Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Love Them Just the Way They Are

Thanks for expressing concern and well wishes regarding my heart attack scare. I completed my stress test on the treadmill and the doctor said my heart was “very good.” However, I did catch a cold/flu a few days ago so please pray for me. Life on earth is short. I want to enjoy my family when I can. May the name of our Lord be praised!

Finally, our son’s family has moved back on February 22nd. Our living quarters are separated by a common living room and kitchen. We can share meals, conversations and activities, yet there is privacy and space for each family. James and I can sleep and work in our studio with minimum interruption as grandchildren play or cry “next door.” Of course, love and flexibility helps us stay connected.

Last Sunday, I woke up before seven. Still lying in bed, I thought, “Great! I can work on my newsletter before going to church.” Right then, I heard quiet “knock, knock, knock” so I got up, walked to the door, and whispered, “Who’s there?”

“It’s E.” (She said her first name)
“E who?”
“E C” (She said her first and last name)

Opening the door, I said “Shhh. Good morning. Yeye is still sleeping” and stepped into her world.

“Morning. Nainai, can you read me a book?”

“Sure!” (How can I resist?)

As I sat down on the sofa, she handed me a picture book and climbed onto my lap. I read the question at the top of each page, then she chose one answer from the pictures and said the word out loud. We went back and forth until her Mama came in and asked, “Did you wake up Nainai?”

When I said, “No, I was already awake,” the little girl smiled relief. After reading a few more pages, I said, “Nainai will read one more page, then take a shower.” She nodded. It seemed like a long time but I spent less than ten minutes with her. And we both felt loved.

Every interaction between two people is a time to communicate love and build relationship. With each positive interaction, we feel loved. Author Gary Chapman categorizes the most common ways of expressing and receiving love as "Five Love Languages”: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Gifts. When love is "spoken" using our love languages (dominant and secondary), we "click" with the sender and feel loved. At that moment, love is deposited into our emotional bank.

On the contrary, negative interaction withdraws love so “feeling loved” is not a one time deal. Unfortunately, every negative interaction may cancel out 5-7 positive interactions. So don’t argue and defend if someone says, “You don’t love me!” Instead, listen to their complaint (e.g. “You don’t spend any time with me” or “I can never do anything right!”) and try a different love language. Stop doing what doesn’t work and start doing what does work. Use different strokes for different folks at different times!

My dominant love language is “Quality Time” and that’s how James won my heart at Berkeley. Even though he was a graduate student and had a part-time job, he spent plenty of time with me: Driving me to school and back, showing me tour attractions, taking me to restaurants, calling me, and listening to me with undivided attention! Feeling loved, I appreciated James and told him so, thereby speaking his love language of “Words of Affirmation.” No wonder we got married after only three months of dating.

Sorry about digressing, but my readers include singles and couples without kids. My point is that every person has a need to be loved and accepted unconditionally in the “just as I am” way.

Do you think it is hard to accept someone no matter what? Yes, of course it is. But do you remember the phrase “Love is blind”?

I have also learned in a hard way that feeling loved and being loved are two different things.

The day after our wedding banquet, James started his first full-time job as an electrical engineer in the Silicon Valley. When he spent less and less time with me, I interpreted that as love being gone. May be I had an unrealistic expectation, but I was devastated nevertheless. I did not know then what I know now: most men are more task-oriented than relationship-oriented. They like working on and finishing their projects. Once a man has a wife (and children), he assumes he can focus on his career so to achieve and become a good provider. He also wants to have time for his friends, hobbies and sports.

But I married James because I like Quality time! With unrealistic expectations, I felt disappointed and hurt. To protect myself, I ended up demanding, arguing and criticizing. I was focusing on my needs so I did not know he wanted to be loved just the way he was. We both missed our good old days before our honeymoon was over. When our interactions were negative, we did not feel loved, and expected the other person to change. Before long, we thought and acted destructively, and our relationship went on a downward spiral with unhealthy patterns. We had no solution until we experienced Salvation and understood God’s unconditional love and acceptance.

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a KJV)

Now back to my granddaughter. I attribute our emotional bond to the time we spent together. I visited her almost once a week even though I had to drive two hours round trip. When she was 18 months old, she left for Africa with her parents, but we remained connected by keeping almost weekly contact via Skype the next three years. When she came back, it is like she never left.

On Chinese New Year, our son was out-of-town attending a conference. After church, we went to his in-law’s house to pick up his wife and kids for San Francisco. Our daughter-in-law wanted to drive. My granddaughter climbed into her carseat in the back row of the van. She patted the space next to her and said, “Nainai, here, come sit with me!”

