The Lunar New Year is a time for feasting, family fun, and… interrogation? Well that’s what it can seem like, especially when relations whom you have not seen since the last year descend with a thousand and one questions about every single aspect of your life, the more intimate and embarrassing, the better. It seems like CNY is the season for kaypoh aunties and uncles to indulge in their favourite fantasy of being CSI investigators.
That’s not a problem unless… the victim is… you. Or your child. You’ve been there, done that, grown up, and became a pro at deflecting these questions, but now, your children are their new target. How? Here are some #RealLife #NoFilter situations that we’ve experienced. Read, laugh, brush up on the art of deflection (teach your kids too), and take it easy this Lunar New Year. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
1. “How did you do in school?”
This was a standard for us when we were growing up. Now, our children get it. Teresa, a retired preschool principal in her late 60s, taught her children (and now her grandchildren) to respond to this eternal hot-button question with a standard “I’m doing okay, thank you”. “It is nobody’s business whether my child or my grandchild is doing poorly or well in school. It is rude and intrusive,” she asserts. And if the relations continue to pry? Pretend to be so incredibly engrossed in eating/drinking/watching TV that you did not hear the question.
2. “Wah, your brother got first in class again last year. How about you?”
Oh the joys and the woes of having a clever sibling! The upside? Free tuition. The downside? This question. If it is what one of your little ones has to face every year, CNY visiting can become a stressful affair. Assure them that you love them for themselves, and that their grades are not a reflection of their ability. Tell them that there is no point getting upset or angry. Remind them that their clever sibling can help them — with homework! Tell them to just smile and nod, and say “Aren’t I lucky to have such a clever sister/brother?”
3. “What job does your Daddy do?”
Young children will innocently answer any question they are asked. Hence if you are an inquisitive aunty who wants to know something about someone, and you know that they are unlikely to answer, you go the roundabout route and ask their child instead. Teach your child to say that daddy/mummy works in finance/marketing/banking/F&B etc. And leave it at that. That way, when pressed for further details, your kid can honestly say, “I don’t know.”
4. “Do your Mummy and your Daddy fight at home?”
Airline cargo manager Valerie, 43, was taken aback at first when her 10-year-old son was asked this question. In hindsight, she thought, the aunty may have asked this because Valerie and her husband were a demonstrably loving couple.
5. “Last year you were on a diet. How come you are even fatter this year?”
Stay-home mum, Lina, 43, rolled her eyes when asked this one Lunar New Year. Depending on how you take it, this question could rate pretty high on the awkward-o-meter. Laugh it off with a comment about how you are blooming in prosperity like an ‘ong lai’ (Hokkien for pineapple) flower. Or learn from Adriel, 11, who, when asked why he was so chubby, retorted: “Because I have a big personality. I have to have a body big enough to fit it.” #win
6. “Eh, anyone chasing your daughter or not? Mine got leh.”
The teenage years are not the easiest to navigate, for both parent and child. One friend was asked about her daughter’s BGR (boy-girl relationship) situation by a fellow mum who was dying to share about her own daughter’s progress in that area. She went on, “So many boys have crushes on her. One was hoping to propose to her before others do.” Sigh. Smile, nod, let her brag, and offer her more CNY snacks. She can’t speak while she’s chewing.
7. “Have you had your menses?”
A friend’s daughter, a shy and sensitive 12-year-old girl, was at the awkward stage of growing up where her body had yet to catch up with her (tall) frame. During that particular Lunar New Year season, she faced a barrage of questions about her physique, with “wah you are like a giraffe!” being the most descriptive. One auntie also asked whether whether she had started menstruating. The poor girl was so embarrassed, she spent the entire visit hiding behind her mother, who advised her to reply with a non-committal “I’m very healthy, thank you aunty” the next time.
8. “Does your mom often scold you? Does she tell you not to do this or that?”
When her two pre-teen boys were asked these questions, Valerie worried that they would start to question her style of parenting and the rules that she had set for them. They did not.
9. How come you are so handsome/pretty, not like your parents?
Apparently, this is a common question. We have no idea what to say to this. Would “thank you, you too” be appropriate? Just kidding. A simple thank you would suffice.
10. “I hope you’ll grow up well.”
All right, this is not a question, it is a comment. However, this is a comment that is laden with meaning, and could be interpreted to mean that you are not good enough. Even though she is now in her 30s, Jess was visibly upset when she told us about this. “It’s the equivalent of saying that I had not (grown up well),” she explains.
How to avoid the awkward CNY questions situation
Prep your kids. Let them know that many people take the opportunity to catch up with each other during CNY visits, hence the barrage of questions. Tell them to excuse themselves politely (“Sorry, please excuse me, I need to ask my mother something” works) and come to you if they feel uncomfortable.
Learn the art of deflection. “Wah, those pineapple tarts look really good, could you pass me one please?”
‘Tai chi’ away questions. “I’m not sure/I don’t know, how about you/what do you think?” turns you into the questioner and gives you a little time to think of an answer.
Think like a politician. An answer by any other name is still an answer, no matter what kind of answer it is. That’s a great question, I never thought if it that way but now that you mention it, it does seem to make sense and I am glad you asked this question.
Above all, maintain a sense of humour. This too, shall pass.
What are some of the weird, awkward, nosy questions you or your kids have been asked during CNY?