Phrases and vocabulary to survive your parents’ nagging during the vacation
Everyone needs a break sometimes. For students, the vacation is a well-earned rest from all-nighters, exams, and dull lectures, as well as a time to catch up with family and friends back home.
Yet having to take care of their kids all summer can be tough for parents. Every September, when elementary and middle school students return to school, parents celebrate with memes like “mythical beasts returning to the cage (神兽归笼 shénshòu guīlóng).” The feelings of relief can cut both ways: According to a 2020 survey from Capital Campus Press Union, a media arm of the Communist Youth League, over 85 percent of 1,622 college students in China said their parents nagged them during the holidays.
Conflict between parents and children can be triggered by numerous tiny things. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder—or in Chinese, “distance creates beauty (距离产生美 jùlí chǎnshēng měi).” The rapid change in parents’ attitudes from nice to nagging during school vacations have caused some internet users to exclaim, tongue firmly in cheek: “In just a few short days, my vacation showed me the fickleness of human kindness (假期短短几天让你感受到人情的冷暖 Jiàqī duǎnduǎn jǐ tiān ràng nǐ gǎnshòu dào rénqíng de lěngnuǎn).”
Many college students are living away from their parents for the first time, and the distance from home may be such that they can only see their families once or twice a year. After such a long separation, most students expect to be greeted at home with a warm hug, their favorite dishes on the table, and unusually attentive parents:
Mom, long time no see! My holiday has started!
Baby, I missed you so much!
In the early days of vacation, you can expect some nice treats at no expense, and there is no need for you, the apple of your parents’ eyes or 掌上明珠 (zhǎngshàng míngzhū, literally “pearl in the palm”), to do any chores:
I made you your favorite dishes. Just have fun at home on this holiday.
No need to wash up. Your father will do it, just leave the dishes on the table when you’re done eating.
In hot water
However, your parents’ attitude typically changes after a few days. In the time they spend apart, many parents and children forget the personality differences and generation gaps that made them clash when living together. To parents accustomed to keeping regular hours, sleeping past 8 a.m. is a sign of laziness, and a messy room is an indication of moral decay.
Some parents also forget that their children are now young adults, and are used to making their own decisions. They find everything about their offspring’s lifestyle choices to be objectionable (不顺眼 bú shùnyǎn), from the hour that they go to bed to how they spend their leisure time:
Mom, let me just sleep a little longer.
In the morning you don’t get up, and in the evening you don’t go to bed.
Do you know what time it is? Why are you still not up? And your room is a dump. Why don’t you clean it?
You play on your phone all day and never go outside.
Even pleading illness cannot evoke your mother’s sympathy—she’ll find some way to blame it on you:
Mom, I have a headache.
It’s because you look at your phone too much.
Yet if you decide to put down your phone and go out with your friends, your parents might feel neglected:
Mom, I want to go out.
You go drinking with your friends every day. Is our home a hotel to you?
Why did you even come home? You might just as well go back to school.
If your parents decide to clean your room themselves, and “accidentally” misplace something, be prepared for them to make this into another teaching opportunity—or, to use a Chinese idiom, “指桑骂槐 (zhǐsāng màhuái, literally, ‘point at a mulberry tree to abuse a scholar tree,’ criticize a person for one flaw by pointing to other shortcomings)”:
Mom, where did you put my T-shirt? I can’t find it.
Don’t ask me. If you don’t put your own things away, how am I supposed to know where they are?
And of course, there is the endless daily micromanaging and nagging:
Did you shower?
Have you done laundry?
Did you cook dinner?
Did you take the dog out for a walk?
The parent-child relationship doesn’t have to be adversarial. You could make an effort to change your habits, live up to your parents’ expectation of “reading more and doing more housework (多读书多做家务 duō dúshū duō zuò jiāwù),” and learn to toe the line or “在夹缝中生存 (zài jiāfèng zhōng shēngcún, live between the cracks).” After all, it’s only for a few weeks at most—and your parents won’t be around forever:
Mom, all I want on this vacation is to study hard rather than go out.
Mom, I’m going to cook today. You just take a rest.
It might also be nice to show some appreciation for what your parents do for you:
Mom, even the food you make with your eyes closed tastes better than what they serve in our cafeteria.
And who knows, maybe your parents will even reciprocate by making concessions of their own:
This time, I will not nag at you to come back when you go out.
If your vacation just ended with you grateful to be back in your adult life, it helps to mentally prepare for the next one:
I’m going home tomorrow. I bet I could be a sweetheart for a couple of days.
Or just keep your visits short:
My parents didn’t have time to get sick of me before I went back to school.
Tough Love: Chinese to Deal With Your Parents’ Nagging is a story from our issue, “Upstaged.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.