Dinner With My Parents

I had dinner with my parents last night, sans kids since it’s their dad’s weekend.  My parents and I have dinner regularly so I didn’t think this one would be anything out of the ordinary.  My parents and I have a fairly good relationship- we have great rapport, I know when to stop talking to avoid arguments, we laugh, we have good conversation.

The night started out great!  We were having drinks and sushi at my mom’s fave sushi joint.  It was all very light and fun.  Then I began telling them how commendable and admirable it was that they had grown their company to what it is on such a “dinosaur system.” My parents own a successful logistics company, which they started from the ground up.  My parents proceeded to tell me how hard it was.  My dad started this company as a one man show- asking for business, making the appointments at the ports, picking up and dropping off the containers to customers, 24 hours a day.  As it grew, he leased an office space and hired a couple of employees.  As it grew bigger, my mom quit her day job to help my father grow his company.  They didn’t have a secured yard space, so they parked full containers around their office space until they could afford a yard (super risky, but they did what they had to do).

Today, they have a few yards, a trucking company with truck drivers around the clock, a customs clearance company, another small trucking company, and are still continuing to grow.  As I was saying, I was telling them how awe-inspiring it all is.  They agreed, but told me that it was not easy.  They said that they started this company on a loan of $126,000.  They emphasized how this started as a one man show and how my dad underwent heart surgery and now suffers from an autoimmune disease which is triggered by stress and fatigue.  They divulged to me that they  literally used to go door to door to customers, bringing boxes of pastries, waiting hours for 5 minute meetings over and over again, to have those customers remember who they were.  They divulged how those customers would tell them to leave and be annoyed that my parents would show up so often.  They also told me that now those same customers are the ones who call them for business and ask for loans.

All of this was information that I was hearing for the first time in my life.  In 35 years, my parents have never told me this kind of stuff.  I think this is a practice all too common with first generation immigrant parents, which then, passes onto parents in future generations.  Parents like me.  They don’t want to share their struggles with their children in order to protect us.  They do it out of protection (or shame, or maybe a little of both), but what it actually does is create a disconnect between parent and child.  The child begins to look at her parent(s) as more than what they are- human.  The child grows to have unrealistic expectations from her parents or with beliefs that her parents won’t understand her life situation.  They become unrelatable.  The line of communication gets cut off.

I was so moved by all this news I just wanted to squeeze them and thank them for all their love and sacrifice.  It was also a great reminder for me that it’s important that my girls see all my sides, not just the happy.  Everything doesn’t always have to be OK.  It’s important to me that my girls know that I’m one strong mama, but that I’m also very human.

2 Replies to “Dinner With My Parents”

  1. This is a great reminder of the importance to connect with your parents and children. Like most Asian parents, my parents are a closed book when it comes to sharing their history and experiences. My parents rarely divulge their struggles as immigrants or their marital and parenting experiences. When they do share some of their history with me, they share sparse amounts of information that do not lead to meaningful conversation and growth. I agree that it is so important for parents to share their experiences – both the good and bad – with their children so that their children can learn from the experiences, understand/appreciate their parents and develop a deeper relationship with them. History is so important for learning and growth. If it weren’t for observations like yours, I too may fall into the pattern of hiding my past from my own children. Thanks for this great reminder to be open with my children and make effort to better understand my parents.

    1. Yes!! Unless we become aware, most of us will repeat the pattern of the approach that was used on us as children. Becoming aware and mindful is the only way to break that.

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