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Theme of Parent-Child Relationships in Thi Bui's Memoir ‘The Best We Could Do’: Critical Essay

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There are lots of people who cannot have strong relationships with their parents. Some would call others lucky to be able to have the opportunity to connect with their parents. Thi Bui gives information for us to recognize that not every relationship with a family will always be pure. My family constantly talks about their childhood memories up until their life now. Although I wasn’t around for a majority of what they went through, the repetition of the stories is something I can relate to. As my family brings up old events, I’m able to follow along with things they talk about, and I can connect with them over something so small. Bui journeys through her life allowing her readers to discover how other people from different backgrounds get along with their parents. Sometimes the words and images in ‘The Best We Could Do’ work together to give a visual understanding. The author, Thi Bui, goes back in the past throughout her life and relates everything to her parents and their struggles, which expresses the theme of relationships between parents and children. These relationships are a mixture of love, curiosity, sadness, etc.

The author's life was never perfect, nor was the bond she had with her parents. Thi and her mother would bicker back and forth as any other child would with their parent. She explained that her mother never really expressed any form of emotion to her. Thi wanted to talk to Hernandez 2 about more important things, but her mother didn’t look like that type of person. Thi says, “I suppose for my mother, ‘I love you’ sticks in the throat” (Bui, 38). Her mother seems to be prideful and does not want to show her daughter too much affection because it may make her look weak to the family, but she uses other ways of showing her love which can also lead to her children becoming annoyed. Some of the author’s actions and words are similar to her mother's, “I suppose I don’t say ‘I love you’ either” (Bui, 38). In this image, there’re some sarcastic words from Thi when she asks about the rice. The author and her mother look as if they become annoyed with one another when something doesn’t go their way (Bui, 38). A child should never have to struggle to love a parent because all of that should come naturally between the two at birth and when they grow older as long as everybody is doing the right thing towards one another. That wasn’t something Bui was able to do growing up making her feel disconnected from them. “Have our parents ever looked at us and felt slightly disappointed?” (Bui, 58). No matter what, every child wants to make their parents proud of them in all that they do. If someone hears another person say they’re disappointed in the specific individual, especially coming from your parents, that will most likely hurt them mentally and physically. That person will think they were not able to please the other and can bring them down drastically. As much as a child doesn’t connect with their parent, they are not aware of past events in the parents’ lives that will not allow them to get close to their children, and have a hard time expressing those experiences with them. As young as Thi was, she knew that her connections with her parents should’ve been different from what they actually were.

Parents do their best to not let any bad memories from the past get in the way of their life. Although they may have witnessed some traumatic experiences, it’s still hard to just open up and tell somebody what exactly happened. Thi wanted to know more about her father and what turned him into the person he is today. It took her time to come up with the proper things to ask him so she would be able to gather all the information she could. A parent always wants their child to have a better life than they did when they were growing up. Bui describes that certain parts of her father's life were rough, and each part somehow tied everything together: “Each of Bô’s stories about childhood has a different shape but the same ending” (Bui, 100). Looking at a parent’s relationship with their parent can give an individual an idea of how they treat their kids. Bô didn’t have the world's greatest relationship with his father. His mother, on the other hand, showed a sense of compassion to her son. Children should not have to witness any type of abuse in their household growing up. Bô showed more sympathy for his mother because she would go the extra mile to do anything for him. His father would lash out at his mother and Bô: “One night Bô watched as his father beat his mother badly and threw her out” (Bui, 110). All of the horrifying conditions Thi’s father was put through are what made him become the ‘heartless’ person he is. The tears in Bô’s eyes show a look of sadness and heartache because due to the actions of his father, Bô never sees his mother anymore (Bui, 110). Those small events can lead to why Bô’s connections with his children aren’t so great. Thi noticed that when Bô opened up about his life stories, he was just as weak and scared as she was in some parts of her life: “I had no idea that the terror I felt was only the long shadow of his own” (Bui, 129). Even if her father showed no type of remorse, there were parts of his life that made him grow his tough skin. The darkness of her father's shadow paints a picture that there’s always going to be a dark past behind some people, and Thi wasn’t really aware of what real terror felt like (Bui, 129). Parents can bump heads with their children every single day, but there will always be a time in someone’s life when they decide to open up and just talk which can improve relationships. Although Thi and her parents didn’t communicate that well, she was able to get a few words out of them and carry small talk during the time they spent together.

