How I Found Peace in My Relationship with My Parents, Part 1: A Child’s Wish

This is part one of my series on parents and understanding our relationship with them.

  1. How I Found Peace in My Relationship with My Parents, Part 1: A Child’s Wish
  2. How I Found Peace in My Relationship with My Parents, Part 2: A Pervasive, Widening Gap
  3. How I Found Peace in My Relationship with My Parents, Part 3: Revelations and Happiness
  4. How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Parents: A Delicate Guide

Family love

Forenote

(Jul 12, ’11) – Some of you may have noticed that I’ve never written about my parents or my relationship with them. It’s not by intention; just that there’s never been a reason to write about it. That is, until recently, as I start gaining resolution in new areas of my life. Today’s post marks the first post where I share in detail about this as-of-yet unknown side of my life.

I foresee this to be the first in many posts to come where I share more of the inner sides of my life. With PE, I want to create a common, safe space where every single one of us is free to openly discuss about our vulnerabilities, our deepest desires, our fears, and our passions, without judgment or discernment by anyone. I want all of us not to be afraid to say what we’re feeling on the inside.

Where others may see the sharing of one’s emotions and desires as being weak and vulnerable, I see this as a strength, because it is from our emotions that we draw our greatest power in life. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. To show our emotions, to be vulnerable, to open ourselves fully, without holding back, is the most beautiful thing we can ever do. I think it is by bearing yourself that you progress in your growth and become a stronger person. The more you open yourself up, the more you’ll grow.

I look forward to connecting with more of you in this journey of life ahead. Here’s to an extremely exciting journey ahead. :)

How I Found Peace in My Relationship with My Parents

Have you ever wished for a certain kind of relationship with your parents? Say, a relationship where they are strong mentors to you? A relationship where they are like your friends, on top of just being parents? A relationship that is deeper and closer than what you have today?

A Child’s Wish — A Deep Wish

One of my deepest wishes for my parents for a long time was for them to be my best friends. That beyond them being parental figures to me, I could connect openly and emotionally with them, share all my deepest thoughts, fears and life passions, have meaningful discussions, and make decisions about my life together.

I think it took root from when I was growing up. Watching dramas and TV shows, Chinese and American ones alike, and witnessing the bonds the children had with their parents/family. Those really left me with a deep impression. I remember watching Chinese drama serials, and thinking it was so heartwarming how the families would have dinners together at the dinner table every day, update each other on what was going on in their lives, discuss things on their mind with one another, and laugh and bond over their meals.

I remember watching Buffy (the Vampire Slayer), one of my favorite shows when I was younger, and thinking how nice it was that Buffy and her mom (Joyce) could talk the way they did. For example, Buffy’s mom (who was divorced) could talk to Buffy about her (Joyce’s) romantic dates openly. Buffy could share her secrets with her mom, as well as let her in on her circle of friends. They would have conversations – actual conversations about each other’s life. On top of being a mother/daughter to each other, they were close friends too.

I remember watching Charmed, and thinking it was so sweet the Halliwell sisters never failed to support each other, physically and emotionally. Each of them could rely on the others to be there when needed. They could discuss about their relationship woes, life dilemmas, work problems, etc with each other. Not only were they sisters, they were also best friends too.

I remember watching participants on reality shows like American Idol, Singapore Idol, The Bachelor, The Apprentice and the like, and feeling in awe whenever they cut to scenes of participants with their family. You could see the participants and their parents talk openly with one another, hug each other and express signs of care and concern for one another.

Disparity between Vision and Reality

Yet for some reason, my relationship with my parents for the past 15 years of my life was not that all.

In fact, it was the direct opposite. Looking back, I would classify my relationship with my parents as more dysfunctional than anything, and pretty much irreparable.

While normal families would have conversations, we wouldn’t do that. We would talk, and no sooner start snapping, yelling or screaming at each other – sometimes even with expletives. Many times my mom, who has the more abrasive personality between my dad, would snipe at me with some sarcastic comment, while I’d respond by rolling my eyes. It seemed like there was some serious generation gap; some deep chasm; some pervasive gap between us that was impossible to bridge with words.

