I recently started talking to my mom on the phone again. She currently lives in Georgia, by herself. I live in California. After a terrible experience of living together, we didn't speak for about 4-5 years. Anyway, I started calling her on my commute to work and our relationship is getting much better, thank God.
I was thinking about a conversation we had the other day. I was struggling to explain to her what I did for work as a consultant. I immigrated to the USA when I was 11 (5th grade) so even if I had remembered every single word of Korean that I knew in fifth grade, it would have been difficult to explain what I do for a living. Anyway, I was struggling to explain my job and she commented, "Speaking Korean is so hard for you." In my head, I heard it as, "Your Korean sucks." I reminded her that I came to the USA when I was in fifth grade and that I hadn't been practicing Korean with anyone lately.
Our conversation ended pleasantly enough, but obviously, a sour taste still lingers in my mouth. Why is it that I never feel like I am good enough when I talk to my parents? I still remember this time when I brought home straight A's... and the only thing my dad commented on (or the only thing I remember to this day) is how he pointed out the one A minus. "What's that doing there?" he said. Words of affirmation, approval, and love are and were so scarce... and their words of criticism are so... copious, and ready at their tongue.
Not that I am seeking their approval at this point in my life... I just want to have a conversation sans the negativity. Is that too much to ask?
Apparently, it is. It's like it's their job to complain and criticize.
Anyway, I'm trying to love and accept them they way they are... but I do have to "ration" myself of their negativity, lest I get sucked into their way of thinking. No more than one or two phone calls per week, and no "spilling my guts" to them, hoping that such an act would magically make me feel closer to them. They just are not able to give me the kind of support that I want and need. And I must accept that I may never have the kind of relationship with my parents that some of my friends have with their parents. The kind where you can get words of wisdom and advice and know that they would drop their life to fly out and help you through a hard time.
With age, I've come to the conclusion that my parents probably treat me the way they do because that's how they treat themselves in their own heads. And their parents probably treated them a lot worse. So in their view, how they treat me is probably an improvement.
My interaction with my parents also reminds me to be extra affirmative, gentle, and kind to my children. Because I know that it's easy to criticize and make them feel smaller than they are if I am not intentionally trying to be the opposite. I want them to grow up knowing that they are enough. That they will always be enough and worthy of my love.