Toxic Parents and Our Last Christmas Light

Last week was the peak of the holiday season here in London and I met a gorgeous lady whom I regarded as a stranger before. We just met out of nowhere and we talked a lot on a day. But that particular day is quite special that I would like to always remember. She invited me over a coffee and then started to talk seriously about her problem, which I could not consider simple. We ended up talking about toxic parent and I let her talk while I just kept listening to her.

“I am desperately tired of finding someone who is able to just listen and not judging,” she opened up the conversation. And I humbly asked what her problem is.

She started to complain about her negative things that came continuously to her, making her to feel out of breath. She complained about her research study and her desperation for always having a negative result while not having enough support or finding someone to really help her.

“In particular,” she said, “I am also exhausted about my family.” She then said about how toxic her parents is since she never really feels that her parents really support her. “It is only about lip service. My mother always says she prays for me while I never think she really does from what she always does to me. Everytime I complained about my life, seeking for a comfort from a family, while I always get back from her is always something negative in return. Until a point yesterday where she just gave me a negative news happened to my family a month ago which she could have been said it to me on that day rather than waiting for me saying to her that I am burnt out with my stuffs. It just supports my assumption that my parents are really toxic, they just never support what I love to do since I was a teenager although they knew there was nothing wrong with it. I even regard them to be over protective. And now while I am pursuing my degree and nothing wrong with it, it still seems to be the same way”

I started to understand her situation. It does seem that she is really tired with her stuffs and she could not rely on her family. She feels the family only brings her confusion. Family is supposed to be the first point where she finds love and comfort. She probably feels it to some extent but when it turns out to be doing what she loves, the family starts to be a real obstacle, and her parents in particular. She said that she expects her family to support her but it always turns the other way around.

We then started to do a bit of research about the feeling of this hatred feeling against parent and we ended up talking about toxic parents. In short, toxic parents are parents who can only think about themselves and expect their kids to not upset them. I think the situation resembles quite well with my friend’s situation. Her parents always expect her to make them happy while not the other way around. She told me that everytime she thought that she made her parents upset, it would end up in a passive aggression way. It usually ended up where she did not talk for days with her parents until a point where everything blew up and went out of control and she even sometimes run out of her home just to run away from it. This passive aggression is also one indication of a toxic parent since a good parenting should involve active communication. Also, one day she told me that she had a boyfriend and although there was nothing wrong with her boyfriend, her mother just asked her to break up with him just because she did not like him. She feels that her parents, in particular her mother, are just so toxic and really want to get an absolute control of her.

I then said to her that I could understand her situation but I could not help much since I do not have any right to talk to her parents. I just said to her, “Sometimes I think that we are here right now because our parents decided at the beginning to get married and to have kids. And then it is their duty to make us happy and not the other way around. Because, we never really ask before that we should be born from them or in this way right?” She just kept silent and smiled, “But you cannot change that fate once you are born.” And I replied, “So just let’s change what we can change.”

And after we finished the coffee, I just took her to Oxford Street, lending her my camera so she could enjoy the lights and took some beautiful picture and also lending my music player while it was playing Coldplays’s Christmas Light.

Those Christmas lights

Light up the street

Down where the sea and city meet

May all your troubles soon be gone

Oh Christmas lights keep shining on

And now the festive season has ended and I do hope she feels better now…

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The Parenting Paradox: Where the Love-Hate Relationship towards Family is Built Up

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.”