When I was a little girl, my parents used to fight. Their fights were never long or severe (though, I seldom knew the nature of their arguments), and they usually returned to their normal selves within a few hours. When they fought, my mother would often cry and retreat into their bedroom, while my father would turn unusually quiet and escape into his office. My brother and I would distract ourselves with movies or games until the tenseness dissipated.
But I never considered the possibility that my parents would divorce. At the end of the day, their arguments were just minor infractions to our overall familial harmony. I genuinely believed that my parents loved each other and our 4-person unit more than anything else in the world.
It always befuddled me when someone complained about going home for the holidays. In my family, the weeks leading up to the holiday season were especially long and tantalizing (more so now that we all live in different states). The holidays always symbolized togetherness (and also, lots of food) and each one held a precious opportunity to build more memories together.
I also assumed that my parents and my family were the norm. Though I knew that many couples in America separated or divorced, I thought the ones who stayed together were all genuinely happy and in love.
It wasn’t until I stepped into college that I learned the very valuable lesson to not take everything at face value. I came to learn that many of my friends did not have happy families or happy parenting.
A lot of them admitted that their parents stayed together only to raise their children. Fights were apparently rampant in their households. Worse than incessant fights, were the long stretches of silence where no one would talk for days.
In high school, one friend’s mother went on a week-long trip to Vegas after initially telling her family she’d be going to New York for a day. In college, two of my friends confessed that their fathers had cheated on their mothers years ago, but that the damage still lingered years later. One friend had seen her father, in a drunken haze, chase after her mother with a broken whiskey bottle. Most horrifying yet was when another friend told me about how his father had planned to kill his entire family years ago because of financial struggles and constant fights with his wife.
A case of clear psychological damage inflicted on a child born to two selfish and unhappy parents can be seen in the example of one of my college friends. Her parents divorced years ago when she lived abroad as a child. Her mother re-married her co-worker a month after the divorce was finalized (alluding to the infidelity that likely took place when she was married to my friend’s father). Her father, on the other hand, re-married years later to a woman half his age. The new step-mother, troubled by the notion that her husband’s relatively large fortune would go to his daughter, convinced her husband to cut his daughter (my friend) from his will and his life. It was not until I heard this story that I could make sense of my friend’s strange detachment from and cynicism towards people. While she appeared to be cheerful and happy on the outside, she had trouble maintaining friendships because to her friends were replaceable.
Although I have identified some of the more shocking cases of parental neglect and disharmony above, I can still see the damage left behind in other cases. For instance, many of my friends had told me that their parents chose to “stick it out” for their children, but that they clearly did not love each other or even sleep in the same room. Just knowing this fact alone rendered my friends more jaded. Many of them had adopted either a cynical or lackadaisical attitude towards love. Love, to them, was a luxury that might have an expiration date at any moment.
I often wondered how their parents had met and almost all of their parents had met organically and fallen in love prior to getting married.
“But it’s not like they actually loved each other. They just drank the Kool Aid early,” as one friend had fittingly put it.
Over these past few years, I have learned to count all of my blessings—the biggest one being born to my parents.
They may not have had the most romantic of beginnings (an arranged marriage, though my father tries to romanticize this as much as possible) and though their marriage was certainly a huge partnership to raise their kids, I can genuinely see the love they hold for each other. It’s the kind of love they nurtured after years of hard work—a love that was born only after they got married and had us. Still, it’s a love that’s so overwhelmingly powerful that I can only pray to experience the same one day. Although outwardly, I may cringe every time my dad refers to my mom as his “bride” and describes their weekly grocery store outings as “dates,” the truth is that a little part of me melts every time.
I have had and continue to have many aggravations with my parents (such as having to abide by a 10 PM curfew or being nagged about how I need to get married now on account of my biological clock ticking faster than ever). With that said—I want to say thank you mom and dad for all of your sacrifices. Thank you, dad, for traveling all the time for work, though I know it must be exhausting, just so you can provide us with a wonderful lifestyle and access to the best things. Thank you, mom, for giving up your career even after you received your PH.D just so you could be around to raise your kids while dad traveled.
Thank you mom and dad for loving us, but most of all, thank you so much for loving each other.