By Amal Ghazali
This month I had the privilege of taking my parents on a trip to Turkey. My parents have always loved travelling, but life happened, and in the midst of four kids, college fees, full time jobs, mortgages and a big family to run, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for that. These days their kids are all grown, retirement is just around the corner and they are in great health, and I understood this to be a window for me to indulge them.
Technically, I left my parents’ home in Kedah when I was 13. I enrolled into a boarding school in KL, and after that it was straight away to college, studying abroad and beginning a working life in the big city. I would go home occasionally for school breaks and holidays, but living far away from each other meant that although we are close as family, we do, in a way, lead separate lives. Taking trips together is a great way for us to reconnect and bond without our different routines and lifestyles being in the way.
Travelling with my parents is certainly a different kind of experience compared to travelling solo, with friends or with a spouse. I distinctively remember the look on my Dad’s face as we sat under a small umbrella by the streets in Istanbul during a heavy downpour while eating a plate of grilled intestines. It was my idea because I have always been quite adventurous, while my Dad’s idea of a vacation is to sit in a cosy restaurant with plates of proper food and soviets. Similarly, there was also an episode where we spent three days lugging around shopping bags around the same district because my parents enjoyed leisure shopping while I preferred a more cultural experience.
These are small examples, but enough to attest that sometimes, we grow up to become somewhat different than our parents. I can certainly recall the times when I told my mother that I wanted to join a yoga retreat, and she feared that I was on the edge of joining some hobo cult, as she had never been acquainted with yoga before. The people I dated were never really “up my parents’ alley”, if you know what I mean. Living in various places my whole life and being surrounded with different communities than my parents are used to also meant that I grew up to have a very different outlook in life and faith than them, although this is not to say that one is better than the other - we just see and perceive things differently.
Luckily, my parents are the kind who never imposed me to become a certain way. Luckily, our differences are not to the extent that the cause strains in our relationship. However, this is not necessarily true for everyone. I remember a guy I was seeing whose parents did not like that I looked and sounded different than what they had expected from a possible in-law. Sometimes, managing differences within a family can cause a giant rift, and even more unfortunately, a life controlled by fulfilling other people’s expectations of us. In this side of the world where family, culture and heritage is the root of society, sensitivities and expectations sometimes become the controlling factor of our relationships with our loved ones.
Whether you have parents, or any other sort of parental figure in your life, your relationship with them is perhaps the most enduring one in your entire lifetime. For most of us, we had probably never known a life without our parents in it. That being said, as I grew older and became acquainted with many other people, I came to realise that there are so many different parent-child dynamics out there. Some are very close to their parents to the point that they live together even as adults, some are estranged from each other for a million different reasons, some lost their parents very early on in their age, some grew up to have exactly the same beliefs and lifestyles as their folks, and some came to have a completely different lifestyle than how they were raised. Whichever one you are, I think we can all agree that loving our parents is a colourful, crucial and sometimes challenging journey that shapes the totality of our lives.
As for me, what I have learned through my own experiences is that although it may not be a walk in the park, as long as your intentions are sincere with how you want to lead your own life, you will always be able to, in one way or another, reconcile your differences together. Sometimes we forget that our parents are only human, and they are just like us too, only older. All they want is for us to be happy, and their vision of being ‘happy’ can sometimes be completely different than ours. And that’s normal, as they grew up in a different time and circumstance than we did.
Just because we are different does not mean we should love and respect each other any less. This is true not with just our parents and families, but also when it comes to the bigger picture of society.