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Thi would sit and talk to Má about what her life used to be like back then when she was growing up to help her figure out missing pieces to her curiosity. There is only so much a parent could discuss with their children before they begin to ask too many questions. Thi wanted to be serious with her mother, but her mother wanted to discuss other matters: “Má, always the practical one, would rather we laughed more or went shopping together” (Bui, 37). As Thi talks to her mother, the picture of the boat in the ocean shows that there was a journey they went on to get somewhere. Sometimes repeating stories over and over again may tire a person out due to how many times it’s been said. Thi grew anxious in wanting to learn more about her Má’s past life, but had trouble getting certain parts out: “Maybe Má felt judgment coming from me, or maybe she felt uncomfortable talking to our family about her former life” (Bui, 136). Thi’s mother opens up more to her son-in-law, Travis, because she may have a sense of knowing that she won’t be criticized for specific things she said or did. By observing Thi’s actions and facial expression, she seems to be uninvolved in the conversation with her mom and husband. That can make a child feel distant from their parent, making them think there’s no trust in the relationship they have together. Parents tend to unload a lot of components of their life to others, rather than their own family and children.

A parent should never be ashamed to answer any questions their own children have, because if those events would not occur, everyone’s life could be better or worse. For example, Má’s focus was on her education when she was younger, but things changed and she got married. In comfortable topics and situations, parents should take the time to sit down with their children and open up to create a sturdy foundation of communication. The way the author interviews her parents gives her the ability to see them think about things that stand out to them. Thi reflects on her life and what she and her family went through to earn the lives they have: “I keep looking through the past… tracing our journey in reverse… over the ocean through the war seeking an origin story that will set everything right” (Bui, 39-41). Thi stands out in this image due to the darker shades. There’s more attention on her and how she pounders off into the distance in deep thought. As Thi collects bits and pieces of her parents and their history, she comes to see that they lived opposite lives yet they ended up in the same place: “Their worlds were so different. How did they even meet?” (Bui, 151). Comparing who they were then to who they are now made Thi wonder what made them come together. With that, she can connect to each of her parents. All of the communication and listening shows her parents she really cares about them. It makes it less stressful to get her parents to speak up and talk about good eventful stories. Each segment of the events had various parts of the world during separate periods that tied it all together.

Every family in the world is different. It can be based on background, religion, etc., but in the end, your parents or guardian will always be there for you, no matter how far you stray away. The love between a parent and child will continue to grow if there’s effort put in, no matter how hard it is to get across to the parent. A child can understand the actions and emotions of their parent through all of the challenges and sacrifices they make to keep them happy even if they aren’t considered ‘perfect’. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, but there are many ways to be able to build a strong bond so nobody will feel alone. Thi tried to connect with her parents through the storytelling of past experiences. Everyone should always have someone to turn to in times of need, and it doesn’t always have to be a family member. Being able to hear stories about your parents’ lives is just a simple step to connecting better with them. Every parent wants what’s best for their own children. A parent wants to have the chance to give their kids a better life compared to what they had. Thi was able to learn new things which made her feel sympathy for her parents. The lessons learned in ‘The Best We Could Do’ are that there will always be struggles, no matter who you are or where you came from. Thi’s relationship with her parents wasn’t always the best. As she got older, her knowledge and wisdom expanded, which made her want to get a better understanding of who her family really is. Keeping stories in a family is a good thing, whether it is good or bad. They can be passed down from generation to generation to keep their spirit alive. Memories are things we should share amongst others to keep the history going, whereas Thi had to dig for information that she wanted to know. The story is a good example of what happens when a family opens up about what steps they had to take to live the life they are living.

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Theme of Parent-Child Relationships in Thi Bui’s Memoir ‘The Best We Could Do’: Critical Essay. (2023, October 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
“Theme of Parent-Child Relationships in Thi Bui’s Memoir ‘The Best We Could Do’: Critical Essay.” Edubirdie, 11 Oct. 2023,
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Theme of Parent-Child Relationships in Thi Bui’s Memoir ‘The Best We Could Do’: Critical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 11 [cited 2024 Feb 24]. Available from:
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