Jul 1, 2014

Vietnamese Author: Anh Tho Andres, Back to Square One - Motherhood: Love Beyond Borders

Original Title in English : Back to Square One 
By Author: Anh Tho Andres

Vietnamese Translation by YourVietBooks Team (coming up)

Motherhood: Love Beyond Borders

Christian was born in Norway one beautiful day of August. I planned to give birth on August 1st to match the Swiss National Day, but God has decided otherwise. The doctors ordered my ceasarian cut on August 10th. The minute that Christian was out of my womb, his father said to me: “From now on, you will never be alone any more…”

At his majority, my son – Christian -  received a nice gift from me: an album of all his photos from birth till his 21st birthday. Going through all those photos over the years, heaps of memories keep flowing back.


I am glad we live in the digital age, but am even more grateful that I kept the pictures of different periods of his life. The album speaks for itself, as a witness of the development stages of a child through the years, amazing. Not only my child has grown up into an accomplished young man, but his mother also, who through this very long and tedious process, has reached maturity. Together we have grown and the bondage between us keeps growing through good and bad times.

I was initially attracted to Norway as I met a lot of Norwegian expats working in Vietnam. I met Christian’s father (HC) in Vietnam, when he came to work as an Oil Expat. After Kurt’s death, he proposed to me, and wanted to help me settle my family to Norway. I guess the arguments worked and I agreed to move to Norway. I did not expect the winter to be so long and dark and the land so remote, especially living in a large house far from all.

HC was a good husband and took very good care of me. He was also very resourceful and built his own house and his own boat. All he did was big: big house, big boat, big meals, big family. I realize that Norwegians (or Northern Europeans in general) use a lot of resources for their own needs.  I guess the same applies to Americans who need a lot of space, eat a lot, and need a lot of leisure. When I came to stay in Norway, I understood that sense of space that we Vietnamese do not have. For me, Nordic people look like trees growing without limits straight to the sky. All what concerned them are so big, so full of space.

Many Norwegian friends of mine used to mention the ‘cultural shock’ to me, and I  slowly understand  what they mean after having lived with the father of my son.

I think most Northern Europeans do not really understand Asian mentality because we did not share a common past as the case with France.  Basic concepts such as Hell, Love, Family seem to take another significance than what we Asians are used to, for example, for Nordic people, hell represents ice, cold, dark, where as for Asians, hell represents heat, furnace, red. For us Asians,  family means gathering, collective responsibility, keeping the link. In my Norwegian experience, I did not feel that sense of family in the gatherings that I initiated to keep the family together nor in other events I was invited to, such as Christmas gatherings,  Wedding ceremonies, or even at Christian’s father funeral. I used to feel  lost in all these occasions and have since refused any opportunities  to come back to Norway although my sister is still living there. In that sense, I fully felt the cultural shock which I did not I initially understand the full meaning.

Since the first days, Christian was a wonderful child, but I guess all children are wonderful anyway. Later I also watch other children develop from their young age. The most amazing thing for me is that most babies seem to understand the whole world around them, as I had discovered with Christian. Everyday I would come to his cradle and discover a new invention from him, grabbing the toys that hung on his head, catching everything that floated in front of him, and tasting them. More amazing to me was that, at the age of 6 months, he could already sit still in his safety chair, would watch the television without uttering a sound and seemed to follow the story on the screen. I always wonder what is happening in the brain of  a baby, how they translate all their perceptions into ideas. Who teaches them all that.

My joy of motherhood would have been complete, had it not for the incident which changed the course of my life. On the day I came home from the hospital, handicapped with my child because of my caesarian cut, his father preferred to go out sailing, leaving me alone without help, in my big house, far from neighbours and friends. I could not move on my own because of my operation, and hardly knew how to take care of my baby. I guess that was the start of our split. For years, I could not find any argument to explain that behavior nor forgive this lack of attention. On the most important day of my life, I expected that some flowers were awaiting my coming home with another guest – the most important – to our home. A child is a long term commitment to a relationship. It is also a bond between two people who have vowed to love and care with each other, “for the better and for the worse”. 

We believe that after death, the soul is reborn in another body and that the memory of our last incarnation brings the personality of a child. We also believe that each person’s destiny is influenced by the star at the time of birth (Chinese Zodiac). The same day Christian was born, came also Karl almost at the same time. Karl’s character was just the opposite of of my gentle and quiet baby’s. While Christian did everything with grace and ‘zen’, Karl was a real bulldozer already since the very first day, the way he sucked his mother’s milk, to the way he grabbed things around him.  Why are they so different since childhood, if indeed, according to the Chinese Zodiac, they should be similar also in behaviour and in thinking? Or could it be because of genetic influence that certain children are more active than others?

Until becoming a mother, I had never understood that having a child entailed so much responsibility. Of course, I had prepared myself to educate my children at best, from my own education to be a good mother as a young girl with all the domestic skills, to educating myself in order to accompany them later in their schooling, and learning about my culture to transfer to them all the traditional values and guide them through life.

When Christian was born, Christian’s father said to me : “From now on, you will never be alone...”, I did not quite understand whether he meant “alone” as being always with somebody, or being “not lonely”? Indeed, motherhood gives you a big responsibility. You may die of hunger, but you can never leave your child starving, you may undergo the worst sufferings but you cannot let any external act be threat to your child’s security, or you may even be prepared to die to protect his life…

Being a mother, I started to understand the sacrifices parents undergo to make the best out of their parenting mission. I started to understand the sacrifices my parents underwent to bring my siblings and me up. I also started to understand how important for a child to get love and care since their young age. May be mankind would have less war and misery if every parent understand the responsibility of bringing up a child in the spirit of love and caring. The children in turn would become better parents if they have got a good childhood.

Our destiny is strongly related to each other, as all decisions made by parents influence the children’s destiny. I think my life would have taken another turn without my children. For them, I had to make decisions that protect their best interest. Mine come only way after. As my story unveils my predestination path, with hindsight, I can retrace the underlying causes of my choices through life.

The story about my children – Christian & Shamini – illustrates the difficult choice that a mother sometimes have to make to preserve the happiness of her children. (Coming up…)

Original Title in English : Back to Square One 
By Author: Anh Tho Andres

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