Cats out of the cradleFri, 8th Dec '06, 6:00 pm::
As it often goes, I was talking to a good friend of mine online and she mentioned how her mother kept expecting too much out of her and despite whatever my friend did, it was never enough for the mother. The parental pressure was not just infuriating my friend but also slowly depressing her. About a year ago when she was living with her parents and going through similar situations while selecting a graduate school, I suggested that she pick a school outside of her hometown and learn to live on her own. And she did.
So far, she's loved the freedom it has brought to her after 27 years of being told exactly what to do every single moment. I never expected her mom to stop nagging after she moved out. But I did hope that my friend wouldn't feel so emotionally tortured. That hasn't happened. It hasn't happened to my buddy who moved to Colorado and still hasn't happened to my friend who got married and moved with her husband to Boston two years ago. Yet, it happened to me. Despite being very close to parents who expect the world out of me, I don't feel emotionally tense anymore because of what they say or think of me. It took years for me to figure out why and how.
I want my parents' love, not their approval. I love my parents more than anyone else in the world but I have learnt that what I should be seeking in return is their love, not their agreement with everything I do. Moreover, not wanting approval doesn't mean I don't care about their opinion or that I don't care when I hurt them. I'm just saying, when I do something that I think is right but they don't, I understand it is a difference of opinions and carry on.
Oddly enough, it was my mom that taught me this lesson. Like every good son, for two decades I did everything I could, to get my dad's approval. Many times I succeeded but more often than not, I failed. Part of me knows that my dad held back many well-deserved congratulations so I would try even harder and go further. He wanted me to be a true winner. However, after seemingly failing over and over again, I would feel dejected and go to my mom asking for advice. She said simple things like "don't worry" and "just try harder."
I don't know when it struck me but one fine day, I stopped craving for my dad's approval. Everything changed instantly. I'm no longer living my life hoping he'll rubber-stamp my big ticket purchases, career path, new friends, or potential soul mates. I no longer expect my parents to like everything I like or appreciate the things I care for. I feel wonderful when they tell me they love me and my decisions but I'm not hurt or disappointed when they express their disdain for my unorthodox ways.
This is not a criticism of my parents but rather of my past self. Parents seldom change. But the kids can. And have to. I would love it if both my parents approve of everything I do but the world is not perfect and I would be foolish to expect the same. My dad and I can't agree on the same sport to watch together (cricket vs. soccer) yet for twenty years I hoped he would approve of every new friend I made. He is perfectly right in his mind to judge, like, and dislike whoever he wants in the same way that I have the right to talk, befriend, and love whomever I want. He does his best to prevent me from destroying my life and I do my best to explain the reasons behind my choices. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we agree to disagree. In the end, we remain close without any bottled up frustrations; at least I try my best to.
The day I realized I want my parents to love me and not wholeheartedly approve of me, is the day I truly became an "adult." Since then, I've expanded this rule to encompass my family, relatives, friends, and even coworkers. I'm glad if you appreciate what I do and am thankful that you care to offer criticism but if someone tells me I HAVE TO DO things their way without sufficient logical reasoning, that'll be the last day I talk to them.