When a controlling mother finds that her rebellious son wants to free himself from her clutches and start his own life, what happens? Well, she might just lose it and swallow him.
This happened in Bao, the Chinese-centric film that claimed Best Animated Short at the 91st Oscar Awards. Directed by China-born Canadian director Domee Shi, Bao tells the story of a Chinese steamed bun, or baozi, that comes to life and cries like a baby just before a woman is about to eat it. The lonely Chinese housewife, whose husband is always busy with work, regards the baby baozi as her surrogate son. As time passes, it grows up and decides to leave home with its blonde girlfriend. That’s exactly when the controlling mom gobbles it up whole out of frustration.
It might read benign but is disturbing to watch on screen. The short film actually reflects the condition of the director herself and of most Chinese families.
In China, “widow-style childcare” describes many Chinese mothers’ denouement in recent years. The term describes a bitter social reality: Once the child is born, the father disappears. He would work, drink all night, or do anything except help his wife take care of their child. As a result, the mother would throw herself completely into raising the child, without having a life of her own. She needs to know where her child is every moment, what he or she is doing whenever possible – even if the child has attained adulthood. She can be bossy, anxious and seemingly unreasonable. She represents many Chinese mothers of today.
Believe me, such an unnatural relationship can harm both mother and child. When one grows up, he or she may find it difficult to integrate into society. As for the mother, she would feel lonely as long as her child is not around, which may lead to depression and other psychological problems.
Then what is the best model for mothers and children to get along? I’d proudly introduce my mom. When I was a child, she cared for my safety, studies and daily life like every other mother. But her love wouldn’t suffocate me. After I grew up and went to college, she wouldn’t meddle in my life – because she had already taught me to distinguish good from bad. I don’t need to worry about her either as she has her own life – Loves yoga, cooking, and even started to learn English when she was 40. Now she hangs out with her foreign friends from time to time just like teenagers.
I believe this is a healthy mother-child relationship – as the two are independent individuals. Indeed, the mother needs to take care of her child. But instead of providing the fish, it is more important to teach one how to fish. Thus when the child grows up, both have their own life, and do not turn into each other’s accessories. A mother is not supposed to control her child for life. By doing so, she would only be pushing her son or daughter away from her because nobody wants to live in a prison made of love.
But the film has a happy ending. The woman finds that it was only a nightmare. I do hope that all mothers who lean too heavily on their children wake up from this dream, so that they would live happily ever after.