Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Family


My mother and I in 1989.

Every year since I my move to California, I've returned at least once to visit my family.  This year, I returned in December, both looking forward to it and a bit anxious.  If you ask children who've grown up in traditionally authoritarian Chinese households about their relationship with their parents, they'll tell you, "It's complicated."  Our culture is one that spares no harsh truths or criticisms, all for the love and betterment of their progeny.  As an adult, I've found this conflicting to navigate.  I feel both antagonized by words while simultaneously loved because my parents wouldn't expend this energy on anyone else.  In a sense, I was bracing myself for criticism and what I perceive as intrusive questions on school, marital status, and future plans.

The reality was different.

When I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to move out, away from rules and regulations.  Now, it gets harder for me to leave with each visit.  Maybe it's because I know the struggles my loved ones face and the time I spend worrying about them when I am away in California.  Maybe it's because I've been noticing how far and few people exist in this world who truly care for my well-being.  When I was a child, I saw my parents as infallible, and now each return is bittersweet as I note their aging and the passage of time.  In a reversal of roles, I wish I had the resources to go back and take care of them as they did me growing up.

When our family came together collectively for my brother this December, a switch went off in me.  As trying as it can be to deal with criticism/pestering/nagging from my parents, I have to accept that they do it because they care.  I put myself in their shoes and thought, "If your child was on the other side of the country and you were worried, what would you do? What could you do?"  For the first time, I exercised patience instead of exasperation at their "pestering" because we don't have the time for me to "not get along with my parents."
   
This year, I've gained a far deeper appreciation for my family.  When my parents and I came to this country as first generation immigrants, we didn't speak any English (my parents still don't to any level of fluency).  They have always worked hard jobs to support a family of three that became four.  (By the way, the next time someone complains about immigrants taking their jobs, email me. I'll be happy to tell you about the jobs they likely don't want to do).  All my parents' lives, they have worked physically demanding jobs, where they didn't have the luxury of contemplating fulfilling careers, job satisfaction, or hobbies.  We, the children, were their livelihood, and they gave everything to support us while obtaining citizenship so we could have better lives.  They sacrificed so much so that we could have the privileges that they didn't.  They were (and still are) selfless.  In stark contrast, my annoyance at them just being parents seems trivial and incredibly selfish.

My parents gave up a lot for us so I think I can spare time to call home more often, to check in.  I can exercise patience when they "nag."  I can take the spotlight off myself for one second and focus it outward because not Every. Dang. Thing. is about me.  Mostly, I want to spend more time appreciating and honoring them.  It is the least I can do.

13 comments :

  1. Lovely post Alyse, a lot of this resonates with me too! Especially as I'm on my way to becoming a parent too. I feel like I'm finally starting to understand my parents and why they brought us up the way they did, and as bad as it sounds I'm only now appreciating everything they've done for me. It's taken time but I'm glad to finally make that connection, as you have. Does this mean we're adults now?! ;) xx

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  2. This post rings so true for me. When I think back to my parents, they emigrated to Australia with little to no understanding of English at my age! And it would have been immensely harder for them then than it would be for me now if I was to do the same due to technology and internet.


    Nat // Dignifiable

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  3. Starting off 2017 with a great reflection post, A! I can relate to a lot of this too, and my childhood was very similar too. I remember growing up and eventually moving to UK (by my own) was largely due to the support of what my family gave and it's such a big sacrifice, especially when my mum told me in her household of 7 when she was younger she let go the opportunity of going to university to her younger brother. I can definitely see that as I get older, I feel a much deeper understanding to what everyone around me has given up in order for me to lead the life I have today!

    Cherie ✽ sinonym

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  4. This post resonates so much with me, and I'm sure my siblings too. We discussed this the other day when out for dim sum with my Mama, that for all the moaning we do about the rules at home, we're incredibly privileged to have the lives that we do here in England. I look back at the lives my parents have lived thus far and almost every decision and 'career choice' has been to ensure that our livelihood is 1000 times better than theirs at our age. I struggle a lot daily with realising that I could move out soon (YAY, finally beating that UK housing deficit!) but also realising that that'd cut down on a lot of parent time.

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  5. This is such a lovely post. Family is so important and sometimes we do have to just stay silent and try to understand that parents only want the best for their children. As a kid I was very angry and disatisfied with the fact that my parents were super strict with me. While others could stay outdoors till 9pm, I only could till 8pm. They always wanted me to get grades higher than 8 and it made me furious. But now I understand that they wanted me to do better in life and get better opportunities and for that I'm thankful.

    -Leta | The Nerdy Me

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  6. This was a lovely read, and an interesting insight. I think better understanding parents and what they've done for their family is a natural part of getting older. I've definitely had similar thoughts, though our parents have not experienced all of the same circumstances. Your parents sound lovely though, and it's nice that you can appreciate them now.

    Amber | y a c h t s m a a n

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  7. Complicated is definitely the right way to explain it. I still live with my parents and I feel like I take them for granted because of that. There are definitely moments where I'm impatient or disrespectful and forget about the sacrifices they've made for me.

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  8. Being of Filipino/Chinese descent, I too have a complicated relationship with my parents. I'm moving out soon and this almost makes me just want to stay home.

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  9. this is very very good, alyse. i can definitely relate to that feeling of having to brace myself on 101 questions whenever i do house visit. it's been four years of living separated from my parents and i still thinking on living together again. try to love them a little more and voice it out. i make sure they know that i keep them in my prayers daily.

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  10. I can totally relate. I was raised by a single mother with 4 kids (me included) and it was hard for my Mom. She came to Canada for a better life for us. I remember her sending letters to us all the time and sending packages (toys, chocolates, etc) every Christmas! I can't imagine ever matching what my Mom sacrificed for me and my sisters.

    I took it all for granted when I was younger but now I am finally appreciating it all. My Mom's hard work and determination to have all of us live in Canada. To have her family complete.

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  11. Really appreciate this little insight into your family life. You're a wonderful person and I think your parents must be too <3

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  12. It's really humbling to really just sit down and appreciate what our parents went through to provide for our families and education. I, like you, have often been annoyed with the nagging and criticism and all the complications that comes with being Asian-American. But when I think back about how difficult it must have been to move to the States not even being fluent in the language, I can't help but admire the strength and tenacity and the incredible amount of love that must have fueled our parents generation. I love that you shared about your family and thank you for starting this wonderful discussion <3

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  13. This is such a touching post. As someone who grew up in the Philippines, where parents can be similarly overbearing, I feel you. And yes, their nagging comes from a place of concern. I only recently appreciated that as well.
    Ela | www.stealingyoursunbeams.wordpress.com

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