School of Life: When did our parents stop being our parents?

When I was a kid, I looked up to my parents a lot. They were the responsible adults, the role models whose every decision or move made were life lessons to learn from. Nothing they did was without careful thought and consideration, nor something that would result in Bad Consequences.

Are we friends?

Fast forward 20 years later and I realised how wrong I was. And I wasn’t alone. My friend A was bemoaning the antics of her parents were driving her nuts. This led to her mother complaining about her father to her, which meant sharing certain intimate details that she wasn’t comfortable with. I suffer from the same thing as my mom now turns to me as her confidante and starts ranting her frustrations at me. While she thankfully kept out any embarrassing details, she still told me stuff as a friend would to another friend. This was an alien situation to me as we’ve always maintained the Asian mother-daughter relationship, no hugs and kisses, no spontaneous outbursts of “I love you”s. I never saw my mother as potential friend / confidante material because she never treated me as such till recently. Even then it’s purely one-sided as I can’t imagine sharing with my mom half the things I do without her disapproving of my life choices.

Are they human?

All this sharing has opened up my eyes; that my parents are human. They make the same kind of mistakes any normal person would. They aren’t perfect as I thought and come with a bundle of problems that they try to hide from us, or at least my parents did. As a kid, I grew up believing we were a Happy Family; Father, Mother, Brother Sister, with no problems, no issues and no fighting. Imagine how shocked I was when my Happy Family bubble burst. While my dad maintained the facade of everything being okay, my mother decided to act like the world was coming to an end. My mother is a Dramatic and has no close friends she can confide in, not even her sisters whom she speaks to on a daily basis. However I apparently fall within the Circle of Trust, so she comes to me daily as if I’m wearing a cassock and sit in a confessional booth all day.

My mother’s troubles range from the minute to the mighty. I try not to sigh nor roll my eyes whenever she tells me of her troubles. Sometimes it’s the impatience of a child, sometimes I see through her dramatics as she tries to play up the Seriousness of the Business at hand. Whatever it is, the initial resentment of having to endure this has turned to resignation.

The resentment boiled from the moment the bubble burst. I was happy living in my Happy Family bubble, oblivious to the probability that real world issues may affect our family. To have my mother finally burst it so she could unburden her troubles onto someone clearly pissed me off. I want my Happy Family back! if I were 7 again, I’d throw myself onto the floor and scream myself a tantrum. But I didn’t, because I’m not 7 anymore. through the words my mom was tossing at me, I realised that she was clearly miserable (even if most of it was aggravated by her own imagination) and she needed someone to talk to. Not her friends, whom she feared might judge her, nor her sisters, whom she feels she cannot “lose face to”. But her own flesh and blood (me) who’s in the family and is aware of what’s going on (no I’m not) so she had no qualms talking about her feelings to.

I think that was the day I finally grew up. When our roles reversed and my mother now comes to me with her problems. 20 years ago, I’d run to her if I couldn’t zip up my dress nor tie my shoelaces. Today, she comes to me when she doesn’t understand why my father…. [insert random thing men do that baffles women]. She literally has the same type of problems that I face with my boyfriend and she turns to the same literature for guidance as I might have (Men are from Mars…). My mother and I no longer have a clear adult-child relationship. There are times when she still treats me like I’m 13 but there are times when I have to step up and be the adult in the relationship.

Do I still feel resentful? A tinge perhaps. From time to time, I longed for the simpler days when my biggest worries were school examinations and my parents took care of all worldly worries, the way a diabetic may long for a double scoop of sticky chewy chocolate ice-cream. But the very fact that my mom needs me like a human being needs another human touch, I put on my cassock and be her listening ear for as long as she needs me to be.

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