We hung out with two friends yesterday who started talking about their children, and it got me thinking today about my family and how much of a pain I was to them… and probably still is!
People always say that families are funny; you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. I guess that it true as you can’t really choose who it is that you want to be your parents, siblings, etc. but yet you have to learn to live with them for your entire life. Because of that, I think we all use our families as guinea pigs in learning how to socialise and where social boundaries are. We do that safely with the knowledge that no matter how bad the situation becomes, they will always be family.
I think my memory of my childhood is probably very different from my sister’s or my parents’. My memories are like photo albums – I remember snippets here and there. Why these memories specifically, I can’t say. They seem pretty random, but yet, they must have impacted my feelings so much that they are burned into my memories.
When I was younger, I always thought that my parents were very strict, always disallowing us to do certain things that other friends were allowed to do. I think I was pretty obedient too. Anyway, a memory that I have is when I was in primary school, probably around seven or eight years of age. A few of us went to a friend’s house to hang-out. I can’t remember if it was for a specific occasion, but it felt like a small party. My friend’s house wasn’t too far from my house – probably less than 10 minutes by foot. Anyway, my Mum dropped me off (we were never allowed to walk anywhere on our own) and I remember that my friends and I were having fun. Then, my friends decided that they wanted to go out to the shops nearby, probably the newsagents, to buy some snacks and sweets. Up till this point, I just have a very general memory of this day, but I clearly remember what happened after my friends made this decision. I remember that I asked my friend’s mother if I could call home to ask for permission to go to the shops with the rest. My friend’s mother agreed and I remember dialling home and talking to my Mum. I asked for permission and the response was a no. I then obediently waited in my friend’s house with my friend’s mother, whilst all my friends went to the shops. I remember that they came back with sweets and snacks in hand.
I was jealous, and for those of you who know me well, you will know that I wasn’t jealous of the fact that my friends had candy or snacks. Since I was a child and until now, I never really cared for sweets or snacks. I was actually jealous of my friends’ independence. The irony was that I was probably a more responsible child than my friends, as I had understood that my responsibility at that point lies in obeying my parents, but I had craved to be more adult-like, to be given responsibility for myself.
If I were to psycho-analyse myself, I will probably say that this was one of the reasons why I decided once I started working to be fully independent from my family. Of course, I could never be independent from them emotionally or in love, but I wanted to prove to myself and of course, to my family that I could take care of myself and I could do it well. The funny thing is that my new independence comes with a price; an opposite factor to bring balance, I guess. The Ying of the Yang. I am now dependent on my husband. :-)
I would like to think that I am not as dependent on my husband as I was to my family, and that our relationship is more symbiotic than parasitic, but whatever it is, I realise that I am still learning to live with myself; with or without my family and my husband.
Sometimes I think of my parents’ generation when they were our age (thirty!). My parents had both my sister and I already at that point, bought their own house and was supporting all of us, including some extended members of our family. Looking at our generation today, priorities in life have definitely changed. Growing up or growing independent is not something people aim for before the thirties. Most people plan to have children when they are 35 and owning a house is a impressive feat. In fact, most people are still single and enjoying single-dom in their thirties.
Who’s to say which is right or wrong? Perhaps our generation has been and IS still being molly-coddled by our parents’ generation and don’t want to get out of being pampered and protected. Is that bad? Is that good? I don’t think that matters.
I believe now that independence is not something that you can achieve just by looking at finances, living arrangements, work, etc. Being independent is a state of mind where you are making your own decisions (on anything) without being influenced into it, and without feeling guilty about the decision afterwards because of others. The decisions should also not involve others; whether relying or assuming help from others, or thinking that the decision is for the better of others (of course, children don’t count!). Most importantly, being independent is about being happy.