One Teenager's Backlash Against Overbearing Asian Parents (guest article)
Guest article written by K.X.
April 2012 (perspective of a Ph.D. student)
This guest article presents one teenager's backlash against her overbearing Asian parents. It is a passionately-written example of the sorts of frustration and rage felt by young people living in these types of households. Thousands of young people have sent me similar emails and posted on my discussion forum, but this message in particular stands out due to its eloquence.
This guest article is an email sent to me by a high school sophomore in response to reading articles such as Attention: Overbearing Asian Parents. With her permission, I have republished her email verbatim with no edits. This email contains some potentially-offensive language, but I have purposely left it unedited since it honestly conveys her emotions at the time of writing.
The views expressed are solely those of the author. I published this email to further raise awareness for the detrimental effects of this style of parenting, but I do not necessarily endorse its contents. Please email me if you would like to get in touch with the author.
I'm a high school sophomore and the only child of first generation Chinese immigrants, much like yourself. I've read and reread all of your articles concerning the "traditional" Asian parenting style, and I'm afraid to say that it applies nearly verbatim to my life. I can't remember a time when my parents (mother especially) weren't breathing down my neck to make high grades, and punishing me when I didn't meet their expectations. Of course, even in the absence of their demands, I would strive to achieve academically -- my problem with their overbearing behavior is the fact that they completely disregard my emotional health and stability. Pardon my French, but Asian parents suck ass at emotional support. I even think that insults come more naturally than "I believe in you." And that doesn't work for me when I stand in church with my friend's family and hear her mom say, "Honey, I love you so much."
I know that the Asian way is Stoicism, but do they honestly expect children to read between the lines in that much detail? Whatever anyone says (and here is where I deviate from your article), I simply can't find it in me to believe that my parents love me, or that I love them. It's too much to believe that loving parents can destroy your emotional development so completely. My emotional attachments to even my closest friends are shallow and more for convenience than emotional fulfillment.
There are many, many other things that I could say, but I'll limit it to the general Asian kid complaints. It's mostly grades that set my parents off. Last quarter, I had an 89 in chemistry (which doesn't count towards GPA). My mom lost her shit at least three separate times, called me every name in her vocabulary, and threatened to divorce my dad if I don't make it into a "good college." I mean, what the hell? Who can possibly be that unreasonable? She also assumes that if she hasn't heard of a college, then it must not be good (I've had to resort to the US News move to convince her), despite the fact that she got her education six thousand miles away, in Communist China. To be fair, this isn't REALLY her fault since I have a friend whose dad is completely batshit crazy and refuses to accept the merits of any other school but Harvard, and brags about her achievements to everyone, including my mom. But she's not mentally challenged (from what I can tell) and should have the capacity to, I don't know, THINK FOR HERSELF. For Chrissakes, sometimes I feel like I'm older than either of my parents and have to patiently explain to them why it's wrong for me to join clubs just to write them on college applications. Their incessant pushing and whining has caused me to be unhealthily dependent on living up to others' standards and trying to win their approval. My mom is also narrowminded -- I told her that I would send her the link to your article explaining why her parenting style isn't as perfect as she thinks it is, and her response? "I don't need to read any article. I know that your grades are the most important thing in your life, and so should you."
The other rant I have isn't technically related to school, but I still feel like it needs to be said to make my point. Asian parents are racist bigots. It actually sickens me to listen to my parents, mom especially, disparage every race that isn't her own. Indians, blacks, Hispanics, whites, you name it. Anecdote: Once when I was at school on a Saturday, my friend (who is an African American male) and I decided to wander around. My dad found us and took me home, and yelled at me the entire car ride. I don't remember all of what he said, but I do recall that the gist was "Why were you alone with a black kid?" When my mom got home, he told her and she flipped shit. She towed me into the bathroom and screamed at me, making the same point my dad did until I began arguing with her in disbelief and anger. I must have made a good point that she didn't want to admit because the next thing I remember, this is what's coming out of her mouth: "If I ever hear of you alone with a black kid again, I'll pull you out of your current school." Are you (pardon my French again) FUCKING serious?! I would understand slightly more if they were angry over the fact that I was alone with a guy. But did it really make a difference what the color of his skin was? The ultimate irony, which only proves their willingness to judge without knowing any facts, is that the friend I happened to be with is actually a completely courteous gentleman. They also have issues with my marriage plans (a long way off, let me assure you) and their criteria are: no Hispanics, no Arabs, no blacks, and no Indians. They actually think they're being kind by permitting me to marry a white guy, having forgotten that by the time I'm ready for marriage, I'll be long out from under their stupidity.
I think I've gone on for too long, so here's what I've been building up to: After I graduate from high school, I'm never going to contact or see my parents again. It won't hurt me any, since I have no special affection for them, and I can't think of any other way to show them the extent of the harm they've done. I won't even rely on them for college expenses--I'll do my best to get scholarships and financial aid from wherever I plan to go. I just can't stand the thought of living the rest of my life like a play, having to pretend to care about them and acting as though my childhood never happened. The ends don't justify the means in this case, and I don't think I'll ever be truly free from caring about the expectations of others. But getting away from the people who caused that problem seems like the most logical thing to do.
Do you think I'm being too harsh? In all honesty, I'm committed to this plan regardless, but I wouldn't mind some insight or advice from someone who understands the reasons for my bitterness.
Thanks for taking the time to read all of this,
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Last modified: 2012-04-20