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my dad

Kris and I were not what my dad wanted. He wanted boys… sons. But he made do with the two of us – giggling goofballs in pigtails who probably got away with far more than sons ever would have. My father came to the US in his early twenties and over the nearly forty years that I’ve known him, has embraced Western culture more than most Asian dads I know. Because of that, Kris and I danced between obeying the strict Chinese father and palling around with our Dad – our friend. I got yelled at to improve my SAT scores as often as I was woken up at 2 in the morning to go night fishing for striped bass.

sailing with kris and dad

dad, me, and mom in rocky mountain national park

I typically describe my father as a big kid with a credit card and driver’s license to my friends. And my friends love him. Every one of them. My dad is a charmer. I’ve learned over the years that I view my parents with a far more critical eye than my friends do. It’s okay. My parents do the same to me. But that comes with the territory. That comes with being (Chinese) family.

reading to my nephew

humoring my niece

When we were little, Dad played two roles: 1) the fun guy and 2) the ultimate disciplinarian. Mom did the day to day “no, you cannot have that” or “stop fighting or I will leave you two on the side of the road!” – but when you were in BIG trouble, you were sent to see Dad. The scariest punishment for me was The Chopstick. Someone would tell Dad the latest dumb thing I did (I did a lot of dumb things) and he would sternly say in Chinese “give me your hand!” I’d already be sobbing and extend my chubby little hand while Dad (usually at dinner because this is when all family business was addressed) would clean one of his chopsticks and lightly thwack me on the hand with it. It didn’t even hurt, I just hated the thought of being in trouble with Daddy.

prepping dinner

Oddly enough, the ultimate disciplinarian got in trouble with Mom quite a bit. That’s because my dad was always telling me to pack my physics or ODE notes and “bring them on the boat” as he needed a crew. Work hard. Play hard. That’s his philosophy and it’s mine too.

in colonial williamsburg

I am a lot like my dad in many ways. It’s difficult for me to know which characteristics I have learned from him and which I just am. We are both assertive, self-confident, disciplined, and organized. We are also both impatient, bossy, critical, and highly opinionated. We love animals, the outdoors, and being active. We are planners. We are engineers. We love to cook, eat, and laugh.

dad loves a good glass (or bottle) of wine

It’s one thing to regard your parents as your parents. It’s another thing entirely to regard them as people. Over the years I have gone from looking up to my dad as my role model to looking at my dad with all of his strengths, his flaws, and his life experiences. As an adult, while I no longer see him as the role model of my youth, I still admire him – just for different reasons.

happy father’s day, baba

29 nibbles at “my dad”

  1. Manisha says:

    You’re right! Your Dad’s a charmer! It was great meeting him last month. Happy Father’s Day to Jim!

  2. kathy says:


  3. Y says:

    What a great post! It reminds me that I’ve often wanted to write something about my dad. He’s a typical Asian dad, which in a way has always been a bit frustrating to me, but there are so many things about him that I’ve always loved and never said to him.

  4. Caitlin says:

    My dad was always the ultimate disciplinarian too – except all he had to do to completely deflate me was tell me to go to my room. Nothing scares you like letting down your dad. What a wonderful tribute to your amazing father!

  5. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga says:

    What an awesome post about your dad. Happy Father’s Day to him and I hope he reads your blog and reads this post :)

  6. Belinda @zomppa says:

    So super sweet. Your dad is a character!! It’s clear he is LOVING being a grandpa!

  7. Vero says:

    Thanks for sharing this great post about your dad. He sounds like a wonderful guy!

  8. Julie W says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Kath says:

    Oh Jen!! What an awesome post! Hope I’m lucky enough to meet your Dad (and your Mom) the next time they come to town xo :-)

  10. Kalyn says:

    Love seeing the photos of your family (and be sure to enjoy your parents completely while you still have them!)

  11. Dianne says:

    Lovely post. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Sumner says:

    What a great tribute. Beautiful.

  13. Margie says:

    Too sweet! I love that you share your life with your readers. Your father is a very fortunate man, but I’ll bet he already knows that. ;)

  14. Nancy says:

    great pics and post! Your dad IS a charmer for sure. I haven’t seen him in years- he looks amazing.

  15. shauna says:

    I love this, Jen. It’s so real. And I teared up at the photos of your dad playing with the kids.

    I love you.

  16. Perfecting Pru says:

    What a wonderful post. I loved this so much. A great way to thank your father on Father’s Day. I still think the chopstick would have hurt though!

  17. Lynn Mc. says:

    What a great and loving tribute. Happy Father’s Day to your Baba!

  18. Ted Stauffer says:

    What a wonderful tribute to an obviously wonderful man!

  19. Barbara says:

    A lovely post Jen. The photos with Kris’ children are beautiful.

  20. Caterina B says:

    I love how you described him as a “big kid with a credit card and a driver’s license.” What fun he is! If only every dad were like that. I hope he likes kisses. You must give him some big ones the next time he comes to Boulder!

  21. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Love it!

  22. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    A really lovely tribute to your Dad. The chopstick sounds awful – but you seem to have built a lovely relationship over the years.

  23. 1pretzelgirl says:

    Jen – you always impress me with your candid and genuine portrayals. And I don’t mean that your intention is to impress . . . but you certainly do. Your word-smithing is as sumptuous as your photography and delicious culinary concoctions.

  24. Agnes says:

    ODE as in … ordinary differential equations? :)
    Lovely tribute Jen, I think I would like your father too!!

  25. Kristin says:

    Wonderful post. I especially loved the chopstick story and the photo of your dad with your niece!

  26. Jaya says:

    This is such a funny, touching post! You’ve really brought some moments to life – I can just picture the chopstick thwacking! I lost my dad when I was a teenager, and I take great comfort and joy in seeing my friends appreciate and enjoy their parents, while they are lucky enough to have them. I had an amazing father (who also made sure that math notes came everywhere with us), but in his physical absence, your post reminds me of everything that makes the sometimes difficult trip down memory lane worth the visit. Thank you.

  27. Jill says:

    Very touching, Jen. Thanks for sharing.

  28. jenyu says:

    Thanks everyone :) As much as my dad makes me nuts at times, I love him very much and he can probably say the same for me. And he is an absolutely hilarious grandpa to my niece and nephew. He loves those kids so so much. He has way more patience with them than he did with me or Kris!

  29. jenyu says:

    Agnes – yes, odinary diff eqs :) we studied hard in high school! ha ha!

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