It’s hard. Being away from home while a dispute is flaming within the family. It’s nothing big, really. However, miscommunication always creates tension. Even the slightest misunderstanding, if not managed properly, can eventually cut like a knife. Try and remember a time when you fought with mum over your friends and how she can never understand your life. Or perhaps a time when dad acted like a tyrant and brought tears to the family just because he was having a temper? Absolutely heartbreaking, isn’t it?
I remember a time when I was an “emo” teenager. I thought everyone in the family was being absurd. Excuses such as protecting their beloved daughter from the world’s evil face was something ridiculous to my ears. Everything … no matter how hurtful or unreasonable it seemed … was all out of love. And I used to wonder why. Is it just a safe excuse to win children’s trust? Or … is it really?
I would muck up the courage to put forth my reasoning, but was always slapped down with a familiar Asian parenting skill, “What is this attitude hah? How can you talk back to mummy/daddy like that??”
Perhaps, I did raise my voice a little. Perhaps, I did not know how to manage my emotions. And looking back, I have to admit that it is true. I was young with sky-rocketing emotions about justice, fairness, and equality. Not to mention the generation gap, which picked at every nook and cranny.
Ever since I left home for post-secondary studies, I realized how my parents grew up as well. Having only two daughters, of whom will not be sheltered with constant supervision and love at home once they reach 18 years of age … I can see that my father misses being a fatherly figure. As a girl, I tend to be really sensitive towards other people’s feelings, and so I can almost trust my intuition on the underlying reason for my father’s tempers over trivial matters.
I remember vividly a time when I was back home for holidays in July 2003. I had just finished Grade 12 and got accepted into university. There was a month and a half of holidays before university term starts, and so I spent that time back at home with my parents. The night before my flight back to Canada, I was organizing how to pack my stuff into two large suitcases. My father came into the room to see if he could lend a helping hand. Everything was fine until he suddenly lashed out a temper and started re-organizing stuff that I had already packed nicely into the suitcase. I was so overwhelmed, almost wanted to cry because I thought to myself, “I’m already flying off tomorrow, why do you still want to stir an argument?”
True, he was in a foul mood. And it was unreasonable of him to lash it out at me. But I have come to realize, after so many years … that’s just who he is. I am sure that he was so upset as he was going to miss me so much, and he had no other way of showing it. Oh, the fact that he is a man also comes into play. Manly ego, show-no-emotions, and pride? That’s all very natural. Even my boyfriend is like that. I hate it sometimes, but what would you do? What can you do?
I used to think that I could be bold and ignore him for days until he finally realizes his mistake. I could be disrespectful by not having dinner with him (but it would only get worse because daddy would be more angry). I could act obedient but not show any affection towards him because I still hold a hatred for his inconsideration. Essentially, this leads my mind to put all the blame on him.
“How can daddy be like that?”
“How can he act like that?”
“Daddy is so unfair”
“Daddy doesn’t care about our feelings, why should I care about his?”
I could try and sweep it under the carpet and return to normal mode … but it never worked out well in the end because nothing was resolved. The problem lingered in the house. Our stubborness was still there. None of us would want to admit our mistakes. The tension soon increases and new disputes bring back old arguments.
Or, I could cry all I want in front of him after we have both got some time to think over the dispute. I could tell him how I felt when he threw a temper unreasonably. I could tell him how I didn’t understand where he was coming from and that I was sorry for throwing a temper as well. And surprisingly, he usually melts down and that’s when both of us talk about it like two matured grown-ups.
They say tears are a woman’s greatest weapon. Even I have learnt this at work when dealing with difficult people. Sometimes men are just being men … they really have no sensitivity to feelings. Work is work – why should there be emotions involved? It would only reduce productivity, right?
But it’s wrong. Because we are all just human beings.
Moreover, my father was diagnose with bipolar disorder 5 years ago. When you have to deal with fluctuating mood swings of a person … what can you do?
Lash it out at him because it’s his own fault?
Give him the same treatment he gives you because he doesn’t realize how he is hurting everyone around him?
I had tears welled up in my eyes when I was on the phone with my mother yesterday because I felt so helpless. I wish I could have been there to do something. My mother is the best example of how she uses patience to heal her emotions. Yes, she may be upset with my dad. She may be very angry. But what can she do about it? What else can you do when your loved one is struggling so hard to deal with his/her own disease of emotions?
I know deep down my father hurts inside … he has work to keep his mind off it for a while, but whether he is bipolar or just simply unreasonable … he is just as human as I am, and he cries when nobody is looking. After all these years, I have toned down my temper for my dad’s actions a lot, especially after we all found out about his illness. And I feel more sorry for him because he knows he has this illness and that he thinks we blame him for being a crazy maniac.
Sometimes, I miss being my father’s daughter too. And I guess, a little reprimand here and there keeps both of us awake in this fast-paced world where family relationships can hit rock bottom if we are not careful. What more I’m here most of the time, away from a family home environment. The more time I spend away from them, the more I want to go home and be with them. It is only a matter of time before I regret not being able to rekindle the father-daughter relationship.