I Had A Difficult Conversation With My Parents, To Break The Cycle Of Pain: Notes From A Pre-Teen’s Diary

‘Communication is key’ is an overused phrase that we casually throw around. If communication is the key, why is it that it feels like a lock sometimes? Expressing what you feel or what’s on your mind can be a daunting task. The fear of being misunderstood, the fear of feeling inadequate, and the fear of unpleasant confrontations, are some of the reasons for failing to speak your truth.

My parents have always encouraged me to openly communicate with them. It worked out well for us, until I turned double digits. I feel (and I’ve been told that I am wrong) that no one wants to hear about your version of the truth. They want to hear you agree with their version, blissfully ignoring what goes on behind the scenes in your heart and mind.

As I get closer to thirteen, I’ve noticed that my parents (especially my mom) don’t realise that I am growing up. Fast. At a pace that they can’t keep up with. The transition from needing them all the time, to needing them less and less, is perhaps turning out to be the biggest existential crisis for my parents. I would have thought that successful parenting would be for your kids to not need you as much when they grow older. It turns out that my parents thought that successful parenting is to be a helicopter — circling your kids at every stage of life. For your kids to follow the path you had chalked out for them, not realising they might want to take a different route. If I could learn from my parents’ experiences, I would have achieved sainthood by now, but I need to navigate life on my own. Not everything in my life can be picture-perfect, not everything can go according to ‘The Grand Plan’. I need to rise and fall from my countless mistakes. My rise. My fall. My mistakes! If I am always being protected from this ‘harsh’ world, how am I going to become resilient? If I have everything laid out on a platter, how will I learn to struggle? If the umbilical cord never gets cut, how will I grow?

My parents think that I am very talented and very intelligent! God’s chosen one, you see! They have wanted to give me a ‘well-rounded’ upbringing. From ballet to boxing, military camps to art workshops, and theatre to playing instruments, I have tried it all. I enjoyed nothing really, except singing. Granted that they have spent pots of gold on these lessons (always being reminded that they never had these opportunities when they were growing up) but I don’t remember signing up to excel at all of them. Isn’t gaining new experiences enough? Isn’t being a Jack of All, Master of None, enough?

This pressure of being raised ‘holistically’ had slowly chipped away at my motivation. 

It reached a point where I didn’t feel the need to comply with anything that anyone said. I didn’t want to enter debate competitions, I didn’t want to study after school, I didn’t want to revise for my upcoming assessments, I didn’t want to try playing golf. I wanted to spend time with my friends all day, I wanted to be on social media, I wanted to own makeup products and experiment with them all day long, but most importantly I just wanted my space. This was tough. On all of us.

Something I started doing more often than I should have — is lying. Whether it was about finishing my homework or even if I had a good day at school, I used it as an escape to avoid any unpleasant conversations. Lying created the illusion in my mind that I could do things undetected and without consequences. I made myself believe that I could make everyone happy if I camouflaged the truth with lies. On the flip side, it also created immense guilt because I knew I was fracturing the communication lines between my parents which would have devastating consequences. It took my whole life to build but broke in the flash of a second

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The Middle Ground

Life at home was now full of arguments, lectures, and sermons. I felt claustrophobic. I was trapped in my own home. I lashed out against my parents, making everyone, including myself, miserable.

How were we to recover from this?

How would I break the cycle of pain?

For starters, I had a genuine, heart-wrenching yet difficult conversation (one of many) with my parents. This started clearing the fog that plagued our relationship over the past few months. It helped us realise the severity of the situation. We were not perfect. We had to stop pretending and take the weight of perfection off our shoulders.

My parents and I decided to pick our battles and debate (not argue) over things of significance like academics and my overall well-being. I was made to understand that things that would affect me in the long run had to have non-negotiable rules. Slowly but surely, my parents found ways to inspire me without putting unnecessary pressure on me and we mutually decided consequences if I went astray from my targets. We found the middle ground. It was ok to not work right from grade 8 towards an Ivy League admission but finishing maths homework on time was important. It was ok to not be an ace swimmer but exercising four times a week was a necessity. It was ok to go out with my friends but spending quality time with family was vital. Being rude was not ok but speaking my mind and heart was celebrated.

We are taking baby steps to find our happy place. We will get nowhere while riding on an emotionally high roller coaster, so we are taking time-outs and reconvening when we are calmer. We feel like we are recovering from an illness. Hopefully, we have developed antibodies (against this virus of raging tempers) and can move on in life with more strength!

We hear a lot of mental health and self-preservation conversations on social media but please remember that you must not be influenced by influencers. Everyone’s struggles are different so reach out to the people you love to stay mentally healthy!

For anyone reading this and resonating with what I feel, please remember that you are not alone. But people around you are not mind readers. You must reach out for help before you feel that the world around you is collapsing.

After the dust has settled, one thing is clear. My family is my everything, and I am theirs. That is permanent.  

Vanya is a student in year 8 of Nord Anglia International School in Dubai. 

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