iamtheinvisiblehand

Posts Tagged ‘overbearing parents

I just read an article called “Marry Young” written by Julia Shaw and published on slate dot com. In it, the author talks of how she married young and makes a series of observations on her life as a married woman,  and concludes that she wouldn’t have it any other way.

She makes interesting points here and there, although there is a strong religious undercurrent flowing throughout the article as well.

She also wrote: ” Sometimes people delay marriage because they are searching for the perfect soul mate. But that view has it backward. Your spouse becomes your soul mate after you’ve made those vows to each other in front of God and the people who matter to you. You don’t marry someone because he’s your soul mate; he becomes your soul mate because you married him.”

I married young as well (I was 26 and my husband, 27) and although marrying that young is not that common, most of my friends also got married more or less at my same age.

I knew that I was going to marry my husband the day I met him. I knew there would never be anyone else for me. So I got my undergraduate degree, found myself a stable job and managed to save some money .  My husband already had a job and was doing well, so as soon as we had some firm ground under our feet, we got married about 4 years after we first met, and after enduring a 3 year separation while I finished my studies in another continent. Our hopes and dreams for the future were aligned, we had similar cultural and educational backgrounds (this might not be an issue in other countries, but in third-world countries cultural and educational differences can definitely separate people, sometimes irreconcilably) and even though we are complete opposites, we get along fine. Mostly.

Unlike Ms. Shaw, I got married because I was (and remain) convinced that my husband was (and still is) my partner for the road, not because I was hoping he would become my partner after we got married. I got married because I wanted to, because I deeply loved (and still love) this man and because I couldn’t conceive living my life without him.

There’s a lot in the article about how it’s best to marry young. Someone published an article in response to this article stating the contrary, and how the older people are when they get married the lower the divorce rate.

I have no idea whether one position or the other is true. I do know, however, that nowadays women tend to get married for all the wrong reasons.

As women, we are educated to believe that we are complete once we’ve married and had children, sometimes while juggling a career as well. This is true no matter how liberal your parents or the society you live in are. Women who reach a certain age and have no marital prospects are considered strange animals and are looked down on with pity.  If she’s a successful businesswoman, then she is a workaholic and career-driven and for some reason that is bad. If she maintains a low profile, then there’s probably something wrong with her. If no one has ever met any of her dates, then she’s probably a lesbian. And the list goes on and on.

People like to think that it isn’t like that anymore, but it still is, so it’s no wonder some women will just jump into marriage even though they know it’s not the best decision for them.

I’ve seen it happen so many times I’ve lost count, but I’ve got two examples to illustrate what I’m saying.

I got married in August 2001. A friend and co-worker got married one month later, just before 9-11. They had been together for a long time, broke up temporarily (and they both dated other people during that time), only to get back together and get married. She was very attached to her family. So much so that she would have lunch with her parents every day and I frequently bumped into her shopping with her mom. Her husband was just as attached to his family: he worked at his dad’s company, so he pretty much did as he pleased and had a lot of time to play X-Box with his friends at home. Sometimes when she came home late from work, he’d already had his dinner and didn’t even bother waiting for her. They led totally separate lives while living under the same roof. They never got to celebrate their 2nd anniversary. I guess they got married because they thought it was the logical thing to do and it was expected of them, but they never stopped to think if it was the right thing to do.

And then there’s my sister. Sigh. She’s always been insecure when it comes to guys. She always had her share of nice boyfriends, but they all eventually ended up dumping her because she was so needy. And men dislike needy women who are always on their case. She finally got involved with this guy who treated her like crap. They moved in together but never got married because he refused, on the grounds that he had already been married once and it had gone all wrong. She did the most unbelievable things to please him. My sister, right until to the moment she got pregnant had always been a firm anti-children advocate. And yet she eventually got pregnant and had a boy because that is what HE wanted. They were always in trouble and fought like cats and dogs, mainly because this guy is an aggressive drunk. I don’t really know if there was physical abuse there, but I’m pretty sure there was verbal abuse. Anyway, even though they were unhappy together, up until the day they had decided to separate they had been trying to conceive another child in the hopes that it would bring them together. Long story short, the divorce and custody became such a nasty process that the judge slapped them with a heavy fine for their behavior and threatened to place the child under protective services  if they ever went back to court. A year later, the guy got married to another woman. The sad part is that although my sister knew what she was getting into because everyone had warned her about the guy, she had been alone for so long that she was gonna make it work this time, come what may.

