I haven’t been immersed in this side of my Family for over a decade. The Michigan contingent is the one I grew up in, so I suppose that I still have traditional Midwestern ideals at the core of my being, though surely most have been supplanted by corruptive West Coast liberalism. Though family is family and usually remains so despite the trials of the transformation from childhood to adult, a kid can always tell when their parents are skeptical of who and what they have become.
We all have traumas from the past and nagging resentments that follow us blindly into adulthood placed indelibly by our parents, but the sharp and wise person will let them go, realize that there is no longer any reason to carry that burden with them; that they are the master of their own destiny. And I’ve tried, because there is no reason to ruminate on negatives from the past. We all have them, until we don’t anymore. And our parents have them, too.
But something poignant remains, something that can’t always be shucked in favor of bygones and new beginnings and fresh dawns of identity. To be considered a success by our parents is one of the most hallowed notions we could dream of. And even if there has been a falling out, or you can’t see eye-to-eye anymore, I think at the root of who we are, we still desire to please the ones who have created us.

I had a conversation with my mother the other night, whom I am only getting to know again after so many years, and who is also in the midst of a particularly transformative period in her own life, as well. Perhaps she hadn’t grasped the full account of who I am or what I’ve made myself, or maybe hadn’t understood what I really want to do with my life. But both of my parents, who haven’t been together for almost thirty years, have at different times recently told me that they don’t think that the way I live my life is realistic. That my life is not real life. This has a tremendous effect on me, and virtually negates all the volumes of hard work that I’ve pursued, on so many levels, and in so many ways, at least in my impression through their eyes.

Now what in hell would cause a parent to tell their children something like this?

My first instinct is that it comes from envy. I’ve led a good life so far. I’ve spent most of my growing years seriously developing who I am to be the best person that I can be, and I find unmeasurable joy and happiness from every waking day. I’ve made this myself. My jobs have been dream jobs, I’ve been surrounded by the best people that could ever exist, and I’ve lived in one of the most (subjectively) desirable places on Earth. I’ve captured an excellent education and a passionate, budding career that I’ve always known that I want to follow and enjoin. Did I mention that I’m in love with living? Perhaps they did not find their first thirty years so rewarding.
Along the way, I’ve been granted a good measure of financial help from my grandmother, who has always been there for me, and has always moreso offered her emotional and moral support during my fleshing-out period. It’s true that my current grab for the impending Master’s degree would not be possible without her help, nor would some other amenities in my life that have surely supplemented my material enjoyment and quality of living. And I openly embrace and appreciate it, for I’m well aware of how rare my situation is and how lucky I am to be the recipient of such splendid graces. I do not squander them, and I am not blindly spoiled.
More than all of this, this help has not infringed upon my work ethic, has not made me lazy or slovenly, and has not shielded me from the plight of less fortunate people. Rather, it has driven into my being the importance of thankfulness and the notion that I must use this chance to make something vital of myself, simply because I have the perfect opportunity to do so. I have been financially on my own, and I have survived, and I am prepared to do it again when I’m out of school. And both my parents, at various times in their lives, have also received help in a similar fashion. I am no different than they.
Perhaps my grandmother believes in my dreams because she has the clarity of sight to see my passion when I speak of the future, and that I know who I am and what I want. For whatever reason, I feel that my parents have have had a harder time in doing the same, as if academia is not enough of a working-class profession, or that changing minds and instilling knowledge in others is not noble enough for their son. It’s not that I don’t get their support, I just feel that to some degree, there is a lack of respect for the gravity of my dream, and how I live my life. It is changing, however, and I feel that in time, I can prove that, without a doubt, good things are on the horizon.

I’m happier than shit. I know what I want to do and always have, and I pledge to make good on that promise, and to take this opportunity that I’ve been given and make a fucking difference. To be a good man, and to live a good existence. That is as realistic as life can get. And that should be good enough for them, and anybody else.

