It was nice having my sister’s family over. Nat, aged 9 and Pat, aged 5, added much joy in the quiet house and provided companionship to my brother’s almost-two-year-old son, Seb, who is often in the company of at least three women fussing over him daily. I fear he may forget that he is a boy.
Seb is already speaking in sentences but he is often confused with the pronounce. When he wants his Granny to feed him, he’ll say, ‘I want Ah Mah to feed him,’ or sometimes, he’ll say ‘I want Ah Mah to feed you.’ Once, I bought him ice-cream, and asked him to repeat ‘Da Gu, I love you’ to me before I give him a lick. He told me, ‘Da Gu, I love ME!’
Yep, he calls me 大姑 Da Gu(Elder Paternal Aunt) , as his parents want him to address all the relatives in proper Chinese terms. So when my sister arrived, Seb was taught to call her 小姑Xiao Gu (Little Paternal Aunt) which I disagreed. My sister is still older than his father and should not be addressed as Xiao (Little), instead she should be called 二姑Er Gu (Second Paternal Aunt.) My sister protested, ‘Makes me sound like a 三姑 六婆San Gu Liu Bo (busybody).’
The other day, Nat started calling me 大姑 as well. I smiled and told her she can’t call me that. She must call me 大姨. She looked at me, confused. Seb, imitating his cousins, started calling his 二姑 ‘Mummy’ and his parents as ‘ Wei wei and Uncle Min.’
My kids call everyone Uncles and Aunties, something I regret but how to teach them when I myself am not sure how to properly address the elder relatives. Add to that confusion, wait until you have to do it in Teochew. I can never remember the terms and must always ask Mike how to call his relatives.
While in China visiting my father-in-law’s home town last year, Mike’s Uncle’s wife, in a teasing note, ask her grandchildren to address me as ‘Toa Kim’大婶 in Teochew, I don’t know about that but it made me sound old and important.
So don’t complaint if you are called Uncle, or Auntie, it could be worse.