Today is the day I finally accept that my parents are dead.
More specifically, today is the day I come to terms that my IDEA of an ideal father and mother are dead.
These “ideal” people do not exist
My hope that they come close to what I expect of a father and mother are dashed – forever. Put into the respective graves in my mind.
Actually what I want in a father and mother are simple, fundamental. But sadly, these basic expectations can’t be met.
My father doesn’t even know my name. He calls me by my dialect name, like a childhood pet name, a name that only family uses. But that’s it. And no, I don’t think my father is slow in the head (though sometimes his lucidity is questionable).
My father doesn’t know when my birthday is. He has written it down multiple times, but can’t put it to memory.
My father was apparently not present when I was born. He was not the first person to meet me fresh out of the womb. (This is according to my mom, and I’ve always given him benefit of the doubt regarding this. I don’t actually mind, though this is one of the many black marks of my dad in my mom’s books.)
My father has been absent for most of my life. I’ve never actually had a leader figure in my life that I look up to. You know when people say: Dad I want to grow up to be just like you? I have none of that.
A not-so-fundamental expectation: My father can’t get right the name of his son-in-law (my husband).
My mother practices tough love. She has never once expressed praise, approval or validation. She always praised others, be it relatives or friends, but not her own children. I don’t know if she said good things about us to other people when we were not around. I grew up insecure with low self-esteem. My whole life I’ve been trying to get her attention, her approval, but since this has been unsuccessful, I’ve become bitter, resentful, moody and critical around her. I have a perpetual “black face” on whenever in her presence. And since she is a Borderline, my threshold for her antics are an all-time low, I am easily triggered and flare up in an instant.
My mother put the nail on the coffin (pun unintended)
Why I’ve decided that today is the day I put my “ideal parents” to the grave is due to this message from my aunt. She is my closest aunt, and my mom’s closest sister. She has been like a surrogate dad, or replacement mom, to me.
“Usually mothers do not praise their own children – very Chinese [sic].”
My aunt just texted to say my display picture on the instant messaging app we use was pretty – it’s a wedding day selfie. I started telling her that my mom didn’t even say one good thing about my wedding, or the fact that I looked good on my wedding day. So the above was my aunt’s reply.
But I’m boggled! Why is my aunt so different from my mom??? I’m not saying I prefer my aunt to be my mom instead, because who knows, she is a good aunt but really different as a mother? I’d rather her be my aunt than my mom any day.
But all my mom’s neuroses, how my mom is like, how they approach things, how nurturing they are (or not), it’s all so different.
Earlier on… my dad’s lack of honesty
What happened with my dad set the stage for the above.
On 11 Jan, at a family gathering on my dad’s side, my dad was anxiously trying to avoid getting a lift from us via Uber. I suspected something was amiss.
(To give some background, ever since my parents got divorced, my mom instructed us to never let my dad know where we live. So I thought it was only fair I did not ask my dad where he was putting up all this while.)
We met for dinner on 12 Jan. Just the immediate family and our partners. At the end of dinner, I got everyone to write down their addresses on a piece of paper, like a contact sheet. Incidentally my dad got a new phone number so he only wrote his new number. I asked, how about his address?
He said he may be moving soon so he did not want to give it. How weird and lame is that??? He just tried to change the topic and as if what just happened didn’t happen at all. My dad is so bad with facing “confrontation”. He worms his way out of difficult situations by pretending it isn’t there! In the past he would make it “go away” by losing his cool, explosively.
After all this time, I thought since I’m now married and living with my husband, and my sister is living with her fiance (of which my dad has stepped foot into!) I thought we were all past that stage of secrecy. But I guess I was FLAT OUT WRONG.
So I ask my uncle — my dad’s closest and very sensible older brother. He did not know that he was keeping his address from us. My uncle kindly checked in with him and shared with me that my dad is afraid we will tell my mom his address.
I was completely floored.
