Sunday Snippet: Elaine Lui

“And her answer all the time was, ‘Why do you need to prepare for the good things that happen? They’re good. They won’t hurt you. Do you need advance notice for the arrival of happiness? Or would you rather have advance notice of the hard times? My job is to prepare you for the hard times. My job is to teach you how to avoid the hard times, whenever possible.’

So instead of fairy tales, the Squawking Chicken told ghost stories, some of which she experienced herself. Many of my life lessons came from Ma’s personal tales.”

As parents, we have this incredible burden to bear of preparing our children for the real world. This might start with deceptively simple tasks like sitting on your own, crawling, and figuring out how to shovel food in your mouth with a plastic spoon. We want our kids to be ready to face whatever lies ahead. And that’s what Elaine Lui’s “squawking chicken” of a mother tried to do by telling stories about the unsettled spirits of deceased children reaching out from within her closet.

You might know Elaine Lui best from her celebrity gossip blog Lainey Gossip. You might also recognize her from from her work on the CTV programs etalk and The Social. I’m in the middle of reading her memoir of sorts, Listen to the Squawking Chicken, where she recounts some of the life lessons she gleaned from her mom, Judy Yeung.

The name comes as a literal translation of Judy’s childhood nickname Tsiahng Gai. Apparently, she earned this nickname because of her shrill voice, but it’s a term that is used pejoratively among the Chinese community. It doesn’t quite translate perfectly to English, but a woman who is Tsiahng Gai is who is loquacious and “bossy.” She’s a nagger. She is someone with a stubborn sense of self-importance, unafraid to speak up and make a scene. You probably know someone like this.

If we were to heed the parenting philosophy of the Squawking Chicken, we would teach our kids about all the ills and evils of the world. By doing so, I fear we run the risk of ruining our children’s innocence. They can become guarded pessimists and skeptical cynics. There is no knight in shining armor. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Conversely, we can’t hide our children from all the bad things either. An existence of blissful ignorance, say like that of Kimmy Schmidt, could lead to exploitation and missed opportunities. Acting as if the bad things in the world don’t exist doesn’t make them go away. Ignoring these problems doesn’t fix them.

It’s a delicate balance and I don’t have the answer. Kids need to know at some point that life is hard. They can’t always win. They won’t always get what they want. Nothing will be handed to them on a silver platter. When life throws them unexpected adversity, they’ll just have to deal with it. But you still want them to laugh and dance and play along the way. They should still be able to enjoy the song of life.

Even if the song is sung in the shrill voice of a squawking chicken.