1,000 Families Project: Friends Tiffany, Winnie, Allyson and Madina

For Tiffany, a student raised under the cloud of China’s one-child policy in a culture that favoured boys, family now means a tightly knit group of friends.

Being born in China with the whole one-child rule, and a mom who’s been through a rough childhood due to favouritism of the son, I went through the exact same. I have a twin brother. At birth, my mom didn’t want to keep me, but my dad did. My brother got all the essentials a baby needed, such as breast milk and a loving mother. I, on the other hand was hand fed cow milk by my grandmother every night when she got home from work. Eventually, my dad’s mom (my grandma) picked me up and I moved to Hong Kong for two years. Meanwhile my brother, mom and dad moved to Canada. At three years old, I also immigrated to Canada and reunited with my family. However, to my memory, my parents had already been divorced. I had no problem living without a mother figure though since she never actually took care of me as her daughter. I treated my grandma as my mother figure, and so our relationship grew much stronger with the years to come. In our household, it then became my dad, step-mom, brother, grandma and grandpa. My mom lived pretty nearby too, so it wasn’t a problem for my brother to see her once in a while.

I remember my elementary school days were very peaceful. My brother and I were really close, we talked and shared about everything. Even our clothes matched just like typical twins. However, as we grew up, we also slowly grew apart. Our personalities are almost polar opposite. We also had many huge arguments in which no one wanted to apologize, and so we left it at that because even my dad couldn’t reconcile us.

In high school, my mom finally made enough money to buy her own condo. She exclusively invited my brother to move out and live with her. At that point, I truly gave up trying to let her in my life. I remember sometimes when she dropped my brother off, she would talk to me and I would be so happy. But I no longer cared, or wanted her to do anything with my life. I stayed living with my dad. My brother and I attended separate high schools, so we really lost our connection except for those weekly dinners with dad. However, they were so awkward as no one really talked. To this day my relationship with my dad isn’t the best; we don’t really have anything in common. However, he is still my dad and the one who wanted to keep me, so I really do care for him.

In 2011, when I was in grade 11, we found out my grandma had cancer. She fought long and hard, changing her diet, doing more exercise, moving to Hong Kong, and seeing doctor after doctor. After a tough three years, she passed away. It was May 16, 2014. I was working at my summer job when I got a text from my aunt with the news from my aunt. I dropped everything, ran to the washroom and cried my eyes out. I immediately told my boss I could not complete any of my work in that condition. I regretted not flying to Hong Kong to visit her earlier when my aunt said her condition had gotten worse. It was because I wanted to take summer school at the time. My dad immediately booked our plane tickets to Hong Kong for her funeral. Of course, I cried and cried at the funeral and every day thereafter. It’s definitely a heartbreaking feeling losing someone you love so much, especially because she had done so much for me in my 20 years of life.

When we got back to Canada, my relationship with my dad got worse. I learned how to talk back to him when I got annoyed with his questions. One night, we got into such a huge argument, he kicked me out of the house at 2 a.m. I ran crying to my aunt and cousin that lived here, and they let me stay with them. Although my dad and I made up after many more arguments and forced compromises, he has never let me back home since.When I go back to my hometown, I stay at my cousins’ house. I see and talk to my dad once in a while, and I do wish to strengthen our relationship in the coming years.

I’m in my fourth and final year of university now. I’ve been living with a few roommates in the city where I go to school. My whole family situation has yet to become stable, so I treat my friends as my second family, especially when I feel sad. I feel like I can express myself best to them, whether it be my deepest, darkest secrets or just something I found interesting. With them I can truly be myself. Even though I’ve only met my current close friends for a little over a year, I feel as though they are my family because they’re always there for me. I hope our relationships will stay like this for many years to come.

This is #1000families post number 181. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.
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Tiffany Lam

About Tiffany Lam

Tiffany is currently studying in University of Toronto for Digital Enterprise Management and is hoping to pursue a career in marketing. View all posts by