Ive always known that my relationship with my father wasnt the best, but I never thought it could hurt this bad.
The relationship with your parents can resemble that of a house of mirrors: some parts are distorted and others confusing, but you don't know anything else because you have been in that house all your life, and you don't know any better. But what happens when said mirrors become fractured or break altogether? We all have to leave that house at one point, and when you look back, you begin to see the true nature of things with clarity; what you see in yourself, you also see reflected in the faces of your parents.
Some parent-child relationships are terrible and leave true, deep scars, but for today, I wish to talk about not-so-toxic relationships that have cracked around the edges and are deeply painful. To understand this complex maze, I have to bring this closer to home and share my own relationship with my father. My father was always around. We lived under the same roof, we never fought much, and he always went to the main school events. From the outside, we looked like a common, regular family, but we always have to look closer to see how the edges are frayed.
Silence is the word I'd use to describe the moments we shared together; on the way to school, the noise of the radio would drown those muted moments. I hated when he would take me to school because of the awkwardness of it and all the things that were left unsaid. To put it simply, I saw him under the guise of a provider, and if I wanted money or anything, I had to put on a good face, prove I was doing well at school, ask nicely, and that was it.
Did I trust him? I guess I did on everyday matters like safety or money, but as a person? Not really. I didn't feel I could go up to him and talk about mundane things or my personal problems. He was a pillar that sustained my surroundings but didn't necessarily support me as a person. I got used to living that way and navigating the distorted hallways of our relationship. I slowly let go of those rose-tinted images of what the relationship should be and I told myself that I should content myself with that. I shifted my sight away from that painful relationship or lack thereof and focused on my circle of friends.
One day, not long ago, I heard him talking with my mom in the kitchen, both were sitting down, and he was cradling some tea and his face was slightly crestfallen. It wasn't a moment I wanted to invade, so I listened in. He was telling her of his troubles at work and how, despite being surrounded by so many people, he felt lonely. The image I had of him as an authoritarian figure began to warp and break down. I felt a lump of guilt in my throat because of the resentment I had carried for many years. Witnessing his vulnerability, I realized he wasn't a brick wall, but a person with all the cracks that you'd expect. It's hard to reconcile a sense of humanity with the father figure because we all cloak fathers with impossible expectations. That day, I saw an uncanny mirroring of who I am, and I realized that this distance had shaped who I had become. I saw myself as a person who doesn't trust others and who doesn't open up and embrace vulnerability. And of course, I also felt very lonely. I realized I mirrored my father's actions. I wanted to be loved, but I was incapable of acting on my own desires or expressing my wants. This hit me hard, more than I could have ever imagined. I felt a clash of emotions, compassion, pity, anger, but most of all, regret.
My head was crowded with 'should haves' and 'could haves.' Was there something I could’ve done in my childhood to break that barrier between us? Was I so self-absorbed that I failed to realize this bond we both wanted to create? Maybe, if I had just started a conversation on the way to school rather than listened to the radio, we'd be in a different situation. But the harsh truth was that I didn't and many possibilities, like the silences we shared, accumulated over time. While my mind was going through the wringer, I was unable to pinpoint the reason why our relationship was so fractured. It's difficult to see things objectively when you are standing in the middle of it.
When I moved out of my house, I felt relieved because I knew things couldn't get better or worse if I stayed; they'd just stagnate. Things went smoothly, I still saw my parents often, and the conversations were always the same. He'd call me once in a while, asking if I was doing ok, if I needed money, or if the everything at the apartment was working properly. I know he asks these things because he cares and wants to start a conversation, but the barrier remains in place. He's my father after all, and I need his support, but once in a while, I wish he'd be more caring and loving.
When I talk on the phone with him it gets me thinking, is it too late? Is this how it will always be? Should I do something? By stepping out of that house of mirrors, evaluating my reflection and seeing the similarities with my folks, I came to a painful but freeing conclusion. A relationship is built and sustained by two people, and if one side is unwilling to change, then the other will not accomplish much. You accept the cracks and you let go of those expectations you had as a child that you know deep down still hold sway no matter if you are an adult now. I know we'll never be close, and I've accepted that, and this means I can let go of that resentment and cloak myself with acceptance. I know I love him and that he loves me as well in his own way, and that’s how it’s going to be.
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