A couple of days ago, I had a chat with one of my friends. The topic was around the paradox in family, in particular about parenting. Our discussion was about the paradox in parenting and how it can influence the kids once they grow up.
Our discussion started by him saying that he dislikes their parents as much as he loves them. When asked about the reason, he further said that it was primarily because he thought that there is a bipolar nature in any parenting. He then recalled his memory when he was in junior and senior high school. During that time, it was very difficult for him to obtain a permission from his parents if he wanted to join any club. “Although the fact is there is no something wrong with the club, my parent just did not allow me to join,” he said to me. I then continued to ask him what is the reason of his parents to not allow him to join the club. He answered that it is for the interest of safety. In short, he thought that his parents did not allow him to do something that was challenging at that time while in fact he actually loves adventure and trying something new.
He then went on to say that, “even when I started my college, my parents were still over protective to me. I do not know what the reason is but my mother in particular kept saying to me that do not join any activity that will potentially harm you.” He then argued that it does not make any sense at all for him since he was already an adult and really would like to try lots of different things.
Unfortunately, he could do nothing for one reason: dependency.
The story then went on from hate to love. After complaining about how overprotective their parent, and his mother in particular, I then asked him why he could not do something on it. The answer was very straightforward. It was because he was dependent towards their parent at that time.
“If you want to join any club, for sure you have to spend some money to purchase the essential things. Since I did not have enough money to do that, I would just end up for not being able to do something. My saving was not enough to buy me complete essential things. Then I just decided that I would not join the club because even my parents would not give me a penny were I ask them what the money was for.”
I continued to ask him what about other things. And he answered undoubtedly, “extremely generous.” He said that his parents would like to try their best to fulfil what he needed at that time. Tuition fees, foods, transportation, room rent, clothes, books and the list still goes on. His parent and in particular his mother just did not want him to involve in any activity that they consider risk his own life while on the other hand, he really loved it. So that is the beginning of our discussion: the parenting paradox.
The parenting paradox
In general, family is a place where you can lay your back and trust on. It is the one who loves you as who you are. In particular, people start this feeling when they were kids. They knew that their parents love them since they care so much for them. A mother in particular, probably has stronger affinity with her kids since she is the person who gives birth, breastfeeds, and watching closely as her kids grow up.
I then remember reading a book about becoming a man some years ago written by a Jesuit priest. In the book, he admits that there is a stark difference between parenting as a mother and a father. A mother tends to be protective while a father tends to let his kids explore. I cannot remember exactly the example given in the book but it was about how to responding to a simple accident. For instance, when watching their kids falling off from a bicycle, a mother will be very likely to approach the kids and to protect them, even to say that not to try it again because it is dangerous. In contrast, a father has a tendency to say that that is just normal and encourages his kids to try again. He is still going to take care of anything injured but not to discourage and become overprotective. When recalling about reading the book, I was then not surprised hearing my friend’s story complaining about her mother in particular.
So the question is: is there really a win-win solution for such parenting? The problem here is about my friend who has started to hate their family while at the same time loving them as well. Since he is now living apart from his parents, he said that,
“Sometimes I just think that I am very grateful to live alone here while not really establishing any contact with my parents. I start to think that my family is actually just an obstacle for me to reach my dreams. I really hate myself, especially remembering that I was not allowed to join a club that I wanted when I was teenager and when I was in the college. I really hate them but I know at the same time I just cannot ignore them because they actually have showered me with love that I cannot probably get from somewhere else.”
Since I am not a parent yet, I could barely give him any advice. I could only say to him that he has learnt a lot from his experience how hurtful it can be to be overprotective to your own kids. While at the same time showering them with love, it just makes an inconsistency which can be problematic once the kids grow up, like what is happening to himself. I then said to him that even God cannot change any past so the only thing that he could so is to just go on with it. But he has to remember that once he becomes a parent, it is not a good thing to be overprotective. As long as he is sure that his kids will not do any wrong like becoming a drug dealer or something that is prohibited by law, what he can do is to support and also to provide safety net if considered necessary.
At the end of the conversation, he was then wondering how normal it is to have such a hate-love relationship with the family like this. I can only answer to him, “You know how hurtful it is, so just contribute to not make it a normal condition once you become a parent.”