Just the other day, I was listening to my group of friends talking about their parents. I couldn’t help but notice that there were more complaints than positive attributes. It was the usual negative chatter you might expect from teenagers: “My parents don’t give me freedom”; “My mother is a real nag”; “My dad is like a stone; doesn’t react much, not concerned but he sure can hurt when he wants to”; “My parents are so unfair, they don’t understand me”. The list of complaints went on and on.
Throughout the ordeal, I remained quiet, not because I did not like what they said or I had nothing to contribute, but I was thinking of my own parents and how my relationship with them took a 360-degree turn.
When I was 12 years old, my parents separated. My father moved to Kuching, Sarawak and my mother, sister, brother, dog and myself remained in Kuala Lumpur. My world was shattered. I never knew my parents were going through marital difficulties. I never knew they had problems.
Naturally, I was shocked when my father broke the news to us. For months I walked around in a daze, wishing and hoping that things would get back to normal. Eventually though, I came back down to earth and reality hit hard.
I knew my father would never return to us and nothing I say or do would help to change the circumstances. I could not turn to my mother for comfort and support because she too was devastated. My mother was out of the house most of the time because she couldn’t cope with the heartache. I did not know that it was due to the fact that she didn’t want us to see her so broken and helpless. It was at that point that I became more aware of the kind of relationship I had with my mother all this while.
Mum was always mum to me. She was there for me - she took me to the shops if I needed anything, sent me for my piano classes and coached me when exams drew near. Our conversations were purely based on “What time’s your piano class?” “Have you finished your homework?” and “Do your Maths now”. I had nothing against her, after all, a mum was meant to be like that.
When my dad left, she didn’t ask me what time my piano class was or have whether I had finished my homework anymore. She had disappeared from my life. For a long time after that, I hated her. I hated her for not being there when I started to hurt and when I basically needed someone to talk to. “She wasn’t a mum anymore!” I thought angrily. “She’s supposed to help me through this mess!”
Things were not any better with my dad. As a child, I never really saw my dad much because he was always trying to earn more money and he was too busy chasing a higher position. When he was home, he was usually asleep after the exhausting week.
Nevertheless, despite the little that I saw of him, I truly adored and looked up to him. My mother always told me, “Your father is a very intelligent man, he works so hard for our family”.
When my parents split up, he visited us twice a month. At every visit, I was torn between running up and hugging him so tightly like before or giving him the cold shoulder. Most of the time, I barely spoke to him, I treated him like an outsider, and made it known that I did not want to touch or hug him. Yet deep down inside was this desire to hold him like before.
I missed him so much but I just could not forgive him for the pain that he’d caused all of us. My dad tried to win back my love by buying me anything I wanted, no matter how expensive. But even that could not touch my hard yet broken self. Because of my cold treatment, my dad began to withdraw and that made things even more difficult and complicated. I was ridden with guilt. My dad was ridden with guilt. The both of us wanted each other so badly but neither could reach out to the other.
The turning point came when my mother’s best friend (my godmother) begin to journey with us. She came to our place nearly every night, talking to us, helping us cope with our grief, helping us to step out of that hopelessness.
It was a long and painful journey, yet it was worth it. Thanks to my godmother, my mother gradually let go of the hurts and started helping me through my hurts and anger, helping me see things from my father’s perspective. She was not only my counselor; she became a person I turned to for emotional support. She became my confidant, my friend, my light in the darkness… she became a mum. The mum I’ve always wanted.
With my father, it was a different story altogether. My dad is a person who does not wear his heart on his sleeve and does not express himself very well. Initially, it was hard to get through to this extremely logical and reasonable man. But gradually as the years went by and I started to let go of all the hurts and anger, and especially when I forgave him for all he had done, our relationship began to change.
Unlike my mum where I am able to express my emotions freely, with my dad, it proved to be more difficult. My dad is more of an “action” man and truly, I have seen and felt the way he cares for all of us through his wonderful actions. When my sister left for Australia, he took a week off from work to help her settle down. He supports all my social work and shoulders the expenses of my brother’s education and has never complained or refused to help pay for household expenses. I admit, sometimes it is so frustrating because my dad is amazingly logical and seems to have his views and explanations for everything. But I’ve discovered a secret to his heart…writing.
He is a fantastic writer and loves to write. We now exchange letters very frequently and thanks to those letters, it has opened the doors to his heart. We discuss what we have written and sometimes we sit in silence, enjoying the way our words to each other has touched the most tender part of our hearts.
Recovering from a break-up is a painful and very long journey. I can’t believe that such a traumatic event could bring us to where we are today. Without my parent’s break-up, things would have remained the same. My mum would have been a mum who was more concerned about my material and educational needs and my dad would have remained a stranger to me. Without my parent’s break-up, I would have been able to contribute to my friends’ discussion about their irritating, unfair and unimaginable parents.
But having been through a parental breakup, my relationship with my parents has changed for the better. Believe me, I’ve come to this point in my life where I can thank God for all the pain their break-up caused because it made me grow up. It made my parents grow up, too. Sometimes it takes a painful event for us to change our ways. A separation or divorce is not necessarily an ugly thing… I believe the pain from my parent’s break-up has been the best teacher I’ve ever had.
My thoughts were brought back down to earth with my friend’s voice asking me, “So, are your parents yucky or what?”
A wide grin spread over my face and I replied, “My parents have always been angels… It’s just that they’ve just been given their wings and are now learning to fly.”