O met my parents for the first time today. I was super anxious about it, imagining the awkwardness of it, the gaps in communication and culture. It was fine. It was absolutely fine. Conversation flowed, we laughed and talked like familiar people do. It was so seamless and natural. I am so glad and relieved.
I don’t give my parents enough credit. In my mind, their English isn’t at a level where they can hold conversation but in reality, this isn’t true at all. They are perfectly capable of holding conversation and engaging with other people. I’ve really underestimated them.
I feel the generation/ cultural gap between my mum and me widen into a chasm whenever we talk about relationships. The way she dated when she was my age is so different from the way I date now and I think we’re both aware of that. I feel her self-consciousness when she tries to relate to me and my love life. What begins as an awkward navigation through questions about me and O, becomes underhanded insults towards me.
Why does he like you?
Maybe he’s just trying you out for the time being?
I know the undercurrent too well. When I was little, my mum would warn me of my friendships with people who weren’t Chinese – they don’t understand us, soon enough they’ll reject you, best to stick with people like us. Now that I’m older, I know that this is her projecting her fears onto me. She did this then and twenty years later, she’s still doing it now. I know that this is an expression of love (in a way), her trying to protect me. She’s worried that O will eventually reject me but all I get out of conversations like this is that I’ll never be enough.
The other day I saw this meme that said immigrant parents were tasked with survival but immigrant children get the privilege of seeking self actualisation. I really love my mum, she is the strongest woman I know and I will never know the extent of the sacrifices and resilience it took to forge a new life in a foreign land. Maybe the way to bridge the gap is to remind myself of this – that my parents are fearful because of their experiences and the fact that I’m carefree is a privilege that’s come from a sheltered upbringing, which my parents gave me.
Today was a good day with the parents. Maybe it’s the cooler weather that’s making everyone more calm and collected.
Today my sister and I fought with our parents in public. It was heated and loud and probably necessary. Our parents have such a different travel style to us- they like things planned to the minutest of details and we’re more flexible and don’t care as much when things don’t go to plan. The tension had been building all day and it finally broke, right in front of the Merlion haha. The other tourists there trying to innocently take some nice photos got a bit of a show.
I wonder if it’s a generational thing or if it’s just specific to our parents- are older people in general just more inflexible? Or is it that our parents have deep anxiety and need to control everything?