Living with another person is not easy, no matter how much you love them and are willing to ignore their quirks and odd habits. I mean, I’ve been married for almost 12 years now and although I love my husband dearly, sometimes I have to restrain myself from kicking him in the butt for being such an annoying and demanding macho.  I’m pretty sure he tries to restrain himself too, but let’s face it, men can be clueless as to what affects us, even though we’ve told them time and again…

That being said, I’m convinced that not all of us are made to live a shared life. Some people prefer their freedom and feel complete as they are, which is perfectly fine. One of my closest friends is my age and remains single (and probably will remain single forever). She is extremely good at her work and still lives with her parents, since they all get along very well and she doesn’t feel the need to take out an apartment of her own. Even though we are close, I’ve never heard her talk about her dates or her love life in general and I’ve never asked her either. Many people have asked me if she’s gay and the truth is that although I’m pretty sure that she is, it’s none of my business and if she’d rather not say, then who am I to probe? Whatever her choice is, I do know that she is a happy gal and that’s all that matters. She is also aware that she could never put up with anyone else’s crap, so she knows that it makes no sense to look for a lasting relationship if she’s not going to be able to make it work. If you ask me, that is the sensible way to go…

So you see, more than it being of problem of WHEN you get married, it’s more about WHETHER you should.

 

 

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I’m behind the news as usual, but I was lucky enough (?)  to catch about 45 minutes of the interview Lance Armstrong gave Oprah a few weeks ago and even though it was just a tiny piece of the whole thing, I’m pretty sure I caught the gist of it.

Like everyone who has seen the news in recent years, I’d heard a lot about the accusations against Armstrong regarding the use of steroids that allowed him to win 7 Tour de France. I guess I was always a little suspicious, especially since he was a cancer survivor, and now that I’ve seen the toll cancer treatment takes on its victims,  for a while there I was truly impressed despite my doubts.

But after seeing his interview, if I had to say one thing is that although it was supposed to be some sort of act of contrition to come clean about his doping past, I have never seen more a more calculated and rehearsed speech in my life. And Oprah, with all her years of experience said that she had been surprised by his candour, or something like that. I may not be an expert journalist or have a degree in Psychology or in any field remotely related to human behavior. I am, however, a consummate introvert. I’m  the girl sitting in the corner quietly, paying attention to everyone else, observing their attempts to attract attention and be in the spotlight for a while. I may not have many personal or social skills, but I am definitely a good judge of character. And I can say, without any doubt, that Armstrong did a fine job at fooling everyone.

It was clear that he was mortified for getting caught, but not for what he’d done. That he’d lied over and over to everyone and that when anyone hinted at the possibility that he’d been doping himself he’d retaliate like a spoiled child who is denied the pretty shiny toy he wants and showed no mercy until he got his way, no matter what the cost might have been for others. And for that he showed no remorse, no regrets.

He mentioned his kids, and how he’d finally come clean because he saw that he could no longer have them defend him when all the accusations made against him were in fact true. And again, what I saw was that he was almost angry he’d had to tell them the truth, but not truly remorseful. And you know, now that I’m a mother, I’ve learned one thing that has guided me through a lot of situations, and it’s this: if you can’t tell your kid about it, or have to lie about it and risk them getting hurt as a result, it’s probably not a good idea. If we do something that we become ashamed of and can’t afford to let our kids know about it, then we’ve definitely done something wrong.

He also said it was impossible  to win the Tour de France without using steroids, or whatever it was he used to win. That was a hard slap in the face for all the others who have competed honestly and trained long and hard every year to win that competition. What would legendary cyclists like Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon think about that? For that matter, what about all the other cyclists who never had the chance to win the race while he was competing because he was on drugs and they were not? Furthermore, the other competitors still fought their way through the competition even though they knew they slim to no chances of winning while they had to race against Armstrong, and that is a tough psychological component to beat.