While normal families would talk to one another at least once a day, I could go for months without ever talking to my parents, because there was nothing, in my opinion, to be communicated. While normal families would have meals together at the dining table every evening, we wouldn’t do that. We would eat at different times, and where we see fit – usually the bedroom for me, the living room for my dad, the dining room for my mom, and for my brother not at all, as he would work late and buy his own dinner.

While normal families would talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives, we wouldn’t do that. Our conversations were limited to relaying functional needs, such as what to buy/eat for dinner, help needed to run certain errands, and the like. These would usually elicit mono-syllabic replies such as “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe”, which would be where the communication ends.

We knew empirical facts about each other – like our birthdays, general life history, and so on, but in terms of our  inner most thoughts, motivations in life, deepest desires, worries and concerns, greatest passions? No. My parents had no idea what was going on in my life, and neither would I know what was going on in their lives too.

While normal families would go out together on outings, at times even have vacations, we wouldn’t do that. We stopped going on family outings ever since I became 10 years old. The only time when we would go out together would be during Chinese New Year, because we were bounded by tradition to do so. It would seem that there was a huge mismatch between my ideal vision for my parents, and the reality.

Sadness and an Unfulfilled Wish

It was actually quite sad for me for a while. I never talked about it with anyone, but deep down I always wished I had a more meaningful relationship than whatever I was having with my parents – if it could even be considered a relationship to begin with.

Like falling leaves that would become embedded in the bottom of forest undergrowth in the long run, these unspoken feelings remained deep at the bottom of my heart, never articulated to anyone.

Our relationship was purely functional – My dad was my dad, my mom was my mom, and both of them were my parents because they gave birth to me. That was it. Besides the obvious biological link, they have 110% fulfilled their base responsibilities as parents – They raised me, they kept me well fed and clothed, they put me through school, they funded for my expenses before I started earning money, and they inculcated good moral values in as a child. This I could never have asked for more in this regard.

But the emotional aspect of the relationship was missing. Deep down, I yearned for an emotional connection, one that transcended normal parent-child roles, and one that involved open communication, one where they were my best friends in the world whom I could share anything and everything with.

I wished I could tell them about my passions in life, and how I loved growing and helping others to grow.

I wished I could tell them how much I love them, and how they were the best parents I could ever have in this world.

I wished I could tell them all the big goals and dreams I had/I have, many of which involved being the best I could be, so that they would know I had applied every single thing they taught me.

I wished we could hug each other openly and freely, the way families who love and care for each other would.

I wished we could have a proper conversation, one that wouldn’t end with someone screaming or shouting.

I wished we could talk openly about everything under the sun, from me to them and from them to me, without feeling like we needed to hold back or hide anything from each other.

I wished I could let them know how well I am doing in my goals – how well I did in my studies and life (when I was studying), the awards I had won, how I was being selected to work in one of the best companies in the world (when I was in university), how I’m in the dream career of my life today, how prominent my work has become (online), so they would know I’m the best daughter they could ever have.

I wished I could tell them how they have done the best job they can ever do in raising me, and how I would never want to have any other parents but them.

For whenever I see my parents, I would feel there was so much I wanted to tell them, but all that would be stuck in my throat, unable to be expressed into words. And any attempts to express them would result in frustration with each other, unhappy arguments, and violent outburst of anger from one to another.

My wish as a child remained unfulfilled through my childhood years, past my teenage years, and into adulthood. In fact, if it was even possible, the chasm between my vision for my relationship with my parents and the reality would widen bigger and bigger as I grew older.

Read on in part two: A Pervasive, Widening Gap

This is part one of my series on parents and understanding our relationship with them.

