Parents Are Gone...

My parents were here the last week and they left a couple days ago. It was an amazing time of catching up, seeing my kids fall in love with their grandparents, sleeping in, spending the day at the beach and coming home tired, content, smelling of sun screen and sand. Now that they are gone I feel like I woke up from a dream.

Funny how my relationship with my parents has progressed so much and has in many ways stayed the same. My parents for the most part are done parenting me, they are happy and content with my life and who I have become. This is a drastic difference in the backdrop in which I grew up. I always felt I was never good enough and often to their dismay and frustration I stopped trying. In everything I did, I was wrong and they were right.

One particular instance this past week highlights what my relationship was like growing up. My parents and I were both at Sams Club and we were putting groceries in the car. My mom asks if I can go to Walmart (downstairs) to get a few things that Sams Club didn't have. When I came back, Kaitlyn and Joey were screaming and crying at the top of their lungs. It was utter chaos! Kaitlyn refusing to get into her car seat was screaming and crying to the point where her face turned red, Joey was crying hysterically saying "Mommy Grandpa hit me!!"

So after I got both kids in the car seat, my parents explained that while they were trying to get Kaitlyn in the car seat, they had not put Joey in his booster yet. So while they were wrestling Kaitlyn, Joey (of course) goes to the front of the minivan and starts playing with the shift gear (the engine was on). So my dad in a quick panic wacks him upside the head. I was totally fine with that. I then, suggested that next time, they not hit him in the head, but on the butt or the back. My dad explains that he didn't want to hit him in the head, it was just an immediate reaction to the imminent danger Joey was putting himself and everyone else in. I understood, but then my mom dismissed what I said and went on and on saying "You need to hit him more! And Appa (dad) barely hit him, that is not even what you call hitting. Why do you do time outs? What is the point? Those are a joke! You need to discipline," and on and on. And as she spoke, I went from being not mad at all, just making a suggestion to being absolutely furious. I started yelling. "ALL I WANTED YOU TO DO WAS NOT HIT HIM IN THE HEAD. JUST SAY YES!! JUST ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT I ASKED YOU TO DO!!!!!!! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO SAY A MILLION UNRELATED THINGS!?!?!?!?" My dad was like "Ahhrasuh Ahhrasuh (ok, ok)" then my mom goes on and on again criticizing my parenting. We went back and forth in a shouting match. In that moment I was instantly no different than my 16 year old self, so frustrated with my parents lack of regard for what I thought or my opinions. Funny how you think you have "matured" put all that Korean American angst behind you, when before you know it, one instance brings you back to square one.  We eventually quieted down and after periods of silence the tension melted away and we went on pretending as if nothing happened.

Usually after those "moments" dispel, I am still angry when I recall what happened but more so I become overwhelmed with guilt for my lack of gratitude for my parents.  My mother always did a million things, took care of the house, always worked full time, went to school, served at the church. She gave me every resource I needed. My father is a successful civil engineer who designed award winning bridges in upstate NY. He had many opportunities to have a more comfortable life for himself but sacrificed them for my brother and I. I remember the summer of 1997 I went to Korea with my brother and found out my dad got high paying job offers from engineering firms in Korea. Since Korea was going through massive development they needed a skilled civil engineers with the right credentials to head up massive bridge design projects. They were highly courting my father to come. He turned them all down for our sake and I wouldn't have even known about it if my grandparents hadn't told me. During my mothers time here, she carried the workload that is usually mine, was endlessly patient with me, took care of my kids, took us out to eat all the time and gladly paid for each meal and groceries. When I think of all this and see how I behaved the guilt overwhelms me.

Anger and guilt. Maybe this dichotomy of feelings  in relation to my parents is the American and Korean in me, always in conflict with each other. If my relationship with my parents were a narrative, this theme of anger and guilt would be the constant subtext.

I know I am so fortunate to be raised by my parents, that I shouldn't take everything they have given me for granted, but even with all that,  I still can't help but get mad when they dismiss me. It all goes to show that I still have a long ways to go in my relationship with my parents. I know I need to be more patient and understand their intentions behind their words, conversely I wish my parents would value and understand my thoughts and opinions. Growing up, my relationship with my parents was fraught with misunderstandings because of the language barrier, and disagreements because of different world views.  Back then I didn't even know where the starting point was. At least now I have a bit more clarity as to what I need to work on.

So all the heaviness aside, the rest of the time with my parents was amazing. I wish the dream didn't end. Joey still asks where his grandparents are and it makes me sad. 

Right by our house... l heart the country. 
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