50 lessons I want my daughter to learn from her Korean grandmother

My mom may not have been as affectionate as my friends' mothers, and maybe she didn't know how to bake cookies from scratch, but she taught me many life lessons that I can't wait to share with my 4-year-old daughter.

50 lessons I want my daughter to learn from her Korean grandmother

Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is harder. Being a single parent while raising children in a foreign country is probably one of the hardest things ever. Yet, that's exactly what my Korean mother did.

My mom may not have been as affectionate as my friends' mothers, and maybe she didn't know how to bake cookies from scratch, but she taught me many life lessons that I can't wait to share with my 4-year-old daughter.

Even though she's only a quarter Korean, I want my daughter to fully appreciate our Asian heritage. So, I'm hoping to pass down these 50 unique pieces of advice that my mom shared with me throughout the years:

  1. Always brush your teeth after eating kimchi because your breath will smell like garlic and you will get red pepper flakes stuck between your teeth.
  2. Make sure whoever you live with won't judge you (at least to your face) for putting hot sauce or kimchi on everything you eat.
  3. Pay with cash. If you can't, then use a credit card, but only if you have no other option because credit cards create debt.
  4. Ramen can be fancy if you throw an egg, a few vegetables, some kimchi or leftovers into it.
  5. There is no shame in growing up in a house with a Korean karaoke machine. There is also no shame in mastering Madonna and Michael Bolton's songs on that machine because they are the only songs in English.
  6. Why own one pair of expensive high heels when you can own many pairs of affordable slip-ons?
  7. Stockpile wooden chopsticks from Asian restaurants even though you have nice reusable chopsticks at home.
  8. Cutting food with a knife is for amateurs. Who needs a knife when you have perfectly good scissors or fingers.
  9. Get as many free calendars from Asian markets, realtors and restaurants as possible so you can hang them up in every room of your home.
  10. If you can master the art of being respectful, considerate and selfless, and also learn to control your temper and the thermostat, then you will live a happy life.
  11. Always buy used exercise equipment from flea markets or thrift stores. Then you won't feel so bad a month later when you stop using it an ask your daughter to sell it on Craigslist.
  12. Make sure you have several hot tea options – green, ginger, barley, etc. – to offer someone after dinner.
  13. Don't depend on a man to support you. The only support you need should come from your comfortable walking shoes, which you bought on sale.
  14. The possibilities of cooking with SPAM are endless.
  15. Never be ashamed of where you work or how many jobs you have long as you earn everything you own in an honest way and without going to jail.
  16. Always have multiple brands and bottles of hot sauce.
  17. Capri pants and fanny packs are cool, no matter what decade it is.
  18. Rice can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  19. Giant kimchi-making bowls can double as baby bathtubs.
  20. Don't pay an arm and a leg for an expensive bed when the floor is free.
  21. You can make fried rice out of anything, including leftover hot dogs, chicken tenders and french fries.
  22. Tubs of overnight face cream are very cheap at Sam's Club and Costco.
  23. If you don't eat all the side dishes offered at a Korean restaurant, you will bring shame upon your family.
  24. Always clean the floor on your hands and knees with a rag. Mops are for the lazy.
  25. Need a laugh after a rough day? Watch a Korean game show.
  26. You don't need to master the art of baking, but you should know how to make sticky rice with your eyes closed.
  27. Korean medicine tastes like Lysol mixed with rubbing alcohol, but it really works.
  28. Ketchup is not the same thing as spaghetti sauce.
  29. If you run out of kimchi, then pickled jalapeños or banana peppers are a good substitute.
  30. It's much more comfortable to do your hair and make-up while sitting on the floor.
  31. The best way to crush garlic is in a Ziploc bag, on the floor, with a hammer.
  32. When having people over for dinner, always cook enough to feed your guests and their extended families.
  33. If given the option, shop at the PX or commissary so you don't have to pay taxes.
  34. It's better to spend money on an expensive rice cooker than an expensive dishwasher. You have two perfectly good hands for dishwashing.
  35. Thanksgiving meals should always include the regulars (turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, etc.) but also rice, kimchi and/or bulgogi, yaki mandu and japchae.
  36. If you work hard enough, take yourself on a vacation, but not an expensive one because you still need to save your money.
  37. You can totally dance your butt off in the privacy of your home and still act shy when in public.
  38. Comic books are great for learning how to read.
  39. You can never have too many nightgowns and oversized pajamas.
  40. Invest in warm house slippers, preferably with a leopard print on them.
  41. Don't scream and fight to pay the bill at a restaurant—do it silently when no one is watching.
  42. You should have at least one piece of Asian art hanging in your house.
  43. Buy the economy size soy sauce.
  44. Always be kind, especially to children and your elders, or they will come back to haunt you.
  45. Prove others wrong when they say you can't do something. Don't brag when you do it like a boss. Just smile and stare into their eyes.
  46. Do not be afraid of tofu. It is healthy and delicious.
  47. Make-up doesn't make you beautiful, your attitude does. Plus, too much make-up makes you look cheap.
  48. Eat soup. Lots of soup. The spicier the better. And use a giant-sized spoon when you do.
  49. The Notorious B.I.G. believed, "Mo Money Mo Problems." We believe, "Less Money Mo Bargains."
  50. Open the windows before you cook kimchi soup. The smell lingers for hours, and not even expensive Pottery Barn candles can mask it.

These are just a few things I want to teach my daughter so she grows up to embrace her Korean heritage, the same way I did. And I can't wait for her to have a bond with her grandmother that goes beyond heritage and culture but is deeply rooted in it.

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