It’s amazing how our relationships with our parents change. For most of us, we spend our childhoods treating our parents as God-like entities – all knowing, all encompassing beings. They make up everything we know in the universe and we look to them for answers to questions like ‘mummy, what’s this?’ to ‘daddy, why did they build the Great Wall of China?’ (if you don’t know what that reference is, you have to watch this video RIGHT NOW. CLICK HERE!!). They are infallible.
Part of growing up involves slowly coming to the realisation that our parents are probably not correct all the time. In fact, they can be downright wrong. I don’t think that we acknowledge how big a deal it is, nor do we appreciate what this means – especially when we come from tight-knit families.
As I got older, my parents disappointment me in me really weighed me down. Their opinion of me meant a lot and not having them approve of a lot of my decision-making processes took a toll far too often. I would agonise about whether they were right when they made huge, sweeping criticisms about who I was and who I was growing into. I’d assess and reassess everything I thought and believed, trying to reconcile my thinking with theirs.
I found it difficult to connect with a lot of the people I knew because I had such different opinions. Then I’d go home to my refuge and find it increasingly more difficult to connect with my parents. The difference was that I loved my parents deeply – they made me. I could identify the flaws in other people’s thinking; but when it came to my parents, I found it almost impossible. I either convinced myself that they were right, and I was all of the things they said I was, or I would just shut down.
Moving away from home helped a lot (yes, my parents were super disappointed and it took months of fighting before I could move). It gave me some breathing space to realise that it is completely okay to think my parents are wrong. I realised that for the most part, my parents and I had such differing opinions on things because, well, I was no longer a child. We were three adults and adults tend to disagree with each other about at least a few things. Our disagreements reflected my growing up.
Growing up means redefining that relationship with your parents. You have to deal with the crushing realisation that your parents aren’t right all the time. They’re not full of brilliant answers that solve our problems. In fact, sometimes they cause our problems. Your parents have to deal with the fact that you are no longer their precious who listens when told something. You no long accept the reality they have created – you challenge things they think and doubt what they do.
This is great! This should be encouraged. It means we are growing and improving. We are taking our parents views of the world – the prevailing views of society – and assessing them in our contexts and creating our own world view. If the entire world encouraged this progressive thinking, we’d be a progressive little planet that learned from past mistakes; cherishing the good things that benefited humanity and improving on those that do not.
Sure, sometimes assessing things for ourselves and coming to different conclusions to our parents means that we get hurt and stumble. Sometimes it means falling down and breaking a couple of bones. That’s fine. It’s the only way we’re going to learn and figure out who we are and why we do the things we do. The job of a parent is to help with the healing process – to pick us up and dust us off so that we can try again.
So you want to go to a university that your parents don’t like. You want to pursue a career that don’t respect. You hold political views that they are ashamed of. You are choosing to live your life in a way that does not in anyway reflect what your parents hoped you would do. You embarrass them amongst the community with your modern, uninformed, bright-eyed, optimistic/pessimistic, unrealistic, dreamy and unreasonable attitudes.
No, seriously. Good.
I know it can be a heavy burden to carry. Disappointment is never a fun feeling to carry; however, our job as the future of this species, is to grow. If our parents were completely comfortable with everything we did, we would be doing nothing to improve the world we live in.
It’s okay to disappoint your parents. They disappointed theirs; our grandparents got over it, and when they didn’t it was their loss.
You do you, baby.
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So interesting to read this now that the shoe is on the other foot. I think it’s so hard for parents not to load their kids up with their own hopes, fears, unfulfilled dreams… you have to be aquite self-aware I think to understand this and try not to let it get in the way of your child’s capacity to become their own person. I imagine it may be more difficult where parents’ aspirations for their children are more rigid, or the self-awareness is really lacking. I don’t think my folks have approved of a single career move I’ve made, but neither have they actively resisted them. Eventually you reach the point where as you say you realise you’ve your own race to run, but family ties are vital too so hopefully you find a way to stay close in spite of the disappointment.
Also wanted to say how much i enjoy your site and your honest reflections on navigating culture, family, finding yourself etc. Am not Muslim but have a few muslim friends so can relate a bit from knowing their experiences – also that whole pressure to get married, i put that on myself when i was in my 20s. I did get married and have kids, and now knowing the reality of that (lovely but also hard and messy) I marvel at how naive i was back then and what i thought i wanted!! Also am a relationships researcher so extra interest ftom that angle. All I want to say on that Iis please do wait fro someone who feels right. I’d also advise not to worry too much if he doesn’t check certain boxes around social class, occupation, ethnicity etc, as by far the most important things are reliability, kindness, patience and responsibility. Hopefully eventually your family will also see that. if you are going to give up singledom, it should be for a caring, respectful, fun relationship. Otherwise better to be single. i know too many people who went for the checkbox approach and if those other things aren’t in place it’s a hard road. So you need to have your eyes and mind open. The right guy may not tick all the boxes of social acceptability to your family and community, is all… keep up the great work snd wishing you peace and love!
I think this is a really good article, thanks. I need to remember this! 🙂
Thank you, darling! I think we all need to remember it sometimes!
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