This morning, Shu Mei told me that there would be “a party” tonight. She said that Julie and her husband were coming for dinner, with her husband coming early to cook it. He enjoys cooking for others.
He showed up a little past noon. Tyley had just finished eating, and Billy was still sitting in front of a plate full of food. I went to the computer room, to continue working on the wall paneling. A few moments later, I heard Billy screaming in pain. I went to the front room, and there he was, sitting on the couch clutching his finger. Shu Mei was towering above him with a look of anger on her face. I approached Billy and saw that his finger was bleeding and then noticed the testing apparatus in Shu Mei’s hand. “You did it again?” I asked incredulously. “Yes,” She responded, “He wasn’t eating!” I went to aid Billy and said, “Shu Mei, that’s just not right.” “He wasn’t eating!” She repeated, “Don’t worry; he won’t die.” I couldn’t believe she thought to make Billy bleed would be a good form of punishment. I wondered what else she would find justified. “What about cutting his finger off?” I asked her, “He wouldn’t die from that. Are you gonna cut his finger off if this doesn’t work?” “Maybe!” She replied. I honestly don’t know if she was being facetious about that answer or not, given her past actions.
I went and got Julie’s husband out of the kitchen, to ask him if this is how parents treat their children here in Taiwan. I learned that he doesn’t understand as much English as he had pretended to during past encounters. After trying to explain to him the situation, all I could get from him was a nervous laugh. So, I sent him back to preparing the dinner. Seeing what I had done, Shu Mei asked, “Are you going to kick him out now, too?” She was making a weak attempt at connecting this situation with the situation from a week ago when I asked her family to leave after an experience that involved them directly. At this point, I knew Shu Mei was attempting to deflect and avoid the issue altogether. So, I dropped it and returned to the computer room, this time to look up information about what to do when a child doesn’t eat fast enough. For me, it’s not a big deal. As far as I’m concerned, Billy can take all day to eat his meals. As long as he’s not eating junk food, I think he’ll be alright.
Having found several websites from experts in the field of child psychology, I asked Shu Mei to come to the computer room. At first, she was reluctant, but then she finally came in after my persistence. On the websites, she saw that the experts were saying precisely what I was. They also added that punishing a child for not eating or eating slowly potentially encourages that child to continue the behavior in the future because s/he is getting attention from it. Negative attention is still attention to children. And, Shu Mei isn’t known for giving a lot of positive attention. So, Billy may just be eating slowly because he knows that she will give him attention when he does that.
This evening, not only did Julie come to our house, but the Li family came, too. It was an enjoyable night. The food was passable. I ate enough of it to where nobody questioned me liking it or not. Then, I politely left them to their conversation in Taiwanese and continued working on the computer room. I returned when they were eating ice cream. I didn’t want or eat any, but I wanted them to feel like I was hospitable. Later, I wished them all well as they returned home. After that, I returned to working in the computer room. Billy came in and asked if he could help, so I gave him some things to do. I tried to get him to go to bed in his own bed, but I didn’t press the issue as I could see he was terrified of being near Shu Mei. (Shu Mei has been sleeping in the boys’ room for about six months now.) So, I let him sleep with me.