14 Responses to “MentalParental”

  1. nickys Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 2:32 am

    > Now what in hell would cause a parent to tell their children something like this?
    Well, speaking as a parent – fear is always a big motivator. Your children's safety, happiness and security are so important, and, as they grow older you have less and less control over making them safe, of contributing to their happiness and their security.
    Your parents may be afraid simply because they don't understand your life.
    Maybe they just can't see how you're going to get all the material things which they associate with security if you follow your current path. Maybe they're afraid that you're getting older and have been too busy up until now to find a partner to share your life with, so they fear that you'll be lonely later on.
    There are also selfish motivators, of course. Parents are judged on how well their children conform to the local social expectations. If you're not doing what everyone else's kid is doing then they can't measure you on the same scale to see how successful you've been (and therefore how successful they've been as parents). If their friends won't understand your achievements either then your parents are deprived of the pleasure of boasting about you in their social circle.
    And parents are not perfect. Raising children has a hell of a steep learning curve, and at every stage of their development they have different needs, so you can never sit back and say "Now I understand how to do this". Parents mess up and do or say the wrong things sometimes just because we're human and fallible.

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 9:35 pm

    Your observations are extremely valuable and much appreciated.
    Fear does strange things to us, and I understand the parental loss of control that comes from a child growing up, and from being afraid he or she might not fulfill expectations or live up to a parent's visions of what is good and right and true. I'm extremely understanding of this and sensitive to it.
    But what I'm more focused on is a strange passive/aggressive kind of notion that I am undeserving of this chance, perhaps because they never got it. And maybe I'm misunderstanding the whole feeling. I know I could have gotten this far on my own, but it's been considerably easier with assistance. The idea is that the dream needed to be realized, whatever the cost. I'm getting an easier go at it then they did. But money is only a doorway to the big job ahead. I still have to study, research, learn, and synthesize information before distilling it into a tangible form that will hopefully net me a pleasant mark and the admiration of my colleagues and professors. Grandma's not writing my theses, is she?
    I also think what I am dealing with here is, to a certain degree, a cultural and provincial misrepresentation. America's Midwest is an entirely different country than its West. And it shows.

  3. kratkrat Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 3:11 am

    I cannot match the eloquence with which you described your feelings towards your parents' inability or unwillingness to accept that what you are doing with your life is serious and has great meaning. I certainly cannot match the insight provided by <lj user="nickys">, which I thought was excellent. All I can do is tell you that I, along with many others, believe in you and your dream.
    You will no doubt stay the course, and impress us all with the style, class, and tenacity with which you do so. Along the way, you will add to the ranks of those who admire and respect you. It would be nice if your parents could join those ranks. Perhaps they will, yet perhaps not.
    To my thinking, it is their loss if they do not see that you are, as you say, a good man who has lead a good existence. Please remember, though, that you have many friends who already know that to be the case.
    And as for making a difference: Note also that you've already done that, my friend. You've already done that.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 9:37 pm

    You, sir, are a wonderful man.
    Thank you kindly for the sweet, supportive words.

  5. kernoonus Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 8:21 am

    Fuck em.
    I mean that in the nicest, most respectible way, of course.

  6. woe_sis Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 8:44 am

    amen, brutha
    My parents are apparently cut from the same cloth as yours. Moving far away from has helped tremendously. Whereas prior they were constantly infringing upon my life with their unsolicited critism and generally foul natures, they currently manage to see that i *AM* happy and completely content.
    Personally, i think that they do it because they genuinely want both my brother and myself to be exactly like they were. That and they're desire for perfection. Want to talk about a wonderful way to seriously fvck up a child? Demand perfection.
    But i had better stop lest i hijack this post with my continuous drivel…

  7. woe_sis Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 8:45 am

    for clarity
    My parents are apparently cut from the same cloth as yours.
    Yours = D's parents, not B's parents. At least, not to my knowledge…

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 9:50 pm

    I'm pretty lucky that my parents regard me well and with little criticism of who I am. I know they feel I'm a good person with good morales. And there is emotional support in certain areas, to be sure.
    This is about paralyzing guilt from what has been called "a free ride", and respect for the importance of my own occupational vision and work ethic, and that connects with my world view in general.
    But mine and yours might want to get together and go bowling sometime.