I guess my adult mind can comprehend that my dad thinks our allegiance is with our mom still. But my inner child just wants her dad to be honest with her. Which he did not do when he acted slightly sheepish and tried to change the topic.
I think his wounds are not healed completely. Therefore he does not trust his children, or he does not trust us to have a mind of our own, or he does not trust that my mother has stopped psycho-abusing his daughters. It was my mom who left him after all. But I guess I was expecting what he does not have in him — honesty. Or he simply isn’t equipped to express himself plainly and matter-of-factly. Does he not want to reject us (which he already did, actually) or did he not want to say anything “bad” about our mom to us.
This hurt me a tonne. I started to question ALL the meet-ups I had with my dad. I started to ask myself if all this was just a lie??? What purpose was there to see each other but without any true communication or honesty?
I DID NOT grow up in a “safe environment”
- My mom “warned” me about the big bad world out there on an almost daily basis, but there was no assurance that she would look out for me – everyone in the world is just bad and waiting to backstab you
- She had vilified my dad and his entire family (save for some of his relatives),
- She put a fear in me that my dad would take advantage of me and my my sis sexually.
- Was never really around. Maybe he just wanted to avoid my mom who pushed all his wrong buttons?
- He did not know (or want?) to connect with his children.
- He tried to be the best dad he could by giving me money secretly from time to time, and driving me to school on exam days. But I can’t remember much else.
This is why I’m screwed up.
Few things can make us feel crazier than expecting something from someone who has nothing to give. Few things can frustrate us more than trying to make a person someone he or she isn’t; we feel crazy when we try to pretend that person is someone he or she is not. We may have spent years negotiating with reality concerning particular people from our past and our present. We may have spent years trying to get someone to love us in a certain way, when that person cannot or will not.
It is time to let it go. It is time to let him or her go. That doesn’t mean we can’t love that person anymore. It means that we will feel the immense relief that comes when we stop denying reality and begin accepting. We release that person to be who he or she actually is. We stop trying to make that person be someone he or she is not. We deal with our feelings and walk away from the destructive system.
We learn to love and care differently in a way that takes reality into account.
We enter into a relationship with that person on new terms—taking ourselves and our needs into account. If a person is addicted to alcohol, other drugs, misery, or other people, we let go of his or her addiction; we take our hands off it. We give his or her life back. And we, in the process, are given our life and freedom in return.
We stop letting what we are not getting from that person control us. We take responsibility for our life. We go ahead with the process of loving and taking care of ourselves.
We decide how we want to interact with that person, taking reality and our own best interests into account. We get angry, we feel hurt, but we land in a place of forgiveness. We set him or her free, and we become set free from bondage.
This is the heart of detaching in love.
Today, I will work at detaching in love from troublesome people in my life. I will strive to accept reality in my relationships. I will give myself permission to take care of myself in my relationships, with emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual freedom for both people as my goal.
Quoted from the book Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie.
My parents are dead
Today is the day I bury my idea of what I want in a father and mother.
Update 11 May 2016:
Though it is common sense and probably logic to “let go” of what will never be, I think I have been seeking what I can never get because there has been a longing of a childlike heart since a very young and tender age. A longing for the parents every child should have.
So now, it is my turn. My turn to finally “grow up” and take over the reins that were never held by my parents. To give my inner child what she never had — her ideal parents.
Through therapy and recovery, I’m now more equipped to listen in to my inner child, L, to be more aware of what she needs and when. When she cries, to comfort her, when she needs attention, to give her all the attention she never had… As I become a healthier person, I will become a better parent to L. I will learn to parent my inner child.
I guess the cycle is complete when I am able to do this fully, without resentment toward my not-so-ideal parents.
Excuse me while I go mourn.
My parents are dead.
For a more lighthearted take on parents dying on you, read: 6 Surprises To Expect When Both Of Your Parents Die. I can relate to #5 the most, for sure!