Ever heard the phrase, “You choose your friends but not your family?”
For years, I thought I needed to get along with my parents, that I needed to constantly strive for their acceptance and approval. I idolized my relationship with them, thinking our interactions didn’t always have to end up with disappointment or hurt feelings.
However, I’ve come to terms that I don’t have to like them but I can still love them. I can learn to accept them for who they are.
To be honest, my parents are limited in their desire to learn and grow. They are human, an older human than me. They’ve had more time on earth, doing the same things, getting the same results.
Therefore, they are more set in their ways and their minds are more closed off than mine. Depending on their level of emotional intelligence and their ability to connect with me, I absolutely cannot control and/or change who they are.
When I had to accept my dad for who he is.
At 39 weeks pregnant, I submitted the final manuscript to the publisher. I wanted to do this before giving birth because I knew I would have zero time to do anything once the whole breastfeeding, motherhood, sleep deprivation, loss of independence kicked in.
I was incredibly proud of myself for fulfilling this commitment and I wanted to share this moment with my parents.
I nonchalantly tell them,
“I wrote a book chapter and it’s going to be published next year.”
My mom glances at me with a slight smile,
“That’s great. How much money do you make from that?”
I roll my eyes and scoff. Hey, at least she said it’s great.
My dad says flatly,
“Your oldest sister (his golden doctor child), writes. Didn’t she write a book? I wonder if that got published? She’s a great writer.”
My mom gives me an empathetic look and then a look of disappointment at my dad.
Tears begin to well up in my eyes and pregnancy hormones intensify; however, using my 30 years of being told “not to cry”, those drops of invalidation dry up.
I then go into my vulnerability and courage cycle. I self-reflect and make a decision to either let it go or pursue a further understanding of my dad. I pursue. I courageously tell him,
“Dad, it’s not easy for me to share this with you; however, I was trying to tell you about my achievement and how I was able to this even though I’m about to burst. I wanted you to acknowledge my work. It hurt my feelings when you immediately brought up my sister’s accolades.”
I nervously wait for his response but I’m also hopeful. I’m thinking maybe this will get through to him.
Maybe this will make him stop comparing his daughters?
Maybe he will change since I’m being vulnerable with him?
Maybe he will actually empathize with me and see it from my perspective?
His face changes from being confused to being defensive. He retorts,
“What’s wrong with talking about your sister? Aren’t we talking about writing? I merely brought her up because she also writes.”
I give up. I had used up all my courage resources for the day. I waddle home to lick my wounds.
I might try to bring it up with him again one day but for now, I’m sharing this story with the world, hoping it empowers you to accept your parents for the way they are.
As an Asian, much of my values are family-based, respecting my elders and supporting one another no matter what. Asians don’t let one of us fall through the cracks. We stick to each other like little grains of sushi rice.
So as much as we want to just say,
“Fuck it. I’m done with my parents. I’m moving out/running away from home and never looking back (離家出走).”
We can’t and we don’t because we have a deep-rooted sense of responsibility and a duty to take care of them, especially when they get older.
So we need to learn when to accept them for who they are or else that responsibility we have for them becomes a burden.
And then the burden becomes resentment which then brews in our guts and becomes cancer. Then we might just die earlier than our parents, defeating the whole purpose of taking care of them in the first place.
So Readers, what does accepting someone for who they are mean to you? Do you think you can accept your parents, recognizing their limitations and changing your expectations when they’re not met?