  1. How I Found Peace in My Relationship with My Parents, Part 1: A Child’s Wish
  2. How I Found Peace in My Relationship with My Parents, Part 2: A Pervasive, Widening Gap
  3. How I Found Peace in My Relationship with My Parents, Part 3: Revelations and Happiness
  4. How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Parents: A Delicate Guide
  • http://www.clintcora.com Clint Cora

    Thanks for sharing Celes as I can most certainly relate with what you wrote as I too went through many of the experiences you went through with your parents. Sometimes I wonder if this was cultural since many Chinese families over here in Canada were much like your’s as well. But then I can think of at least two uncles of mine who did grow up with dysfunctional families as well but when it came to raising a family of their own, they went more toward the US TV family show type of unit.

    Overall, I still maintain that perhaps not everyone is cut out to be a parent and that every adult who want to become one, should go through some type of parenting seminar which includes the importance of not only providing for child’s necessities like clothing, shelter and food, but also for emotional needs which I consider to be just as important. It’s mind boggling to see just how many parents out there even today (and many of these are very intelligent professionals), completely mess this up.

  • Kat

    If you talk to friends about their families, I think you will find out that the families you admire on TV are NOT normal at all. Love in a family is about the everyday things and may seem messy. What you describe as dysfunctional, is pretty normal.

    People show love for one another in many ways — not just hugs or sharing feelings. Your description of what your parents have done for you shows ME how much they love you. Love is not just about words and hugs and kisses. It is about the everyday kindnesses — cooking a favorite meal, asking if the other person needs something from the store, do the laundry, cleaning the house, teaching morals.

    It seems that having a family meal is really important to you. Why not show your family how you love THEM by fixing a family meal — maybe a lunch one Sunday per month. Maybe the first meal won’t be ideal, but the second and third ones will be better. Open your heart and love them. You seem very self focused — “I want an emotional connection,” “I want to tell them about my goals and accomplishments,” I want them to know I’m the best daughter ever.” (obviously paraphrased from your post).

    Maybe you should stop thinking about what you need and start thinking about what they need from you. Relationships take two and you are no longer a child.

    • http://personalexcellence.co/blog/ Celes

      Hi Kat, this is just part-1 of the series. The situation has already been resolved and will be shared more in parts 2 and 3 in the series. I also like to highlight that the series is indeed written from a subjective, one-sided angle (at least for parts 1 and 2), because that’s essentially the view point I’ve been adopting as a child/teenager (and hence why the problem was never resolved in the earlier years). I’m reiterating the story as closely as possible, complete with my thoughts and emotions experienced since young, so that readers who’ve experienced the same situation can relate to it.

    • Liz

      Really, Kat? I don’t see this as a “look at my horrible childhood…feel bad for me” and “I am so unfulfilled and only focus on me” kinda thing…she is reiterating what happened to her as a child, NOT asking for pity!! She seems very lovely and well-adjusted – and from what I have read on her blog in other places, NOT selfish. Some people are just not open to kindness as willingly as others – it sounds like she has tried MANY times, but her efforts have been thwarted.

      Really, Kat? Maybe keep the “advice” to yourself next time…like my parents (who were flawed greatly, yet I turned out just fine) used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything AT ALL.”

      • Liz

        and thanks, Celes, for your openness!!!! You seem very joyful and well-adjusted! :)

        • http://personalexcellence.co/blog/ Celes

          Thank you Liz – I appreciate your support and kindness. :) It’s my joy to share as much of myself here on the blog with all of you. Thank you for being you and being a part of my life :)

  • http://avene.org Glenn

    That’s really sad Celes :hug:

    I know I should wait for part 2 before leaving a comment like this, but I want to see you happy, so I’m going to post a few suggestions here that I honestly believe will help.

    Firstly, I think you should make more of an effort to connect with them. Forget whatever you argued with them about in the past and perhaps start by doing something really nice for them they wouldn’t expect. Maybe take them out to a play at a theatre, or on a short holiday somewhere? A day trip perhaps, or even buy them a new tv? Just something fun you know they will enjoy, even if they don’t talk much. Don’t wait for them to agree to it. If it’s a holiday or outing, just book the tickets and tell them you’re not taking no for an answer! If they have any reasons not to go, such as your mum needing someone to look after the fruit stall, either compensate her for any loss or find someone to fill in for her. Just make it happen. :dance: Buy your mum some flowers too! If you have the luggage space, get them gifts from all the places you’ve been to. As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts.

