A few Sundays ago was Father's Day. Yes, I know, a little stale, but DON'T JUDGE ME. My sister and I cooked something a little special for lunch and invited my aunt and her family over for food-and-lepak. Our favourite past times combined.
No, no food picture. What's the point of my showing you pictures of food you can't eat?
And this did not happen either.
Suffice to say that the briyani, tandoori chicken and beef kebab are no more. There was probably a sliver of a giant profiterole stuffed with lemon custard and tinned mandarin oranges in the fridge, but I'm not so hopeful. My aunt supplemented the meal with roast chicken, cold potato salad and pudding. Ah, post prandial slothness are the best.
But I digress.
On Parent Day (be it mother or father) you would see the Sunday specials crammed with wonderfully heart warming stories about people and their parents. Those are good stories to reaffirm and remind you of your good fortune (or misfortune) in the fickle fate lottery that gets you your parents.
Or got your parents you, in my case. *shrugs*
When we were young we thought of our parents as some kind of magicians who make things happen. They knew everything there is to know in this world too! They could fix everything!
And then you become a teenager and you roll your eyes at everything they say and claim that they're old fashioned and know nothing. Serves you right if you are a parent to teenagers now. Karma bites.
Some people grow distant from their parents when they enter boarding school or university. With all the demands on our time and the things that we chase to achieve, many of us don't have time to connect with the people who made our existence possible. So the lack of contact time may mean that your relationship with your parents will either wither or remain stagnant. Which could make things uncomfortable when a conflict arises, be it over money, or even Manchester United.
We also tend to take our parents for granted, thinking they'll always be there, always be the same. We don't think of them as a person of their own right. Your parents were someone else's son or daughter, brother or sister, friend, enemy or the dreaded boss, before, during or after you came into their lives. They had a different set of experiences that are no less meaningful, enriching or even traumatic like yours. They know happiness and unhappiness without your presence. So what made you think that whatever it is that they do or don't do is all about you?
I am glad that my Mom told me bluntly that a mother does not necessarily have to love her children, when I was about eight. No, it wasn't that traumatising, especially through the filter of time and experience. She told me that when I was whining at her to do something for me when she was super busy. And when she demanded why does she need to do it for me, I innocently and manipulatively replied that she MUST do it for me because she's my mother and she loves me. Ha. That'll teach me.
I believe that our relationship with our parents have to evolve as we grow older. Of course, evolving in your relationship with your Dad doesn't mean that you go alpha taking over on him. Being friends with your mother doesn't mean that you need to tell her all your youthful indiscretion when you know that it'll ignite fireworks that will rival the shopping centres' New Year extravaganza.
Look at your parents through the lenses of love and acceptance. If you could tolerate the friend who always whinges about his/her job/girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever, why can't you spend some time just listening to your parents share about their physical discomforts that came with age or infirmity?
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) often said that the best of us are the ones who are the best with their parents, with mother getting the lion share of devotion. I am not saying that we should all become automatons that agree with everything your parents say and do. That is just not manifestly possible. Just treat your parents like a person and not just your father and mother. Assert yourself firmly and courteously that you are an adult and that you appreciate their willingness to accept this change. Also, accept that no matter what, you are still their precious baby; my Dad still paces the floor when I get home after 10 pm (do I even have a curfew at this hoary age?).
I also know that a number of people had suffered a terrible childhood because their parents are damaged people (we are all damaged to a certain extent, but you have to measure the coping mechanism here). Does that mean you should turn away from your parents? No. You can choose to distant yourself from them; kind of like divorce, or you could be the better person and treat them better than they treat you. And even if your kind gestures are rewarded with heaps more of abuse and unkindness, it is all right. Remember, you control your behaviour, but you cannot control theirs. As long as you maintain what is right, it is up to them to respond appropriately or inappropriately. Your patience and grace will be rewarded, as God often mentions in His books that He loves the patient ones who face their challenges with forbearance. Even if you don't believe in any God or have no faith system except the UN Human Rights Charter, trust me that being the better person will enrich your life more than allowing your bitterness and resentment to poison your heart.
Remember, your parents aren't perfect. They are human. They are flawed. They made mistakes.