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Dad May 29, 2005

Posted by ayasawada in Uncategorized.

It’s my Dad’s birthday on Wednesday. That, plus the fact that it’s Father’s day in a few weeks, has prompted me to ponder a little on the subject, because recent relations haven’t been so good.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my father, as illustrated by the fact that I just spent £69 on an iPod shuffle for him (even though he sucks at technology) because he’s kept going on about it for the last six months. Not that one can buy love or make up for it…. anyway, that’s a completely different subject area. What I mean is, things have been a little strained since I moved back home and I think my attitude could probably do with a little check.

There’s no doubt it’s tough. In parental eyes, you’re always a kid, no matter how big, how mature or how much you’re earning – and that’s because of both sides. I do tend to ‘retreat’ to kid mentality when I get home anyway – must be the location! Now that my brother, sister and I are past the age of adulthood it makes our reasonably sized house seem rather small at times and the lack of private space a little irritating, hence my retreat into a more defensive, secretive stance. I don’t want to talk about everything I’m doing, because quite frankly there’s a lot of things I’m not comfortable talking to my parents about, no matter how much they try to engage me in an ‘open adult conversation’. We just weren’t brought up in that way, so it’s weird to try now!

As such, I’ve noticed my Dad’s mental tactics changing a bit. In my view he’s much more obsessed about small things like cleanliness and order than he ever used to be. My amatuer psychology says that he feels like he’s losing control of the household, as we’re all older. As such, he writes daily ‘To do’ lists for us all every morning! And he’s constantly barking nonsensical orders at all of us nowadays. For example, today he told me to “make tea for everyone”. Did anyone want tea? No! Sometimes it’s just little parental things like “Have you got your wallet? Have you got your phone? Are you going to be late tonight?”. All these things are born out of genuine parental concern, but in the mind of a young twenty-something striving for independence, it’s a little hard to take! Thus my shameful retreat to short, sometimes sarcastic answers.

At this point I should tell you about my Dad. He’s an accountant and he moved here from Malaysia to study when he was 16. He’s a very knowledgable guy and very well-respected by his peers…. but he is also incredibly negative, or in polite terms, he’s a ‘realist’. This stems from the traditional Chinese attitude to ‘always plan ahead, always assume the worst, security comes first’, which is very much at odds with the Western ‘do what you want to do’ culture. I respect my Dad a lot, which is why I ended up doing Science (having failed to get into medicine as he dreamed of). I don’t regret my decision, but I do think he looks down on a lot of things I like to do, like creative writing or anime. These are ‘useless pursuits’ with no real substance or value in the cold-hard world. My father is a Buddhist you see and all life is about suffering, as he tells us every single day. That’s harsh actually. Everybody’s father does the old man routine and tells the same story every day. They enjoy irritating you! That’s why, for lack of common conversation sometimes, he opens by criticising whatever movie/TV show/music I’m enjoying, or whatever it is I’m working on, or “So, Man Utd are finished. It’s the end!”.

It hasn’t been easy being back home. As much as I love my family and truly appreciate the home comforts, I’m still slightly ashamed of living at home. My Western upbringing says it’s unnatural for kids to live at home past 21 (especially when your mates are starting to get married and get mortgages!), but it’s not so uncommon these days and in Oriental culture it’s actually the norm. Nevertheless, I try not to reveal the fact openly, but surely it only becomes embarrassing if you yourself are embarrassed by it? Hence my attitude is gonna have to change, cause I’ve just signed up for 12+ months of it in order to afford my MSc!

So I can establish that the short, sharp exchanges between my father and I are mostly a result of males failing to open up to each other. How’s that for amateur Freud? If it sounds like I’ve been gradually answering my own questions and venting my own frustrations, that’s largely what this is. Every day I try to be warm and understanding with my parents, but sometimes living under the same roof is downright annoying! Which is a shame, because I’m sure I’m not alone in realising that life is short and anything can happen in the near future. I’m immensely grateful to my parents for what is really a very great life, but it’s odd for me to think that I am still somehow striving for my father’s respect and pride. That’s an age old cliche I know, but that’s why it is. I’m not sure what he thinks of my new course. He’s pleased I got into Imperial, but I’m not sure he understands this ‘Science Communication’ malarky. Maybe too ‘artsy fartsy’ and not Medicine, Law, Science or Engineering. But we’re getting there I think. So come Weds we’ll wish him Happy Birthday, go out for some Dim Sum at the weekend and celebrate the fact that we’re still together as a family….. no matter how grating it can be sometimes!


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