To Be or Not to Be Our Parents

A young Ned seen with his beatnik parents
A young Ned seen with his beatnik parents (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We grow up to be like our parents. Is that true? Could be. The better question is, “Do I want to grow up to be like my parents?” I am as unsure of my answer for that question as I was for the first one.

I have always maintained that the whole of myself is the best of both worlds that my parents each represent. My father, for instance, is forward thinking and very intelligent. When he sits quietly looking out at the lawn or at the fish tank, I know he’s thinking about the future. I know because once I asked.

“Nothing is wrong, Dad?” I asked in Cantonese. He was staring at the fish tank for such a long time, not reading his newspaper as usual.
“No. I am just thinking about the family’s house.” He was always worried about how the mortgage was to be paid. The family depended so much on him, the money that he worked so hard to bring home.

Being a child, when he told me of his troubles, I knew not what to do. There was not much I could do but be a good boy — and I don’t think I succeeded at that very well, either. Well, I am more eager to be a good son now if I was not much of one back then. More importantly, the point I was trying to make is that I am also very forward-thinking. And, being a good son is a goal in which its value would not have been realized if I did not have my dad’s critical self-reflection.

My dad has a coherent code of ethics because of that self-reflection. He doesn’t adhere to the rituals of the family’s religion, Mahayana Buddhism. No words actually declare this, but his behavior and facial expressions clearly say it’s a “crock of shit.” About the rituals of any religion, I have also come to the same conclusion: they are perfunctory. I think I inherited the same cynicism towards religion that my father has. Yet, even without the fallible guidance of a priest, monk or rabbi, I have developed a code of ethics of my own that I live by.

My mother has a high interpersonal intelligence. She is honest and does not put on any air of superiority (probably because she hasn’t the riches to justify it, hehe…). She is sincere. That sincerity in her actions with other people make trusting her a very comfortable thing to do. This sincerity, I think, I inherited from her.

My mom is also empathetic. She is no Gandhi or Mother Theresa, but she feels for other people’s suffering as (what I have come to learn) good people should. Without this influence from my mother, I don’t think I can cry at sad movies or care about the many disenfranchised people in this world.

Mother-Teresa-collage

So, there are many good characteristics of my parents that I like in me. Yet, I fear I might have inherited some bad traits, too. Don’t we all?

My anger, for instance, is very explosive. My dad’s anger, likewise, is very explosive. Neither one of us is physically violent. My father has never hit my mom, and I am vehemently against domestic violence. Yet, our loud, deep voices become very threatening when we shout. The tension in and the extreme contrast from our general jovial faces both have a very imposing effect to the receiver in a conflict. I never liked my dad when he was mad. He was scary. Similarly, the few people who have seen me angry have commented on its intensity.

My mom is very emotional. When she gets stressed out, she cries. When I get stressed out, I cry. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but crying isn’t very manly, either.

There is a point that I am trying to make, but the night is getting late and I want to go to bed. I suppose I conclude that I like how both my parents are, but I am concerned about certain traits such as my dad’s anger and his stonewalling when he argues with my mom. I want neither to be unconstructive with my anger nor stonewall my significant other when in conflict. Is recognizing the tendency enough to keep it in check? Perhaps. Wanting to be a good husband, I certainly hope so. Divorces will get pretty expensive in the years to come.

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