Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Papa Don't Preach

The topic of this post has been itching to get out for some time, and it has been eating away at me inside all the while. It's a harsh reality that breaks my heart to just think about. It may not be the reality for everyone, but I'm sure at least some can relate.

"Unconditional love is loving your kids for who they are, not for what they do.... I don't mean that we like or accept inappropriate behavior, but with unconditional love we love the children even at those times when we dislike their behavior. Unconditional love isn't something you will achieve every minute of every day. But it is the thought we must hold in our hearts every day."
-Stephanie Martson

I know and fully understand that parents believe they know what is best for their children, and surely they mean well. But I would say their actions in some cases - or rather their misplaced values - would indicate otherwise even though I am sure it is not the case. The constant meddling in their children's lives seems to never end, regardless of gender, age, profession, or social status. I understand it is difficult to watch your child embark on what you firmly believe is a colossal mistake, but there must be a point where the authority takes on a more advisory role. You can't control everything forever. Making mistakes is part of growing up; it helps shape the person you become. It is necessary and inescapable part of life, even if the parents' worst case scenario actually does come true. Let's say a child has been signed up to be a part of a children's football league. As a parent, you could teach your child a hell of a lot more standing on the sidelines than you would playing the game for them. And this applies to all stages of life, on the field and off.

"The last step in parental love involves the release of the beloved; the willing cutting of the cord that would otherwise keep the child in a state of emotional dependence"
-Lewis Mumford

As we get older however, I feel some parents prove incapable of letting go. Then begins the emotional blackmail; obey us or you are on your own. The ultimatum that no child should ever be given. Even worse still, when they threaten your lifestyle, making it seem like the only reason why they believe you stick around is to continue living the comfortable life they have provided, and they whip out that long list of things they have done/sacrificed for you. It's such a shocking notion that it is rarely spoken of, but it breeds a powerful sense of disgust and resentment somehow that I don't think ever goes away.

Therefore the love of the parents - and with it the comforts afforded to you by them - are conditional on you acting as a vessel through which they themselves live based on how they believe it should be lived. If, by any degree, this vessel somehow veers off course, all hell breaks loose. It saddens me to see bright, young, capable people succumb to the life their parents impose on to them with complete disregard to what their children want or even need. It saddens me more to see such people ignorant of the blatant imposition on their lives; they are in a bubble of chronic sadness, the cause of which they will never truly discover.

It is in this idea of parents never letting go where I find a tragic injustice. And yes, it is to do with marriage -although it very well goes beyond that. When I see how some parents stand in the way of their children's marital bliss, over the most trivial of matters, my heart aches. Things like race, age, aesthetics, name, finances, and other material bits and bobs that never really determine one's happiness. When a father demands of his daughter's suitor a hefty dowry when he is in the beginning of his career, just because. When a mother refuses her son's choice because she doesn't have the right last name. When they father proclaims he has been shamed by the mere thought of his child marrying below their social class. What kind of message are you sending your children when you begin to judge people as such? What kind of values are you trying to uphold? How are these values enriching your lives and the lives of your children in any way?

They hear stories of people who have gone and disregarded such 'advice'. Oh, how cataclysmic it turned out to be, and the shame brought on those involved. Oh, the shame! But such stories exist regardless of who you marry, how, when, where. Shit happens. It happens whether you marry your choice or mother's choice or the neighbor's choice. So using such instances as reason enough to stand in your child's way for the sake of protecting them from a similar fate....is nonsense. Because shit happens regardless. Don't stand in the way of your children's happiness over ifs, buts and maybes. If you don't approve, by all means voice your concerns. Let your thoughts be known but leave the choice to them. Whatever that choice is, give them your blessing and pray to God you are wrong. And IF - God forbid - things go sour, be there for them. They made a mistake and they will learn from it. And hopefully be better parents because of it too. At least they won't resent you for preventing them from doing what they truly felt was right.

Even worse still is meddling post-marriage. Parents (read: mothers-in-law) I believe -deep down- mean well but are the source of so much trouble. They're like a hurricane that leaves a mess in its wake, only it doesn't realize it is a hurricane. If these kids ever have a chance in hell of happiness, constant interference from families in what is usually huge life decisions could rob them of the potential of marital bliss. They are inadvertently creating a rift between husband and wife with every time they stick their nose where it doesn't belong. Let your role be limited to giving advice, leaving the choice to the married couple and support them regardless. The irony is they do this when they themselves have likely been subjected to the exact same destructive interference and were miserable because of it. Yet they seem to be repeating the cycle.

What is more important: your child's happiness or the approval of those around you?

Life is too short and there is enough sadness in the world, we need to pursue happiness in whatever form we find it in. I beseech each and every one of you to really dig deep and try to realize what really matters in life, not what you are used to believing matters or what you are told matters. We all have the right to live our lives in pursuit of happiness.