Ten Minutes, Once a Week

Ten Minutes, Once a Week

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.

3 Responses »

  1. i am all ears with your post,yet i don’t want to give any comment . what i can say is that u don’t know how i envy u and how many people care about u. what moves me most is that u r always giving rather than taking. in my opinion, u r the real human being.i see no reason why we r not proud of your adorable parents. yet i still want u share with me an transcript poem for funIf you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won’t survive the week. If you have never experiencedthe danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 20 million people around the world. If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep,If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are amongthe top 8% of the world’s wealthy.! ! If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare,especially in the United States. If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful,you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.! ! If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God’s heal! ! ing touch. If you can read this message, you are more blessed than overtwo billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all. You are so blessed in ways you may never even know.

  2. you r far better than i.the number of phone calls with my parents in Anhui is no more than 10 since i moved to shanghai in 1995. we three sons almost never had a decent talk before we enterd social life or workplaces. what our parents concerned most then was nothing but our schoolwork. that is the tragidy of chinese-style parenting.so now my old man began to regret saying if only he should’ve focused more on eq and blamed himself for failing to respect our inner needs. of course all this in his obsesseing biorgaphhy/reminicence is bygones.fortunately,we never have value-or belief-related conflicts coz we believe in nothing.we more likely quarral over triffles or tend to make a fuss out of small things such as taste issues. these days,he is becoming older and older.anyway, he has passed his prime days and what gets to me is that he is so overwhelmed and completely soaked in his endless recalling of his very old days in front of computer, which has hurt his poor eyesight so badly and we attemped to divert him to other recreations.but all in vail.his classic remark is “liberty or death”. that drives me nuts. the other day, i made a mistake, a big time. i suggested burning his”book” if that day come innevitably.i said this out of good will, hoping the book would acompany and comfort him in the other world. he really got offended and raged as hell,lips shuddering and face livid , roaring hesterically and desperately: “will u really burn my book after my death? really?” this scene did scare us and left us totally speechless. the following two days saw my poor father bed-riding for good two days.i still have no idea of the reason.u have recieved systamtic western education and i find valuble spirit of independence and fredom in you, which we locals admire so much. i understand all your ideas and actions and sometimes i think china would be more cosmopolitan if more people especially chinese women engage more in ngo . all in all, china has a long way to go before it is recognized as a polite society on the whole and in the end. keep it.u r doing a great thing. i’ll keep my fingers crossed for u forever.

  3. Ah parents…What can I say. I’ve been on the 10 minute, once a year diet for a long while now. Just the other day I spent too much time with my mum. We had a row and we’re not talking again. Prolly for a year to come. Unlike your parents. My mum in particular has questionable principles. They are ‘strong’ yet it is expected to be bent backwards when you need to. Like its ok to steal today but not tomorrow. Illogical at best. I’ve stopped trying to explain. I just say I don’t get along. Let them think I’m some spoilt, drug ingesting, swinging girl.

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