Everyone thinks they are very different from their parents. Some try their best to be different from their parents. Can one really be that different, even if they live in different continents or in completely juxtaposed opposite lives?
It always amazes me to think how different (and alike) we are from our parents (and children) and where these similarities start or end.
Recently I was reminded of an incidence in my seventh/eighth grade. I was sad the day my mom told me to stop associating with a new friend because he came from a “different” type of family. In the mid 70s/80s in Bangladesh, we were the limited income families and my new friend’s parents came from a “baniya” (business) background and had more of a freewheeling (money spending) lifestyle. My mother explained that they had very different “values” and I couldn’t be friends with him no more!
It seems bizarre in today’s context, but I lost my friend and since then, have not re-connected with him.
Recently, we told our teenager to stop mixing with one of her friends because we found her parents to be obnoxious and rude (from many different, unexplained dimensions). I know it sounds weird, but the question remains: can the apple really fall that far from the tree?
The ultimate debate of “nature” vs. “nurture” rages on in academia, but what my mother did some thirty years ago and what we are trying to do, today, are ironically not that different. Sometimes misguided, (but mostly on mark,) parental instincts, always drive us to try and protect our children from harm and heartbreak. We have this inner confidence that, having been through our own experiences, we now have much more wisdom (!) to pass our learning to our naïve children.
Sometimes I wonder, had I remained friends with that lanky kid in Dhaka, would I have turned up, somehow, a different person? Many of my parents friends’ children, coming from these “middle/limited income families” made ostentatiously egregious life-choices and didn’t turn out any better/worse.
I realize that not all families have similar biases. In today’s day/age, a blacksmiths son doesn’t necessarily have to become a blacksmith. Men and women our age are charting completely different courses of lives from their parents (and ancestry). I also don’t (in my mind) believe that a seriel killer’s son has to be a seriel killer.
We talk the large egalitarian dream of being completely unbiased and nonchalant about the environment and its surroundings. We parrot large, classically American phrases: Fairness, Equality, Justice!
But in the prisms of our heart, we hold that darkness (or maybe it’s light), that causes us to think of lurking danger when we see an alcoholic or an abusive parent and tell our daughters to stay away from their sons.
My heart wishes to be more egalitarian; I wish I could tell my teenage daughter to be just open her arms to all who enter her life; but I have not been able to reconcile between what my mind thinks and how my heart feels.
My frailty is that I love her too much and I just cannot watch her getting hurt. Even living in a different continent, like my parents, I superimpose my biases on her every day, with the associations I choose and the values I chastise.
In my mind, I know, that this maybe a complete mistake. But, in my heart, my child’s protection becomes my ultimate priority.
After all, now, that I feel that my tree has a purpose of its own, when my apple lands on the ground, I want no bruises (and I don’t want the wind to blow too strongly either).
At the end of the day, my identity has evolved: from a liberal educated man to a careful, protective parent.