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A dedication to my parents

Osaka Travel Blog

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Random Observation/Comment #31: Sitting alone in a room with nothing to do and no one to talk to is my gateway to reflection. I feel a monologue coming on.
I am naïve. There is much I pretend to know, but it’s all based on my experiences and this acquired methodology of processing what I think I see around me. My intention is not to preach, but to reach out to my most loyal readers: my parents. Although they (and many others) sometimes fail to understand my rambling and little parenthetical commentaries to my own thoughts, I think they’ll understand my appreciation in the next few paragraphs (I’ll appease them with a shorter reading assignment).
Through these past 21 years, I (like most children growing up) have caused my parents much frustration and anguish. I admired their guidance until I was about 13, and then something happened in my subconscious due to this influence of my friends. For the next 5 years, my parents were the ones that I feared, yet the ones I wanted to make proud. Torn between my thirst for independence and my loyalty towards their teachings, I lived through middle school and high school as their burden and their gift. They smiled and treated me as an adult when I joined every honor society and hoarded every club imaginable for my resume. Yet, they flinched when outside influences pulled at my limbs and tried to overturn the earlier years of discipline and values. This is, of course, the path of most teenagers, but I recognize that the courage it takes from the parents to let go is far beyond my realm of emotion. I’m surprised they didn’t lock me up in my room and interrogate all of the friends I’ve ever had (too often).
As teenagers, we failed to understand that our parents were also once in our position. We think so highly of our deceit, and then wonder how they could see through our feeble attempts to fool them. I’ve noticed their change of attitude throughout my years of maturity. It all depended on the number of layers of analysis they expected me to achieve at that point in my life. Generally speaking, the early years are purely based on the phases of reward and punishment. I get good grades, they give me what everyone else in my grade wanted at the time (What was it? The little key chains that had digital animals that pooped? Tamagachis?) Granted, this tactic still works now and again (I’ll grow to take appreciation as a gift, but for now, I want that new i-phone =D).
Throughout the teenage years, it was about finding out where I belonged (fitting into a community) and what I enjoyed doing (hobbies and career). Education surrounded me wherever I looked, but most of this learning took place outside of school anyway. The funny part is that I thought high school was the peak of my life and everything was uber important – my image was the oil that fueled my selfishness. Defying anything that stood in my way, I reevaluated pieces of advice from dependents and pessimistically questioned authority. No longer was it enough to just say “because I said so.”
In these times, my parents adjusted by opening that retractable leash and letting me explore and make mistakes. They didn’t mind to pull back when I had wandered too far, but their leniency and understanding helped me see beyond what they knew (yes they very honestly admitted that they didn’t know everything). In the back of my mind, I knew that they would always be there to offer the crying shoulder or mend the wounds from the falling-flat-on-my-face incidents. I knew they were obligated to protect me, so I took advantage of this shelter and love. How can I apologize if they’d respond with “I know, we were in those shoes at your age and we don’t hold it against you for the normal course of actions (not in those exact words of course – maybe in Cantonese instead).” It’s important to note that the authority that I was always reminded of was that they were not smarter, but wiser.
After I built some sense of self (and directly before I left to college), my parents injected me with something that I didn’t think I deserved – Trust. They didn’t tell me “Son, I trust you.” No, no – that would be too corny and I wouldn’t have believed it if they said it that way. They said it with their shrink-wrapped eyes and uncontrollable smiles on the day I graduated and right before I left to college. They said it when I took on responsibilities and showed - not only a devotion to continue making them proud - but also the ambition of pursuing my own dreams. It was their own words of “you don’t need to impress us by getting good grades, just try your hardest.” These were the words that I transparently understood as a shift in motivation technique, yet they still influenced me in the same manner – I need to prove to them that doing my best would be enough to make them proud.
In college, my parents were a distant authority and independence tasted sweet – oh so sweet. Weekly visits home for my Mom’s cooking and my Dad’s new opinion about the changing world became bi-weekly and monthly days of sitting at the family table, saying everything I assumed they needed (and wanted) to know. My life was not a secret, but it was highly filtered. There were many parts that, to this day, are omitted from the experiences. They would have worried and their broken-record advice would not change any of the situations – only make me feel bad and more self conscious about my decisions. If only I had realized that their role had changed. In this phase, parents might try to exert their deprived grasp on that leash, but the ones that see the whole timeline know that these futile attempts only push their children farther away. They knew this and they didn’t pry about my life. I was old enough to tell them what they wanted to know, and they also enjoyed piecing together the bits of information like clues in their little detective game. I knew you were playing this game, Mom – how many layers do you think I think you think I think ahead? Maybe you won in the end because you always found out – damn mother’s intuition.
Parents have been regarded as the authority, and thus, the enemy. They are the ultimate judgment because they know you best (despite how much you’ve changed through college) and any of your actions will lean towards your desire to impress them. The worst thing you could hear is “I’m disappointed in you.” Those words disintegrate my shield and disregard all protection fortified around my heart. It stings to hear from the ones that unconditionally love you that their high expectations for you have, not only been unfulfilled, but completely disregarded. It would be less heart-breaking to hear anger, but the pain of sadness is the reflection of your own selfishness. I mention this weapon to remind myself to never bring this suffering to both parties.
When you grow older you learn that parents are people, and they’ve waited all their lives for you to treat them that way. To them, it means that you’ve realized that life does not revolve around you, and your purpose is greater than that of self improvement or materialism (Don’t worry, I don’t preach religion). They see their own success when you’ve joined a community and become a good person. It may seem like it’s selfish of them to breed these bragging rights, but if you’ve made them proud, let them have their moments of basking in their own accomplishment. They deserve a pat on the back, a firm handshake, a loving hug, and a round of applause. Thank you for putting up with me and thank you for reading to the end.
~See Lemons how seun fu mo

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photo by: yasuyo