“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” ~ Debra Ginsberg, Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World
The last few months have been difficult. I wrote about it in my last post. It is quite probably the lowest point for me this year: my relationship with my daughter.
I know that most teenage daughters start to hate their mothers during puberty. I don’t know why that is, and I try to think back to when I was a teenager. Did I hate my mother then? Probably? If I am remembering correctly, what I hated the most about my mom was that she never stood up for me against my father who was a tyrant and who never let us out after 5:00 p.m. My parents were old-school, strict Asian parents who never let us talk during dinner, never let us express our feelings or opinions, and who treated my siblings and me like little toy soldiers who had to follow the general (my father), or suffer punishment that included slaps and beatings.
When I was younger, I felt as though my childhood was not all that bad. After all, my father had a good job that afforded us a large home in the suburbs, and we generally lived a cushy life, not wanting for any material things.
But if you dug below the surface, my siblings and I lived a very stressful childhood. We were constantly under a microscope by my parents, and it seemed like we lived our whole young lives just trying to please my father. Nothing was ever good enough in my his eyes, and I grew up always feeling like I was never enough. My top grades in school, my school graduations, my earning a black belt in martial arts – none of those landmark events in my life meant anything to him. In fact, he never attended any of my graduation ceremonies.
The only attention I received from him was when I did something “bad” – if I came home late, if I brought home a bad grade, or if I expressed an opinion that differed from his. Only then would he pay attention to me, and of course that attention was never pretty. I would get slapped and berated, sometimes for hours, and my mom would just sit there. She would not say anything. I hated her for that.
When I became a parent, I tried to be the opposite of my father. I always celebrated my daughter’s successes and tried to encourage her whenever things did not go well. She and I had always been close, but something changed this year, and now I have no idea who she is.
It started out small. Lying about where she went. Coming home later and later. Then it built up to wanting to sleep at friends’ houses more and more frequently. Until one night, she decided not to come home at all and she would not answer her phone. She came home the next morning and said she had stayed at her friend’s house. When I asked her why she did that, she flatly responded, “I just want to have fun.”
She sometimes sneaks out at night and her bed would be empty in the morning. She is defiant and hardheaded, and lies about every single little thing.
I talk to her calmly and without anger, and we have even made agreements that I thought were peaceful and compromising to both our sides, but she is not complying with the terms. She still breaks curfew and last night she said, “I want to live on my own.”
I was tired of doing much the same thing everyday. My friends pursued their course with uneventfulness; they had no longer any surprises for me, and when I met them I knew pretty well what they would say; even their love-affairs had a tedious banality. We were like tram-cars running on their lines from terminus to terminus, and it was possible to calculate within small limits the number of passengers they would carry. Life was ordered too pleasantly. I was seized with panic. I gave up my small apartment, sold my few belongings, and resolved to start afresh.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence
I just finished the twentieth day of isolation/quarantine. I did not leave the house this entire week. The CV situation has reached a devastating level – over 3,500 have died already, with over 680 deaths in a 24 hour period.
I went outside today, only the third time in the twenty days that I have been in isolation. It was a quick stop to the food market, and when I saw that the line was wrapped around the corner, I headed back home. It took all of twenty minutes.
I have to admit that I had a hard time this week. I know – I am not the only one. This has been rough on everyone. I still feel grateful in my heart that I am working and that my family is safe and healthy. But if I am being honest, being grateful does not mean that I cannot hate being in what feels like house arrest, and feel anxiety for the uncertain future that we all face.
G was so bored this week that she cut her own hair. Surprisingly, it turned out quite nice. I was not happy at first that she did that, but after some thought, I realized that she has had to adjust to this quarantine life, and if something as innocent as cutting her own hair makes her feel better, than how can I be mad at that?
I dreamt last night of G. She was younger in my dream, maybe six or seven. I was standing in my living room, aware of the chaos outside, and saw that she had sneaked outside to play. Behind her, as she was blissfully unaware of her surroundings, a Neanderthal-looking man was swinging around his firearm. I screamed through the glass sliding door for her to come inside, but it was as if she could not hear me or the Neanderthal circling around her. I frantically kept screaming for her to come inside, and I woke up right as the Neanderthal was about to close in on her.