I’m not naive, and I’m sure doping has become more common in competitive sports than it used to be before. Nevertheless, Armstrong had no right to imply that everyone was doing it if he was not going to present proof to back his words. Actually, I’m kind of shocked no one from the race-cycling industry has come out yet to set the record straight, but I’m pretty sure they won’t – and can’t afford  to – stay quiet for much longer.

Anyway, after all has been said and done, I’ve concluded the many of us out there simply chose to believe that he was a hero, the kind of person everyone admires and wants to be like, because he is the ultimate survivor, living proof that if you put your mind to something you can accomplish anything. What’s really sad is that I’m sure that he would’ve been just as highly regarded and respected no matter what his ranking was at the end of these competitions, because he’d already accomplished su much and gone so far. It is definitely much easier to see a hero, even though we know deep down that there is nothing more than a liar there.

My mother has finally finished her preliminary 4 rounds of chemotherapy. There is now a 3-week wait before a full battery of tests is made to see if and how much the treatment has helped. And then, all the decisions that have to be made will be made.

I hadn’t realized just how scared and stressed out I’ve been over this until this week. I was flipping channels when I found the movie “My Girl”. I’d already seen it when it was originally released and I remembered I cried. That was the time when I’d go to see just any movie. I became more selective when my daughter was born not only because of the obvious time constraints, but also because I decided that life already provided enough drama every now and then, so why pay to see something sad on my already limited outings.

Under normal conditions, I would’ve kept on flipping or just switched off to read a book (it’s currently Ken Follett’s “A Dangerous Fortune”), and yet I just stopped and forced myself to watch the whole thing. Obviously, when the time came I cried, only this time it wasn’t just a few scattered tears, no. This time it was bawling until I had no more tears left. I felt a little like Emma Thompson’s Elinor Dashwood when she learns that Edward is not married – everything she had kept inside for so long just came gushing out, uncontrolled, something like a dam suddenly bursting and flooding everything around it.  Me being so pale, the just-cried puffy eyes and reddened nose finally cleared after a couple of hours, leaving me to wake up this morning with swollen eyelids as a souvenir of the previous day. But also, I felt incredibly relieved.

The thing is, it helped me realized that ever since my mother’s diagnosis I hadn’t found the time or the strength to admit my fear and anxiety, nor was I willing to do so either. I buried myself in my work so I would never have time to think about it, and just avoided anything that would make me feel upset. And while crying is supposed to be a healthy manifestation of our feelings, when other people need your support or you need to convince yourself that things are going to be alright, crying becomes the affirmation to the contrary: it means that things probably aren’t going the way they should and in all likelihood it’s not going to be ok. And now that I know that I had all this buried deep down inside, I’ve come to terms with the fact that regardless of the tests results, life will never be the same.

I mean, if all goes well, then I’ll probably adopt a new take on life and be more optimistic, which is fine, although in my case it’ll probably be temporary; if it doesn’t, well, no matter what my relationship my mother is like, seeing your own mother deteriorate and eventually let go of this world has to be one of life’s hardest trials.  

Seeing her, a rather tall and large woman shrivel into a helpless old lady has already been tough enough. She’s lost over 30 lbs. since October when the chemo started and rarely eats, goes out or does anything anymore. I know there’s a depression component there that worsens it all but still, there’s only so much the rest of us can do to improve her situation. My mother will have to fight this battle alone and if she doesn’t find the strength to kick the cancer, no one else can do it for her.

Having said all this, I’m glad I had the chance to cry it out and acknowledge everything that’s happening. I know that difficult times are just around the corner and that I’ll probably have to allow myself to cry every once in a while if I don’t want to have another breakdown.

I just came from a meeting at the school with the teachers of my daughter’s class.

Although there is a wide variety of parent types (pushy, my-son/daughter-is-a-genius/perfect/flawless, careless, servant-and-chauffeur, overachiever, etc. although all of them are loving and caring just the same) the overbearing, helicopter type seems to dominate the scene.