    My own parents, I would do almost anything to bring them back. I lost my mum when I was 23 and my dad 4 years later. With what I know now, I believe there’s so much more I could have done for them if only I had that knowledge back then. So whatever needs to be done to heal the rift, now is the time. You never know how much much time you have left with them.

    As for sharing your accomplishments and goals with them, do it anyway! Even if it takes a while to get through to them, they will eventually acknowledge what you’re telling them. Tell them everything and make them proud! When I was in my early 20s and setting up my recording studio, I would always tell my parents about what I was doing, even if they didn’t understand. I remember telling my mum about all the gear I was planning on buying for the studio, and would go into detail about all the technical specs. She had no idea at all what I was talking about!! But I know she appreciated me telling her, because I was sharing something that made me happy. Passing the positive vibes onto her I guess you could say.

    Also, find out what interests them, what makes them happy, and show them that you’re interested. Even if it means doing something they like that you don’t. For me, I was never a fan of football, but my dad was, so whenever there was a Rugby League State Of Origin game (NSW vs QLD), I would sit down and watch it with him. And it was fun! I could have been off doing my own thing, but I know my dad would have appreciated having someone there to watch it with him, so I stayed. Like right now, I have no interest at all in football, but if my dad was here, I would be there in an instant to watch a game with him.

    Anyway, these are just a few suggestions. Apologies if I’ve written this in such a way that sounds like I’m telling you what to do! That’s not how I want it to sound :mrgreen: That said, I think it’s worth the effort. Even if it means neglecting Personal Excellence and your personal goals for a while to make things better.

    And remember you have some good friends here who will always be will to help out in whatever way they/we can! :glomp:

    • http://personalexcellence.co/blog/ Celes

      Hey Glenn and everyone else, thanks for your comments. ;) Seriously though, stay tuned for parts 2 and 3. I’ve gained resolution on the topic – I’m 110% happy with the relationship I have with my parents today – it can’t be more perfect than I can ever imagine.

      Speaking of which, you shared some really great tips which I’ll be covering in part-4. In part-4, I’ll be sharing a guide on how we can improve our relationship with our parents. This will be useful if there’s anyone reading the article now who’s looking to resolve/improve your relationship with your parents.

      Update: Part-4 is up – http://personalexcellence.co/blog/how-to-improve-your-relationship-with-your-parents

  • http://www.lightsout.nerdettesadventures.com Melissa

    Thank you Celes. I have a similar problem, and another thing that it seems to me is this is a very common problem for adults. You grow up, you move out, and then you only know how to be a child with your parents.

    Growing up we always ate a family dinner that you seem to crave, but my grandparents, and as a result me, have a very difficult time communicating their emotions. They are secretive about their health and don’t share their goals. Often when they do express some emotions it’s as if they blurt it out and it comes as a slap in the face. They also do not listen when you express yourself clearly. I can say, I want X and they say, no you don’t you really want Y. No Y makes me miserable. I want X. and they continue on as if I really said I want Y.

    I want to repair the relationship that I have with my grandparents and create a relationship where they see me as an adult and not as a child whose life they can rule. I’m not sure how to go about creating this relationship, but I do try and I get glimpses that seem as if my grandparents want this too, but don’t know how to go about building this relationship.

    On the other side though, I see my husband’s family. His mom was verbally and physically abusive when they were children, but now as adults they have repaired their relationship and communicate openly with both parents (now divorced) and their parents’ significant others. They seem to have a relationship of equals. My husband gives advice to his parents (when they request it) and they give him advice. We have family barbecues, and everyone comes and talks and it’s very open. I don’t know how to acheive this with my own family though.

