I thought it was surprising how all of these families had all of these children with all of these problems, problems that they mostly would have done anything to avoid, and that they had all found so much meaning in that experience of parenting. And then I thought, all of us who have children love the children we have, with their flaws. If some glorious angel suddenly descended through my living room ceiling and offered to take away the children I have and give me other, better children -- more polite, funnier, nicer, smarter -- I would cling to the children I have and pray away that atrocious spectacle.
Last year, my mother told me that when I was 10 years old, she and my father worried that they would need to return to China after my father got his PhD. They worried about my future in China. They had both undergone a great deal in their own youth, and they wanted me to have a good life.
A wealthy family in Connecticut offered to adopt me. Their own daughter had just gone off to college, and they were having empty nest syndrome. My mother told me about it, and my 10-year-old self refused. I thought (and still think) it was ludicrous.
The strange thing is that even now, my mother seems regretful that she did not go through with it. "You would've had so many comforts," she says to me. "When their daughter went to college, they bought so many expensive sweaters for her."
I find this very puzzling.
There was a story I read about one of the Asian Nobel Prize winners. He came from a village, born to farmer parents. He was talented as a child, and his parents sent him to Hong Kong to get properly educated. A few years later, there was a drought back in the village, and his parents literally died of hunger.
After he won the Nobel Prize, a reporter said to him, "You must be very grateful that your parents sent you abroad to study."
"No," he said. "I wish they had not. Having a son to do labor is important on a farm. If my parents hadn't sent me away, I might be illiterate right now, but I might still have parents."