How can we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Sorry, Mr. Wiz Khalifa. Can’t relate.
I’ve never been close to my family. My entire life, they’ve been, at worst, an inconvenience, and at best, the people I live with, who tolerate me and me them. I never understood people who were very close with either, or both, of their parents. My parents love me very much, they have done and continue to do a lot for me, but fostering a healthy emotional relationship with me never seemed to hold much importance for them. I never minded, either. All in all, a fairly standard Indian household.
Up till recently, I didn’t think anything was amiss in this dynamic. I was perfectly alright having two different personalities, one for home and another for anywhere else. I moved out when I left for college, and we started liking each other a little more; now that we lived miles away, we got on each other’s nerves a lot less. I would even miss them from time to time.
As fate would have it, I had to come back home when the WHO declared a pandemic and college shut down. This peace, understandably, shattered. A few weeks in, I decided to start therapy. Of course, there were more than a few reasons, but a need to understand my relationship with my parents was a big one. Everyone’s families have had a major role to play in making them who they are, and I was curious about mine.
After a few sessions, my therapist brought it up.
“What’s your father like?”
It’s not a tough question, but I found myself fumbling for an answer. I tried to explain what he was like, and started talking about my relationship with him as a child. About how close we were, how I would do anything to gain his approval. Daddy’s little girl.
Before I knew it, I was holding back tears. I hadn’t thought about how it used to be for years. How it used to be before I started noticing the cracks in the perfect person that I thought he was. Before I realized that he could be disinterested, unavailable, and a touch manipulative.
When I was still interested in maintaining a relationship with him, when I didn’t walk through my own house like a prey animal, dreading the possibility of having to hold a conversation with him.
Over the next few sessions, my therapist helped me dig deeper into our relationship, helped me understand it better. The more I talked, the angrier I got. Suddenly everything he did was wrong. Everything he did was now for his own convenience, it was all to manipulate me, each action became self-serving. Rage constantly simmered in me, and I felt it was justified.
After almost 20 years of overlooking his failings, brushing away all his flaws, they suddenly became painfully clear.
It wasn’t fair to him.
Because what I failed to consider is that he’s human. He is, quite simply, a normal person, prone to making mistakes. Expecting him to be perfect didn’t mean that he was, my expectations did nothing except hurt me and alienate me from him.
When I was angry, my friend told me that I have to learn how to see my father as a person, understandably imperfect. I brushed her off then. Now that I’m not angry anymore, I’m trying to change the way I see him, I’m trying to forgive, I’m trying to understand him as a person, not just as a father.
So maybe the next time someone asks me, “What’s your father like?”, I’ll have an answer.
Written by Saher Kalra for MTTN
Edited by Mihika Antonia Dean for MTTN
Featured image by Amalia Restrepo
Artwork by Nathalie Lees