  9. woe_sis Says:
    August 28th, 2003 at 9:11 am

    Ah! i misunderstood a bit, i see.
    The fact that you've worked so hard towards your goals should be enough. But yes, parents tend to want to nag and criticize. i find myself falling into that trap now that my own daughter is nearly ten.
    But someone please put me out of my misery if start becoming too much more like my own mother…

  10. agntprovocateur Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 8:46 am

    <lj user="nickys">'s comments are so on the mark.
    being a parent myself, this is a good reminder that we all at some point come from the place of fear first. some parents eventually understand, some never do. with raven, i know i'm always a step behind her.
    you are very lucky to have someone like your grandma. that's more than most people have.
    if it's any comfort.. you get this parent's approval.
    you have all the things that count- drive, follow through, mindfulness, caring and a great smile. passion is following a dream and working to make it happen one step at a time.

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    August 27th, 2003 at 9:56 pm

    "…you are very lucky to have someone like your grandma. That's more than most people have…"
    I know this intimately and genuinely. And I hope I made that clear in my initial entry. I thank my lucky stars every day. Sometimes I just wish I hadn't been offered help so I wouldn't get lambasted with the guilt from doing so, both applied and self-inflicted.
    And thank you for your kind words and support.

  12. dr_beep Says:
    September 3rd, 2003 at 10:44 am

    This is what has always impressed me about you (aside from your ability to open shipping crates with your teeth and the limberness of your toes):
    You had a great situation and some pretty nice advantages and you used them as such, you did not sit back and take the easy path, you used what you were given to push further.
    I have known a lot of people who had advantages of one sort or another, let's face it Marin County is full of them, but most of them were happy to let that be as far as they went, and when those advantages ceased to be…
    Mind you i'm not saying you're a pampered puppy or anything, although that mental image is quite disturbing, but rather that you have used your time well and will prosper and succeed, support or no support.

  13. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 7th, 2003 at 11:20 am

    Ach, you remember the shipping crates, eh? 🙂
    That's very kind of you, my brother. Thanks so much for saying so. Yes, Marin is full of 'em, and they often come back because of it.
    In a way, I AM pampered. I can't deny that I wouldn't be where I am without what I've had–it would have taken me a much longer time to do it. But I would have done it.
    Would have, should have…

  14. Anonymous Says:
    September 29th, 2003 at 9:54 pm

    Hi, I'm not anonymous, just LiveJournal-challenged, plus I got to this late (9/29). All I have time to say here is (1) reiterating the supportive comments, with the addendum that I wish I had gotten to know you better in the old days so I too would have lots of specific memories (though not of crates) instead of just a decade-long gut feeling that you were Very Cool. But the gut feeling was right — you're a fantastic person. And (2) as one who knows something about the odd mind-games possible to parents, not knowing yours I can only say, it is indeed *possible* for them to be, not just envious in a personal way that you got something they didn't (for whatever reasons), but on some level to feel that their offspring are breaking some set of cosmic rules by surpassing them in any way. And a feeling of This Should Not Be is an easy road to other unhappy emotions. Not everybody wants their kid to be the proverbial doctor; some are more like "Who do you think you are?!" if the kid even wants to move out of the subdivision. I'm glad there's some good support there for you, and it's true that culture plays a part, so maybe when your success is an accomplished fact the "realistic" question will be answered. [Reminds me of a debate found in modern literature, where in the last 6 or 7 decades most esteemed novels have been "realistic" but usually focusing on *unpleasant* reality — e.g. divorce, murder, angst of all kinds. Someone once asked if happy events and families (and, by extension, jobs/careers) were supposed to be imaginary??] Your enjoyment of life is just as real as someone else's hard time!! And you do it so well…

Leave a Reply