't roll off the tongue as much as I wanted it to. And I also wanted our second son's name to have at least one same syllable (why does that spelling look so wrong?) as our first son. First son's name is Jung Ho.
Since MIL lives in Korea and doesn't have much "say" in our day to day lives, I thought it'd be nice to have her name our children... their Korean names I mean. Hubs and I decided on the English names together without input from any grandparents.
Actually, it wasn't exactly her who gave our boys their Korean names. She went to a "place." I don't even know what it's called in Korean. When I translate to the hubs, I call it a wise man or a fortune teller. Anyway, she goes there and tells them the date and time of the birth... and I'm not sure what other information, and pays a certain fee and voila, the wise man names the kid.
About a month after my brother got married, I saw a side of my mother I had never seen before.
started with my brother and his new wife's second visit to our house
after returning from their honeymoon. During the visit, everything
seemed fine. We hung out, had dinner with the requisite fruit and
coffee afterwards, and watched a little tv. Then my brother and his
wife left with bags full of leftovers and other dishes my mother made
especially for the newlyweds.
But after they left, the grumbling started. Why did she sit on the couch all evening, Why didn't she do the dishes, Why am I serving her,
Why can't she get her own cream and sugar, Who does she think she is, a
guest?, Is she going to keep coming over demanding service?
Whoa. What happened to my usually reasonable and generous mother?
So. I'm still here. Still pregnant. Still waiting. This third pregnancy has been subsequently harder than the first two - physically, I"m a wreck and I'm a ball of hormonal rage (you should feel badly for all those around me. Very badly. heh) but there's one big thing that will be different this time around - My Mother-in-law won't be here to help me afterwards.
In the vein of "Meet the Parents" and inspired by real events, the
pitch follows an American guy who falls in love with a Korean woman
while teaching English as a second language. He proposes marriage
and she says yes, with a condition: Her Korean family must approve
and they must have a traditional wedding in Korea. So the groom
makes the trip with his family in an effort to marry his true
love. (from the hollywoodreporter.com)
What would it take for this to be a white American woman and a Korean man, huh?
I took the easy way out of negotiating wedding traditions - eloped to Vegas, baby!
What kinds of comedy/horror stories have you experienced around Korean weddings?
When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I made a deal with our parents. His parents, the traditional Koreans who would actually care about such things, would get to give our male children their middle/Korean names. My parents (or my mom, since she's the Korean one), would get to name any of our daughters.
Even after less than a year of marriage, I understood that Charlie's parents would expect to give our sons their Korean names. You see, Charlie comes from one of those storied clans who can trace their ancestry back countless generations and these types of things remain important to his parents. Since Korean first names consist of two syllables, each generation is designated a special character or syllable that becomes either the first or second part of their first name (the position of this pre-designated character will depend on the specific generation). To add to all this pomp and circumstance, Charlie happens to be the first son of the first son of the first son for I don't know how many generations, which made our first son part of that line of first sons.
Despite the somewhat distasteful idea that it would be more important to my traditional Korean in-laws to name sons rather than daughters, I didn't generally mind the whole idea. I suppose it was/is nice for my children to become "part of the family" in this small, but significant way. And, to his credit, my father-in-law went out of his way to give us choices when it came to the second, non-designated character. And besides, my parents really didn't care either way and we all really love his Korean name.
But now that our second - and possibly last (although no guarantees) - child is coming and it happens to also be a boy, I think my parents are at least a bit disappointed that they won't get the honor of naming him. They're not upset, but they did ask whether they would get to name this child and, when I explained that they wouldn't, my mom seemed disappointed, if resigned, and my dad made a comment about "tiresome" Korean traditions.
On the one hand, I like that my sons are part of something that goes back so many generations. But on the other hand, the idea that only the father's side of the family gets this naming honor does seem a little unfair. I've always felt free, for the most part, to pick and choose which Korean customs to adopt, especially in my non-traditional, half-Korean upbringing. But marrying into a more traditional Korean family has forced some compromises, this being one of them.