While she handed me a bunch of plastic flowers saying “It’s for you, Nainai” with a big smile, her Mama explained, “Yesterday she wanted to buy these flowers for you instead of getting stickers for herself.” She made my day!

Although our two-years-old grandson was a little fussy, he settled down when James sat next to him in the middle row. (I guessed he liked Yeye better.) I focused on playing with our granddaughter. Before we knew it, we were there. As James and I thanked our daughter-in-law for driving, she thanked us for playing with her kids so that she could enjoy driving!

In the evening, we went to a Chinese restaurant. After getting off the van, I asked in a playful tone, “Who wants to hold Nainai’s hands?”

As expected, our granddaughter said “Me! Me!” But then I heard James said “Wait” so I stopped and turned around. I was pleasantly surprised when our grandson reached out and held my hand. AsYeye held his other hand, the four of us walked through the parking lot holding hands. By the way, physical touch is my secondary love language.

I so treasured that walk. You see, our grandson left the United States when he was merely one month old. I missed him so much. When he returned 11 months later, he already weighed 25 pounds and was no longer a baby. I delighted in watching him crawl, stand, and later climb up the four steps from our living room to the bedroom level. He could not walk downstairs so he learned to turn around facing the steps and crawl backward down. So cute!

Then they left again and we watched him grow via Skype. He was active and had short attention span. I sometimes wondered whether he even recognized us. Gradually, he uttered sounds like “Nainai” and I was happy even though he was just repeating what his parents or sister said. In the last few months, they prompted him to blow kisses, say “wab-yu” (his version of “love you”), wave his hands, and say “bye bye.”

By comparison, his big sister was able to sit still and converse over the Internet. We even sang and played the “Knock Knock -- Who’s there?” game. Sometimes I told her bedtime stories while her Mama was putting little brother to bed. When I turned the page, I put the book close to the web camera so that she could see the illustration. A few months ago, she started to tell me stories.

I discovered many other developments with our grandson. One afternoon, he called out, “Nainai, Nainai” on his own as he followed me into my bedroom. Later, when his Baba moved an empty toy box into the room, he ran to it, pushed the cover off, and climbed in head first. I applauded and he was proud. For the next few minutes, he alternately stretched himself out and curled up in delight. He turned his face so that sometimes he saw me and sometimes he didn’t. I got down to the floor and hid from his sight, peek-a-booing through openings on the sides of the boxes. He was laughing and giggling.

Yet another time, I held his hand when he walked four steps down from the bedroom level into the living room. I exclaimed, “Wow! Look at you. You can walk downstairs now!” At that, he let go of my hand, turned around, and swiftly walked up the steps by himself. Before I knew it, he was jumping down, one step at a time. I wish you could see the confident grin on his face!

Since they moved back into the house, I get to see him everyday. He still prefers his Mama. However, more often than not, whenever I start playing with his big sister, he joins us. One night, his sister wanted to play family. After some time, she wanted to drive her kids to school. So I set up our imaginary car with four chairs. She told us to get in and put on our seat belts, then she started to drive. After school, she said, “Now Nainai drive, but don’t forget your seat belt.” We took turn driving around town. Before long, her brother caught on and wanted to drive too. So we let him, and he really really loved driving.

There are too many stories to tell but I have to share our newest milestones. Three days ago, I was sitting in the living room by myself when he came to me. “Bok, bok” he said, pointed at another book that I have read to his Big Sister.

“Do you want Nainai to read you a book?”

He nodded, climbed up the sofa, and sat next to me. So I read and got him involved with the story. The next day, as I was going into my studio, he followed me on his own and stretched out his arm. I turned around and got down to his level so he could hug me. Suddenly he said, “NaiNai Wab-yu” and kissed me on my chin. I am so in love!

My mom died of heart failure when she was 48. She never saw my husband and son. Life is short. I am so grateful that I have a second chance with my family.

How about you? Are you enjoying your family? Do you have issues with someone due to unmet expectations or unrecognized differences? Have you tried loving and accepting them just the way they are? I know it is not easy. Write if you want me to pray for you.

If you understand Mandarin, please join me at BASS Church Workers Convention when I present two workshops on Saturday, March 9th, 2013:

1. “Making Your Good Marriage Great” in Rm N10 at 2:15 to 3:30 p.m.
2. “Parenting American-Born Chinese” in Rm N10 at 3:45 to 5:00 p.m.

Visit for more information on general sessions and workshops on March 7th to 9th (Thursday to Saturday) in Castro Valley. See you there!

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Winnis Chiang, founder of, is a relationship coach and licensed marriage & family therapist. She specializes in helping Mandarin and Cantonese speaking high-tech Christian parents to get along with, enjoy, equip and influence their American born Chinese children.