Dear parents, stop fucking cutting fruit

So, this is something that really irritates me. It’s well-known in Asian culture that parents are emotionally distant — that they royally suck with words, and the way they show love is through food, or whatever. They don’t say the words “I’m sorry” — they cut fruit, or they tell you to come eat dinner. (Oh wow, how generous.) And we, their children, know this — and we let it slide. We swallow our own needs for verbal affirmation and instead let our parents express affection the way THEY’RE comfortable expressing it — but not necessarily in the way we need to receive it.

I don’t know why it triggers me when I see things on the Subtle Asian Traits Facebook group that jokes about this. Like, status posts such as “I need to learn to cut fruit so that I don’t have to apologize to my children.” And I KNOW that emotional neglect and not being able to verbally express any emotion DOES affect children’s development and emotional stability. But when I see posts like this, too many of the responses are “LOLOL” or “HAHAHAHA” or “OMG THIS IS ME LOL”, and not enough responses actually address why we shouldn’t continue to perpetuate an unhealthy cycle of emotional avoidance.

Look, I’m proud to be Asian (Filipino), but I can’t not admit that there are many aspects of Asian parenting that are toxic as fuck. And when I see posts like the one I mentioned above, I don’t find them funny. My parents not being able to meet my emotional needs fucked me up. It left trauma that I am going to be working through for the rest of my life. It affected my self-esteem, it affected my sense of emotional security and attachment to others, it affected the way I seek validation in relationships, it affected almost every choice I’ve made in my entire life. Children learn about relationships first and foremost, from their parents. If their parents were not emotionally consistent, that child is likely to grow up into an adult who seeks relationships with people who are not emotionally available — because to them, THAT is what is familiar and THAT is what they think relationships are.

As children of Asian immigrants, who grew up in a different culture — one where it was not only ok, but encouraged, to express one’s emotions verbally and to value and find validity in our own emotions as well as the emotions of others — I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job of breaking a toxic cycle. I’m certainly not going to cut fruit in lieu of apologizing to my children, if I am the one that did wrong or if I am the one that hurt their feelings. If my child is hurt, by my words or my actions — no matter how fucking justified I feel in what I did at that time — I am going to fucking apologize. Because I want to teach my kids that emotions are valid, and that intent doesn’t justify action. I may not have INTENDED to hurt my child, but they were hurt, nonetheless, and so as their parent, it is my responsibility to restore their sense of emotional safety with me. I don’t give a fuck if your strict, toxic-ass parents “made you a tougher person.” You were a CHILD. You didn’t need to be tough — you needed to be safe. You needed to FEEL safe.

I realize that many parents make a lot of sacrifices for their children, in order for them to have a better life. But that doesn’t negate their children’s needs for emotional connection and understanding. It doesn’t make it ok for the parent to avoid verbal affirmations of any sort. It’s ok to recognize that your parents weren’t perfect. That they made mistakes — sometimes, really big mistakes that leave lasting scars that YOU are left to heal by yourself. It doesn’t take away from the good things your parents did for you. But we can recognize the good they did, and take those good things with us, while also changing and improving the aspects of their parenting that were harmful. That is how we break the cycle.

We also can’t normalize this. I can’t count how many times I’ve talked about the emotionally-distant parenting thing with other Asians, and they just brush it off and say, “Well, that’s just the way it is.” It’s not normal to have your emotional needs unmet — it’s unhealthy. I know that I’m not the only one that feels like my parents spent their lives making sure I was clothed and fed and educated — but never really understanding my emotional needs. They never really understood that I needed support for things they may not have realized were important to me. They never really understood that yelling at me as a first response to any mistake I made, was something that really hurt me. They never really understood that I needed to learn that making mistakes was ok — as long as I learned from them. I did not need to feel like if I messed up, if I got a low grade, if I made any mistake — I did not need to feel like they would not love me anymore. But that is how I felt. And I know I’m not the only one who has felt this way. And I know I’m not the only one that is working through these issues right now.

I really fucking wish more us of were open about this — about the fact that our parents weren’t perfect, and that that’s ok, but that we are going to be better, and we are going to break the cycle. That we will learn to say the words “I’m sorry,” even if it’s uncomfortable or awkward or hurts our pride — because children need verbal affirmation from their caregivers. Children need emotional availability. Children need empathy. I don’t want my children to build themselves up from level zero after a long, arduous process of trusting the wrong people, getting hurt, and finally finding people who didn’t make me feel like I needed to prove myself in order for them to even consider treating me with respect. I don’t want my children to feel like they have to pick themselves up and heal by themselves when they are hurt. I want my children to have a strong sense of what love really is, what trust really is, what respect really is. Respect isn’t something that’s earned if you’re smart enough or pretty enough or cool enough or obedient enough — respect if something you are worthy of simply by virtue of the fact that you are a human being. I want my children to know that I respect them enough to TELL them that I am sorry, whenever I am wrong. And maybe, when they grow up, they won’t make the mistakes I made. They won’t trust the wrong people who don’t love them, because they’ll know what love really is. They won’t struggle with their self-esteem — because the relationship I built with them will have given them a secure, strong sense of self. They won’t feel pressured to choose a career because it’s what I expect of them — they’ll choose a career that THEY love, and I will support them, and they will know this because I will have supported their passions as children and I will continue to support their passions as adults. And maybe, if I’ve done all this right — they WILL have had a better life than me. And that’s all parents ever want for the children, anyway.

I ramble about movies a lot.

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