At best, my relationship with my parents is distant. It’s a long story, but basically, my parents and I have been at odds since my preteen years. Fundamentally, we share the core, trying to be honest, thoughtful, hardworking people and all; still, somewhere along the way, feminism, liberalism, and a host of other issues entered the picture and put us on a perpetually colliding course.
In a nutshell, I guess I feel they don’t really support or back my major decisions, be they academic, vocational, social, political, or familial. Over the course of ten years, we’ve learned to simply avoid the hot buttons and limit our conversations to extremely simple and mundane topics: we speak ten minutes max, once a week. That’s how our phone conversations have been since college. Sure, there’s the occasional 60-minute outlier call but frankly, at this rate, my categories are pretty set: parents are parents, and friends are friends. The groups are mutually exclusive.
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I love my parents. They are kind, responsible, and generous people. Because of them, I’ve had access to so many freedoms and opportunities. I’ve never had to worry about basic survival, so I’ve had the luxury to focus my energies on goals and pursuits. I’m extremely lucky and fortunate, and I don’t want to sound like a total ingrate. It’s just that I’m not friends with my parents. Let’s just take that as it is.
So yesterday, I spoke to my parents briefly. My father is not a happy camper these days. In my family, we have this thing where every situation has a culprit. So, the latest newsflash is that Johnny isn’t doing so great. It’s his usual pattern: total brainiac, no common sense, no punctuality, no discipline. As a result, my father feels like a failure (in parenting). His explanation? All his friends have superstar kids. So-and-so’s son went to Columbia b-school. Another friend’s eldest daughter is in medical residency, the son is in some PhD program at Hopkins, and the daughter is pre-med at Harvard. Nevermind that my father, pre-retirement, complained endlessly about the inevitable demise of medicine, caused by insurance companies, lawyers, and an extremely litigious American public. I try not to take his groans about lame-o kids so personally, but it’s frustrating, for one, because I really believe everyone faces his/her own issues (whether they share/publicize their struggles is another story) and two, my father is totally obsessed with academic pedigree. I mean, yes, so is the rest of the networking world, but still. Give it up already. I don’t know. It’s like he measures everything by that yardstick: for example, if my brother’s schoolwork at Columbia is in order, my father thinks things are looking up for Johnny, that he’s a changed man. Not so. With Johnny, it has nothing to do with school. No one doubts that he’s a genius. He got a full frickin’ ride to Duke, ok? The stuff he creates– be it poetry, acting, short stories, film– it’s brilliant. But all of that is beside the point. It doesn’t really matter that what he creates is wonderful; if he misses the project deadline, the professor or manager doesn’t really give a fuck. It’s like who cares if you’re great at your job; if you don’t arrive to work on time, if your boss can’t rely on you to meet the deadline… you’re unworkable. Anyway, my emotional connection with my parents is very weak. I didn’t react to my father’s comments very well, so rather abruptly, the conversation ended. What the hell am I supposed to say? Fuckin’ A. These kind of issues are only going to grow bigger once I’m back in the States. Yay.