Sunday, May 4, 2008

Chatting with Margarita Phuong Vy: On teenage life and relationship with her mother

If you have been following the “Modern Talkings” page, you will notice that most of the time, it has been me who’s been presenting to you my take on things related to young people in modern society. For this issue, I’ve decided to take a break from doing the sharing, and let a young person share her thoughts and feelings on a topic that’s very important to all us. And that topic is about our relationship with our mother.

The person we’ve decided to interview for this topic is a sixteen year old from Sydney. Her name is Phuong Vi Nguyen, but she also goes by the name of Margarita. Phuong Vi is a bright and energetic young lady, and as far as we can see, she’s pretty representative of the modern, outgoing, and smart Vietnamese Australians, who can share with the readers some thoughts from a young person’s perspective.

MT: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

PVN: I’m 16 years old. I live in Sydney, and I’m in year 11. I’m Catholic. I go to a lot of churches, but the one I go to the most is Sacred Heart Cabramatta.

MT: Are you involved in activities at church?
PVN: Yeah I am involved. I’ve been in Thieu Nhi Thanh The since I was about 7 years old! It's a Vietnamese Eurcharist Youth Association. I've learnt so much from this, it’s where I developed my morals and sense of understanding. This youth group is like ONE BIG FAMILY, and everyone cares for each other – so no one is really selfish or anything.

MT: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

PVN: I have a pretty big family (like all Asian families [laugh]). My family has 5 kids, there are 2 boys and 3 girls and I'm the third sister. My Anh Hai Peter is 28, my big sisters, Maria and Teresa, are 26 and 24 and my little brother is 12. I guess the age difference between me and my big sister is big, but i think it's a good thing because she and the older siblings always live to spoil me and my little brother.

MT: Since we’re focusing on the topic of “mother” this issue, how would you describe your relationship with your mother?
PVN: Me and my mum have a very good relationship compared to a lot of people I know. I'd be lying if I said that I had a good relationship with my mum from the moment I was born... only the really lucky few have that. I had to build a relationship with my mum, it didn’t just pop out of thin air. To be honest, the time which I began to have a really good with her was since I was about 14 because before that I was a bit influenced by a lot of friends. Their relationships with their mums were terrible. They'd treat their mothers like strangers and expect the best from their mothers. There was no trust; they'd always bicker and complain – and I realised that. I never treated my mum like that, but I was just distant from her. Nowadays me and my mum joke around all the time, and open up to each other and I love it. She told me, “I trust you because I know how it felt when my own mother trusted me.” It's the best feeling in the world.

MT: What do you think is some of the most important things that your mother does for you?
PVN: Trust. The most important thing she can ever do for me is trust me. I really admire that she'll block out all rumours/media/tell tales for my sake, and that she always reminds me that she loves me whenever she teases me or opens up to me about something. My mum always cooks, cleans, and works hard for me... like really hard. My mum has been through many great personal hardships in her life and to see her stand up against them and see the positive side of life has really made me think of her as my role model.

MT: How would you describe the way your mother disciplines you?
PVN: My mum wanted me to understand the Vietnamese culture, so from the time when I was 2 till about 14 my mum took me to prayer groups at different houses every Sunday night. At these places, I learnt how to respect my elders because I was constantly around them. Elder people are always courteous, wise, funny and they always have a good thing to say, and I guess I was influenced by them over the years.

MT: What kind of punishment does she give you when you do something wrong?
PVN: The last time my mum ever spanked me (once with a stick) was when I was 8 years old. I didn’t blame her at the time [laugh] – like what mother wouldn’t hit their daughter who's just totally broke a new treadmill?

My Mum understands the pressures of the 'traditional' ways, you know... 100% UAI, NO BOYS, NOT ALLOWED TO GO OUT, ONLY GIRLS DO THIS AND NOT DO THAT, 30% FREEDOM, NO CHOICES. I seriously am not exaggarating because a lot of my friends suffer because of it. My mum understands, so she encourages me to do the best to my abilities, not beat a certain rank in the UAI. I'm not totally sure about boys, so I don’t do anything that might make her very hurt or suspicious like bringing a guy home (HELLO MUM'S WORST NIGHTMARE). So instead, I just mention my guy friends whenever it relates to a topic we're talking about, or ask her to say hi to them when I see them [laugh] Classic! And about 'going out', I really had to gain my mum's trust on this one in which I had to fulfill all of her requests even if I didn’t like it, and in the end it paid off big time.

MT: Are you comfortable sharing with your mother about issues in your life and also ask for her advice?
PVN: I admit, it's really hard talking to my mum about my issues and that's because I don't want to put extra weight onto her worries. She worries enough as it is. My mum usually pours her heart out to me and gives me advice when I don't ask for it, but I appreciate it because I wouldn’t have thought of asking for it anyway. I know my sisters always come to her for advice, but I think I just need more time to be more comfortable and assured that she won’t hyperventilate when I tell her about my issues. I think two things could happen 1. Be scolded and 2. Get her worried and she'll voluntarily intervene with my issues when I don’t want her to.

MT: What do you usually come to your mother for?
PVN: FOOD! I love my mum's cooking and I usually come to my mum when I want a good laugh. She always has her ways of making sure I know she loves me and it's always nice to know. I can't get enough of it, I probably wouldn’t last a day without teasing her and seeing her smile and blush.

MT: Do you think your mother is a good advice giver?

PVN: Well, according to my sisters she is. But it usually has to do with 'adult' stuff like love and money. Hahah, that is totally my 'no go zone'. I know she doesn't want me – a young teenager – to be meddling with that stuff now anyway.

MT: Do you think your mother, being a Vietnamese, understands what it is like for you to grow up in modern Australian society?

PVN: My mum does understand, but not as much as I like her to. However, I really appreciate that she understands a little at least for I know so many other people who'd kill for parents to understand that we need a 'social life'. I really think the word 'social life' is a taboo word amongst Vietnamese parents to be honest. What I usually hear is ' OMG, I need a life, my parents think my UAI is all that counts, I’m not allowed to go out or have fun! I'm so unhappy, but they won't listen to me'. Many kids has said that, trust me. I wish every parent would go to their kid right now and ask them, 'Do you feel loved? Am I being too unfair? How can I change to make a better life for you'. My mum showed her understanding because I talked to her about it. I wouldn’t think that she'd understand out of thin air (who could?), so I just talked about what I needed at the moment: Australia culture vs. Vietnamese culture and how it was important to me. I admit it was scary and awkward because I hadn’t stepped into that territory with my mum before. But now, I'm so glad that I did.

MT: If you were in your mother's shoes right now, what advice would you give your 16 year-old daughter to help her grow up to be a good person?

PVN: Well the first thing I would think is, “Treat her like I would like to be treated.” A lot of mums forget that making sure nothing will happen to their daughters, is literally making sure NOTHING happens to them. The best way for girls learn is via experience and learn from our mistakes. So knowing this, I'd set curfews and give them talks (not scold them) about dangers in life like being obsessed with boys, cars, drinking, and smoking. I would open her up to different positive perspectives by getting her to experience different things, e.g. raising money for charities, take her to the hospital, get her to meet pregnant teenage mothers, cooking, hanging out and gardening with the elders, babysitting and what not. I wouldn’t give my daughter advice alone. I'll actually make her gain experiences as well so I can guarantee she'll become a good person.

MT: What do you most respect about your mother?

PVN: Her persistence even though she's been through so much in her life. She always cares about the less advantaged people no matter what.

MT: What is a memory that you have with your mother that you will always cherish?

PVN: Feeding my mum icecream in Cabramatta and telling her sweet mushy nothings in front of everyone.

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