parents and selfishness

it was at one of the camp kesem cabin chats; i forget the prompt, something about how we would define a good/ideal parent, and (one of the things that really stuck with me) was yeah yeah’s/sameer’s answer, which was “i would want to be a dad that my kid would feel comfortable telling me anything and wouldn’t feel the need to hide anything from me.” which, if you think that is what makes a good parent (which i do), how do you achieve that (which i think is an interesting question).

if my mom were to read the following…. well, she would be really hurt and think it’s totally inaccurate, first.  i don’t know.  but it is also honest and i think fair.  and i think that our relationship is pretty messed up and totally not sustainable and not particularly enjoyable for either party.  is this a really inappropriate piece?  really disrespectful/not appreciative?  anyway.  sometimes i speak in generalizations; i know of pretty messed up relationships with parents but that some/many people who also have absolutely incredible relationships with their parents.

this post is sort of a combination of a lot of things/thoughts; we’ll see how they work out.  somewhat inspired by a conversation i had with the high school friend over labor day weekend, where the relationship with her mom was dissolving at a breakneck pace basically because of some pretty serious systemic problems in their relationship that i also noted in my own relationship with my mom.  largely stemming from the issues that arise as parents and kids get older and the evolution of that relationship.

parents and kids – respect. stop treating me like a kid!! (okay, she treats me as an adult when it comes to things like computers and tech support.  not so much when it comes to bedtimes, studying, calling grandparents, following advice from email forwards/doing whatever the other asian kid in the community is doing.) it’s frustrating to be talked down to like i am a kid when i have an equal mental capacity and fully recognize the consequences of my actions.

one of my favorite parent/kid relationships is from easy a, my favorite movie of 2010.  the parents know something is up, and they care about their daughter, but they also know that she can handle her own problems and offer their advice as a peer and not from an authoritarian way.

dad: you know, none of this you’re saying is making me feel any better….
mom: not to mention how you’ve been dressing the last few days… no judgment, but you kind of look like a stripper.
olive: mom!!
d: a high end stripper.  for governors.  or athletes….  but stripper nonetheless.
o: oh my god, i’m just trying to mix it up a little… and i have no STD’s, i promise you!
d: wonderful, daughter of the year.  […]
m: honey, you’re kind of starting to worry us a little.  should we be kinda worried about you?
o: i don’t think so.
d: sure?…
o: yeah, i think so…  i got it all under control.
d: ….alright.  let’s bucket list this bitch!
m: the bucket list, the bucket list!!

like half dome; all my mom could say is that she really didn’t want me to do it because it was so dangerous.  but i have done the research, know what to avoid and why/how it was dangerous, taken the appropriate precautions, and was with a very experienced hiker.  but she would listen to none of it, that she still knew best, which is bs.  to believe that your decision making process is so much more superior to ours that you don’t even have to listen to us is ridiculous.

another anecdote that always stuck with me is nick, whose mom routinely asked nick to review her manuscript.  that is so cool, a mom who treats her son as her intellectual equal!  or at least someone who she can learn from.

counterpoint.  the counterpoint would be “but parents have so much more experience!” so… okay, even if i grant you “being wiser” and “better values”, i don’t believe that that is mutually exclusive with having a meaningful debate instead of just playing the parent card.  it is not the ultimate trump card!

parents and kids – let us live our own lives.  ultimately… we only have one life to live.  and i feel like i should live my life based on my own goals/criteria rather than yours.  i’m talking about careers, life partners, goals.  choosing dating over family dinners.  living with your mom.  being at your mom’s beck and call instead of…. enjoying your life.

counterpoint. now you’re just being selfish.  really, you’re not going to help out your mom when she needs it!?  you can’t give up 90% of your vacation days or two nights a week for family?!  不孝順的小孩 (a child with no filial piety, maybe THE WORST INSULT YOU CAN MAKE TO AN ASIAN CHILD.  half joking, half true)

tangentially related, but really nice video.  ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING IT IS A MCDONALDS COMMERCIAL.  REALLY, A MCDONALDS COMMERCIAL IS WHAT I’M GOING TO FIND MOST COMPELLING TODAY?

but parents who force their kids into counseling to try to make them straight/realize it’s a phase?  going to med school just because your mom thinks you need an MD? (both real stories)

btw, i actually found the above ad by researching “okrrrr” (which… i honestly still don’t really get, but still find hilarious), which led me to two absolutely fucking hilarious videos.

when he hangs up the phone!!   hilarious!!….

one of those “is this commercial featuring a black person real or a parody?  how can this be real!??!?!?!” videos.  [UPDATE: okay, shocantelle is actually a white girl and it is meant to be a joke.  which just makes this video that much more offensive/awesome]

parents and kids – distance.  this is a slight tangent to the above, but… part of me definitely still feels guilty for being ACROSS THE COUNTRY from my mom. that my mom can’t swing by.  that i can’t help my mom install camera drivers on her computer.  that the burden of dealing with my mom’s insanity usually falls on my sister’s (and sometimes my sister’s husband’s) shoulders.  that i can’t drive my mom to the hospital, like sean s.