They usually make me laugh, but some times they are just flat-out infuriating. For instance, you see them at one of the other kids’ birthday party and they keep hovering around their child, disturbing their playtime with their other friends, or their alone time if they want to be left alone exploring and discovering, like a regular toddler should be allowed to do.  They are also the type to enroll the kids in endless courses and classes, not only in the hopes that they will always be ahead of the rest, but also because they just can’t resist being the ultimate ruler of the kid’s life or just don’t think they’ll ever be able to amount to much without them.

The children of these parents are usually seen doing what they are told, without displaying any kind of emotion or initiative that would reveal their liking/disliking of the activities they are forced to be a part of.  And I’ve seen this up-close virtually everywhere: at the supermarket, you’ll see the parent (notice how I don’t say the mommy, as dads are also guilty) with the child in tow, lecturing him/her on how sugar is bad for you and if you drink a soda you’ll get sick or worse, fat; at ballet lessons, the mommy (yes, in this case it is the mommy) telling the girl to suck it in and watch her posture (Barbara Hershey’s character in Black Swan was exactly the type albeit taken to the extreme); at the park, you see them telling the poor kid what to do instead of letting them run around freely till they drop of exhaustion; if there is a project to be done for school, you can be sure these parents will ace it, because the child will never have a say in it and they’ll do everything and more to ensure their child gets the best grade and the highest praise. And what’s worse, it doesn’t stop during childhood: it goes all the way into adulthood (I even read somewhere that there are some who keep doing their kids’ laundry even though they’ve already left for college).

What exactly are they doing? And more importantly, why? Is there ever a good reason to overcompensate?

There are 2 examples that are close to home and are frankly embarrassing. 

The first is my own sister. Although she is only 3 years younger than me, she is already in her early 30s and for some reason, my mother still feels the need to protect her from everything and everyone.

I realize my mother must have some feelings of guilt, mostly due to the fact that she uprooted us all from our home to take us to live with our grandmother (her mother) in the southern part of the American continent when she left our dad. I’m not complaining, for even though our life with grandma was trying  – to say the  least -, it would’ve been worse had we stayed. But as to why she only feels guilty about her remains a mystery to me.

In my mother’s place, I would’ve been extra caring with my eldest, as they were truly taken away from a life they already knew well and were already set in their ways. As for my youngest sister and I, we were just kids and did not have that much to lose or miss.  Besides, let’s face it, kids are tremendously resilient and they can find it in themselves to overcome almost anything.

Anyway, the trouble with all this is that my sister grew up to be a selfish, permanently frustrated and undeserving adult, who only seeks to take what she feels life owes her (which is everything) and never stops to think how she can give back or at least contribute in some form to society. She is so used to getting her own way, that she has forgotten what basic and common courtesy is like and acts like a tyrant. She is always ready to jump on you if you contradict her and basically complains all day long about everything. She works hard, I’ll admit that, but is that enough? I mean, is it OK to just live your life expecting things will turn out your way because you feel you’re entitled to them?

I’ve spoken about this with my mother many times and she admits she was “soft” on her growing up. What she has never been able to explain is why she still is. And I’m not saying that she shouldn’t have taken my sister in when she quit her last job, no. I am saying that she at least should’ve told her to pull her own weight while she stayed there (she made some money providing consulting services). Not only did my mother refuse to ask her, but my sister also failed to propose, so she lived quite comfortably at hotel mom for about a year. The worst part was that when we, her sisters, told her to pitch in with whatever she could, she would get furious and storm out of the room. This is her usual response to anything that goes against her interests. And yet my mother always finds reasons to defend her no matter what, or to praise her for even the smallest thing.

The other example is my brother-in-law. Now, he is in his mid twenties and curiously enough, he is also the youngest child. (I think I am going to coin the phrase “the youngest child syndrome” because it fits so well with so many people I know. That is, if doesn’t exist already).

