(re-posted from a blog entry for a high school scholarship/mentorship program I'm an alum of)
At some point after you leave for college, you become an adult in your parents' eyes and they treat you as such. Right. My mom likes to tell me a Korean joke about an 80 year-old granny who shouted after her 60 year-old son, "Take care when crossing the street!" I'm sure I'd find it funnier were it not so prescient.
In any case, evolving your relationship with your parents into adulthood can be a rough ride for all parties involved, and perhaps even more so for those of us who live far away from our parents and only come back for intermittent visits. The rarity of these occurances serve to press pause on the growth of the relationship, and we all tend to fall back into traditional parent-child roles when the distance is bridged sporadically.
I don't mind admitting that my particular situation with my parents is one especially fraught with angst and overtones of long-suppressed adolescent rebellion. We suffer from what I like to call Only Child Syndrome (similar to the "Emperor children" in China, a direct result of the one-child policy).
In this situation, the parents are overly involved, typical helicopter parents who have channelled parental instincts enough for 2 or more children down to the one they have, and who vicariously live through the exploits and accomplishments of the lone child.
The child is preternaturally precocious, having grown up with only adults as companions, and both relishes and resents his/her spotlight as the only fruit of his/her parents' loins. This child often deals with the hyper-focus of parental attention in one of three ways:
- Becoming a diva
- Becoming a rebel
- Becoming absorbed into the family unit, often subjugating his/her own identity for the greater familial or parental happiness
I've been through all of the above, and am currently embarking on the rebellious stage of my life. I know, I know, it's a bit late at 30 to do this rather than 13, but like many other academically advanced youngsters (such as yourselves), I was somewhat of a golden child growing up. So although I had moments of diva-dom, I was mostly at heart both a Mommy's and a Daddy's girl.
Unfortunately, what worked for an idyllic childhood falls apart in adulthood. My parents want nothing more than my utmost happiness, and they won't let anyone-- including me-- get in the way. Going 3,000 miles away to college, staying on the East Coast for my career, and buying a home in PA have been the opening shots of a long-term campaign to peel away from the Hong family identity and to forge my own. And like many of our country's military engagements, my own familial war has dragged on for more than 10 years, been terribly traumatic to innocent bystanders, and has at times devolved into guerrilla warfare (I haven't seen my parents in over 2 years; hence, the lack of visiting the Scholars Program and the Retreat... sigh).
But as painful as it's been, as painful as it still is-- I can't regret the process. I still am fighting to be recognized as my own self. My parents may never change. But I know who I am, at least a little more than I did at 18. And until I figure that out completely, I've decided to put my own needs ahead of pleasing my parents. After all, it's not like I'm replaceable to them. Being an only child is a strategic advantage in these negotiations. :)