people ask me whether i will stay out in SF long term.  my response is usually that… eventually, it would be nice to go back and be with my sister and help out my mom, but… i believe that the possibility of meeting someone/the LOML is just… a gazillion times higher here than in atlanta.  so… i have to stay here, right?

my mom has never guilt tripped me/disapproved of me going to school/working in california, which i am thankful for.  though i do have to say it was really awkward/sad when she was sharing a story about about a hs friend’s parents who were really upset that he was moving to new england to be with his wife and in laws.  that the parents had “lost” their son; they begged him and found him and his wife a job in atlanta, but he still left.  and the parents were devastated.  ugh.

counterpoint. despite me feeling bad that my sister has to deal with it, my sister can still for the most part handle my mom and her needs.  AND MY SISTER IS MARRIED, ugh.  i have my own crap to deal with.  when my mom starts getting sick, will figure out what to do then….

relationship imbalance.  some of my friends ended up doing the dashboard, and what i found sort of interesting was that NOBODY LISTED FAMILY AS MORE THAN 5% with respect to what was important.  sometimes i talk to my mom and she’s giving me grief or whatever, and i’m trying to be like “DUDE, DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW NOT IMPORTANT THIS IS TO ME?!?!  DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW LITTLE I WANT TO LISTEN TO YOU RIGHT NOW!??!”

yup, going to hell.

okay, but seriously, god, there was a time when it was really important to do what you said and keep you happy and satisfied… but that’s over!  it’s over!!  there are other things going on in my life right now.

counterpoint. can hear it right now: “do you know all the things i have done for you!??!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!”

parents and kids – engagement.  true engagement, like them really trying to understand why i want to do tough mudder or how i really feel about my job or why i love a tv show or why i really don’t care about studying right now.  i always get the impression that my interests are silly, not worth understanding.  like i feel like the relationship could get so much better if you just showed more interest!

counterpoint.  parents try, kids just don’t share.  this is part of it, sure.

martyrdom complex. the curse of a parent is that they must suffer for doing the right thing.  that they should always choose being the villain/starting nuclear war as long as there is a 0.00001% chance of what they believe is a positive impact on their kid’s life.  making children “do right thing” often involves: 1) forcing your kid to do something they really, really don’t want to do, and 2) nagging.

i think this is a completely unhealthy view of parenting as kids mature.  like you can make the argument that it’s important when kids are young, sure.  but as adults, we’re going to do things that you don’t agree with, that frankly is the right decision.  and you should stop being a bitch about it.  why can’t you make a transition from “parent” to “friend”?!  don’t you want us to like you?!

(for the record, i think this generally dovetails well into the normal transition of a parent/overbearing mother to the perpetual victim/world is out to get me phase.)

counterpoint. my mom’s other favorite line: “you’ll understand when you become a father”

TO BE CLEAR.  i know i just came across as a little shit and a terrible son; i want to state for the record that:

  • my parents have done so much for me, and i am very grateful for the wealth of opportunities and support they have given me, and i will probably never be able to repay them for how much they have done for me in my lifetime
  • i am very thankful that financially we can afford to have separate, independent lives
  • i know that my mother’s expectations for me are not to be at her beck and call 24/7 and that she does want me to lead a happy, fulfilling life.  but again, her role is more so the parent than the friend
  • regardless of anything/everything, if/when my mom truly needs me for support (tech support doesn’t count), i will be there to provide the same support that she has provided me.
  • i really think it would be incredibly stupid not to recognize that there are problems or at least inefficiencies in our relationship that left not dealt with, could be disastrous.  first step is identifying problems and emoting, next step is mitigating/improving.  i do hope that my relationship with my mom gets better.

when are you allowed to be most selfish in life?  my answer would be “when you are a self-sustaining, single, young adult.” no financial restraints, no parents to appease, no teachers/schoolwork to dominate your weekends, being able to drink legally, not having a significant other (or a family!) to worry about, and having a job (but not needing to be excessively concerned about your career).

i used to be relatively disciplined about school/job/career related things, but it is safe to say that that has gone out the window in place of exercise (and…vanity) goals, starcraft/computer games, and just fucking enjoying myself.  trying things like dating.  dating boys!  whatever.  am i just justifying my irresponsible/inconsiderate/asshole behavior?

we’ll never be as young as we are tonight

i think the line could be taken in an emo/sad way, but … to me, it’s pretty carpe-diem liberating.  a nice little mantra. i want to make bad choices, i want to fucking sit in the middle of the street in the middle of the fucking night.  fuck you guys.

anyway.  here’s to finding a balance between the (unstoppable train of) hedonism/selfishness and the (increasingly frustrating and obsolete) family unit.

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2 thoughts on “parents and selfishness

  1. Sven says:

    Having had similar experiences with my dad, I find I agree with almost everything you say. Well put.

    -Sven

  2. phenothebest says:

    Enjoy your life James, hahaha, just occasionally that your mom won’t be as young as tonight as well. 🙂 haha, but I definitely agree it’s hard to strike a balance.

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