I know things on his side are a bit different, because my husband’s father died when my husband was in his early 20s and his brother wasn’t a teenager yet.  My mother in law had never needed to work for money before, as she was a proud housewife, but all that changed when her husband died. So, she had to change gears immediately, since she could no longer be the same housewife and mother she had been all those years. If my guess is right, this is when she started feeling guilty about her youngest child, as she was no longer there for him  (and I mean that physically, because of course she could still be counted on, but she couldn’t stay at the house anymore) as she had been with the two eldest.

My brother-in-law is a good guy, but in all honesty, he is the portrayal of uselessness. He is a Historian, which is great if you are either a researcher, a writer or want to teach. Research is not big in the country where I live, and he is clearly not teaching material, but he’s supposed to be good at writing. The thing is, writing requires discipline and hard work, and I don’t think he has it in him, and I’m not being judgmental, just blunt (he had a whole semester to write his dissertation and he ended up writing it the week before the deadline, to the general applause of his mother and sister and the overall dismay of everyone else).

You see, for instance, he knew from day one in college that he would be required to take a mandatory English test in order to finish the curriculum and graduate. He had to take it before a certain date in order to graduate in 10 semesters, as is usual. About a year before finishing his studies, my husband started inquiring after the exam, when he planned to take it, what he needed, etc. My mother in law was even paying for additional lessons to prepare him for this test. Long story short, the deadline came and went and he ended up having to take an additional semester to make up for time lost. If we consider what a semester costs at a private university, I’d say that that was extremely inconsiderate, not to mention irresponsible.  And yet my mother in law said nothing and preferred to commiserate with him, scolding my husband for being too hard on him.  

Another example: on his 18th birthday, my husband told him he would pay for his driving lessons and for his driver’s license, since they boy had been quite insistent that he needed his license to drive his mother’s car. The condition was that he had to take care of organizing the whole thing, so as soon as he was ready my husband would only have to pay. Believe it or not, it took him 2 whole years to take the course and get his license. Good thing he couldn’t wait to get his license, eh?  The worst part: he doesn’t even drive his mother’s car, although she leaves it sitting in her garage 5 days a week. That was money well spent…

As if that wasn’t enough illustration, in April this year he got a 2-month contract with a publishing house editing school textbooks for 4th graders. He complained every single day about the job, how far away it was, the long hours, having to go in on the weekend, the awful and mediocre boss….you name it. We told him that yes, we could relate to his disappointment (real life is a b##$&) but that sadly, more often than not, this is how it was and that it was up to him to choose: he could either suck it up and keep on going if he really liked it, or he could finish his contract and move on to something else.  His contract ended in June and he’s been out of a job since, and is therefore still at my mother in law’s, who keeps feeling sorry for him, even though he is quite capable of taking care of himself.

The worst part is, she keeps trying to heighten every single thing he does, even if it’s something he had to do in the first place. E.G. they recently moved, and yet my MIL kept telling everyone how helpful her son had been, when it was clear that he had to do all that anyway because he still lives with her!

He shows the same traits of my sister: storming out of the room when someone contradicts his point of view, unable to keep a conversation when people disagree with him, frustrated permanently because real life is so much more difficult than he thought…it’s quite sad actually. No matter what good things may be in store, he misses them because he, like my sister, is always focusing on what he deserves and not on appreciating what he already has. 

So, to sum up this lengthy blog, yes, I understand why parents may feel guilty and think it is their obligation to protect their children, since they were unable to protect them at some earlier point or  because they were unable to provide for them like they wanted to or for whatever reason they find to justify their behavior. But still, an explanation is not a justification. The damage overbearing parents do to their children is appalling, even though they do it out of love, and shockingly,  it is now the global trend.

I’m not an expert, it’s just how I see it.



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  • Carrie Rubin: I don't always remember names well, but I remember circumstances. I especially remembered yours because it's such a rare cancer, and you were the firs
  • iamtheinvisiblehand: Thank you for your kind words, but also thank you for remembering it was me....it's amazing that you'd remember this considering the endless stream of
  • Carrie Rubin: I am so sorry to hear about your mother. After you commented on my blog yesterday, I remembered that your mother was the one who had cholangiocarcinom

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