    • http://personalexcellence.co/blog/ Celes

      Hey Melissa, thanks so much for sharing. :hug: I’m sorry to hear about the seemingly oppressive manner your grandparents have been governing your relationship with them. I think parents and grandparents tend to forget when we are adults. Even when I was in my early 20s, my parents was somehow under the impression that I couldn’t be left with the stove by myself! -_-” I think the best way is to keep living true to yourself and embarking on your endeavors. As they see you come into your own, with their own eyes, gradually they’ll realize that you’ve grown up and it’s time to shed off their old image of you.

  • Amanda

    Before reading your story, I thought most people in the world had a good relationship with their parents. It’s just me who has the problem. I’m raised in a single parent family. Life has been hard, because we were poor. My mom has to raise me and my brother and sister with only one income stream. Well, but that doesn’t mean our relationship is good. I have argument with my mom. It’s even more so when she gets older and becomes more stubborn and opinionated. She always think she is right and says discouraging things to what I do. She has spoiled my brother since he was a kid, but she never admits it. So, all in all, I don’t have much, if any, family life. My mom can’t understand why her friends’ families could be in such a good relationship, but for hers, it’s always argument, argument, and argument. There is a reason for everything.

    • http://personalexcellence.co/blog/ Celes

      Dearest Amanda, thank you for sharing and I’m sorry to hear about your family situation. I fully empathize with what you’re going through. I realize that it can be quite tough when it comes to our parents, especially due to the generation gap – which ripples out into so many other differences, such as thinking differences, communication style, language of love, and so on. I’m writing part-4 which is a guide on how we can improve our relationship with our parents – and I hope you’ll find it helpful in some way for your situation.

  • Cobe

    Celes, I’m glad to hear you have resolved the situation. And as Kat commented above, I think what you describe is pretty typical of most families. I had to realize the “TV” family relationships don’t just happen and have had to continuously build a heart to heart relationship with my parents and even friends. Showing vulnerability can be hard sometimes. Thanks for sharing your heart with us <3

  • Russ

    I have had a similar problem with my parents my whole life. I have been trying to understand it and find some kind of answer to this frustration of rarely or never having any kind of meaningful conversations with my parents. I don’t think I have ever had a deep meaningful conversation with my Mom. With my Dad it is a little better but most all the time it defaults to the weather and how much his dog loves to go for a walk. Yes, I have told them this and emailed and talked to them about this but it makes no difference. I have played this from all angles and it makes no difference. Unless there is some kind of support group for us I am at a loss at what to do. I think they might not be around in five to ten years because they are getting older so I do try and make attempts at improving our relationships but I am over 50 now and there are people I have known only a short time through business that I feel closer too then my parents. I always make a point of asking friends about their relationship with their parents and know of no one who struggles with this like me and my sisters do. I still don’t know what to do if anything:(

  • Diane

    “Your suggestion Tip #7: Drop Them From Your Life
    If all else fails, reduce contact with them or drop them from your life.”
    This is what my niece decided to do to her mom, sister, and all of her family and extended family and their friends. Instead of dealing with her issues, she decided that all of us were the problem and simply shut us out of her life. I find that running away from issues is no solution, and perhaps she took this advice a bit literally. It’s sad and painful, like a divorce or a death.

    • http://personalexcellence.co/blog/ Celes

      Hey Diane, are you referring to the tip I wrote in the energy vampire article / dealing with critical people article?

      http://personalexcellence.co/blog/energy-vampires/
      http://personalexcellence.co/blog/critical-people/

      I’m sorry to hear that your niece did that to her family and friends – perhaps she was really unable to find a better resolution in the situation. That said, I find that it’s sometimes necessary to create distance/space first in order to improve a relationship in the long run – especially if the situation is suffocating both parties. The former helps to draw some perspective. Perhaps being away right now is giving her a new perspective on the situation as we speak, and perhaps in the long-run she’ll return, and things will be different. Either way, as long as both parties have the intention to make things work out, I’m sure there’ll be a way.