Saturday, November 25, 2006

can't take my parents any more

It is 1:25 in the morning. I am with my family in Vegas for Thanksgiving. My parents have been arguing on and off for the past twelve hours. Or really for the past twenty-eight years.

Three months ago, after the huge weekend meltdown, I told my parents to stop arguing in front of me. If they feel the urge coming on, they can alert me and I will sprint out the door. Then they can bicker as much as they'd like.

Today over lunch, my parents discussed paying respects to my grandparents' resting places. They disagreed over who said what. My mother turned to my dad and said, "If you insist on doing this, I will never forgive you!" I raced out the door.

I came back half an hour later, when my dad was preparing to take my brother to the airport. My mom was still shouting. I packed up my suitcase and plopped it down on the kitchen linoleum. "I'm going to the airport too," I said. "I'm changing my flight and flying back with Tom."

"No!" my dad said, and rushed over to block me with his arm. "You have to stay. Stay the rest of the weekend!"

Such a display of emotion from my dad made me freeze with discomfort. I retreated to the living room, where I talked with my mother for an hour. I told her how painful it is to watch them argue.

"I didn't realize this counts as arguing! I thought it was just loud talking!" she said.

She promised there would be no more arguing, now that she understood what I meant. We re-installed Windows XP on my parents' laptop. They analyzed who caused the system to get clogged with viruses. It was my mother for downloading chinese toolbars. No, it was my dad for clicking on pop-up ads. No, it was my mother for typing on it fourteen hours a day. No, it was my dad for traversing unsafe web pages.

Two hours later, my dad asked me to install the printer on their desktop computer. I went to use the internet and it was dog slow. The desktop is five years old. Why don't they get a new one, I ask? Great idea, says my dad. No, no, my mother insisted, the internet slowness is just a fluke. She just used it again and it's fast. Go try it now! My dad sighed. "She's at it again! You just watch, she's going to use all her tricks to prevent from spending money on a new computer!"

and on,

and on,

and on and on and on.

At midnight my dad said, "This time, you're not leaving. I am." He stalked out of the room, and I heard the creaking of the garage door as it opened.

"What can I do?" my mom said, tears leaking out of her eyes. She gathered a napkin and wadded it in her hand. "Your dad keeps all the money. I don't want us to spend this much money on a computer."

I picked up the nearest book, Design Patterns, and clobbered myself on the head with it four times. I thought it would hurt but it didn't. It imparted a numbness that spread from the crown of my head down to the base of my neck.

My mom told me that it grieves her that I never call home. The only thing that gives her joy now is her church. But my dad won't let her donate to the church, and she feels guilty. She wasn't trying to start an argument, and she doesn't see why I am so upset. Her whole heart is focused on being good to her children.

"Then why are you causing me so much pain?" I said, yanking the roots of my hair in each fist. The crown of my head started to ache from where I hit it with the book, and the numbness spread to my shoulders. I began to fear that I did permanent damage to my brain by issuing blows to it.

"Fine, then maybe I will leave. Maybe I will devote the rest of my life to the church."

"You go and do that," I said, hating myself for the cruelty, hating her for the manipulation.

I escaped to my bedroom. My mother followed, knocking until I let her in. Another hour of hashing out why she was just trying to explain her viewpoint, how my dad won't let her access the money, how I should change myself so that this won't hurt me any more, how everyone's parents fight and this is normal.

Finally she sulked out of my room. I sit on the bed, googling to see if a head injury might create delayed effects that show up months later.

I am sapped. Why does everything in this house have to be so much fucking drama?


siqi's house of vanity said...

Dude, it's just the breaks of having Asian parents. Been there, lived it, washed the t-shirt.

- Siqi

Anonymous said...

I hear you.
Currently I am experiencing the same in my house. Me & my wife scream at each other on every other issue. My wife has access to all the money and credit cards. Many a times I just give up, and agree on something I would not otherwise. That does not stop her from picking another issue.
We both know that it's not good to argue in front of kids, but with a spouse like this you just don't have a choice.


Anonymous said...

Along with "Design Patterns", I had "Introduction to Algorithms" by Cormen et al. on my coffee table when I was a grad student.

I used to point them out to guests when I wanted them to leave. It was a strategy effective enough to merit inclusion in either tome.

Anonymous said...

Just go on,maybe time is the best medicine.

Anonymous said...

Ironic. I go to USA to run away from such situation between my parent, and yet I still have memory of them everywhere. Have they ask you to get married yet?

They thought by that they will get happier and the happiness of your marriage will become their happiness too, and washed-up all the bitterness built over the years of their relationship.

Seneca the Younger said...

Niniane, honey, hitting yourself in the head with a book is never recommended. Lucky it wasn't Cormen et al., though, as you could have really hurt yourself.

On the rest of this stuff, though --- have you ever considered therapy? Seriously. I had a similar set of parents; it can be really hard (as you've just demonstrated) to separate yourself from their drama.

In the mean time, though, it's worth remembering one of the Alcoholics Anonymous sayings: "you can't recover for someone else." Your parents drama is their own; you can't fix it for them, you can only make an effort to not own it yourself.

Niniane said...

To all the previous commenters:

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

oh, poor Niniane. i must say it is not usual even for Chinese parents for i am living in my some poor buy really harmonious family. but i can not give you advice. maybe sometimes, silence and tolerance are more important for people live together for so long a time.

Anonymous said...

Dear Niniane,

I never ever in the whole world thought that I would be writing this but hear I go anyway -

First, I want to thank you for being so honest and telling it like it is. No hush hush - I am at Google(!) and so I can't have any problems. No pretending stuff. You tell it like it is.

And with that you have liberated so many people like me who are so caught up in trying to project the right image in front of people they don't even care.

Secondly, I am caught up in a situation very similar to yours. My parents fight terribly and what is wors is that my mother beats up my father. There was one occasion during which she threw out all of his clothes onto the street and asked him to leave the house. She then packed all of us and told that we were leaving too - to a new home. We as kids were naturally horrified - we didn't know if our father would come and kill our mom or us - for being with mom. It was terrible. I then decided that MARRIAGE is such a fucking shit if two people try to get along for the sake of the society that they live in.

No child should be put through this. It is like rape of the heart - I was robbed of so many emotions. I don't have any love or respect left for my father - because he never fought back at my mother. Because that is what I always thought - fathers are the "lions". And I didn't have any father figure to look upto. It was and is still terrible. I stay away from home and dread to go home.

With time though my parents have reconciled - I am very susceptible to any fights between them. I don't cry but I feel like ending my love. God give me love but also let my parents love one another.

Sorry for bothering you with all this story of mine - but since you have been so brutally honest with yourself I wanted to let you know that there are other people like me who have and still are suffering a fate similar to yours.

May God help us all.

With warm wishes and regards.

Anonymous said...

Siqi, it is just the breaks of having parents.

Anonymous said...

You might find that trying to remain calm and reasoned is a better approach to deal with your parents. Screaming, running out, acting out by hitting yourself are immature and childish acts. There is a point where the children become the parents, you are at that stage, meet the challenge.

Johnny said...

This is a common human experience, so just take it easy and be a good sport. Some friends and I have discussed how to be better parents ourselves, but when some of us become parents, history repeats itself. :-)

BTW, this human trait seems to transcend race and religion.

Niniane said...

To Anonymous @ 3:56am:

I was struck by your story. I read over it several times today. The events you describe sound horrendously difficult, especially when your mom packed you up to move to a new house.

I hope you and your siblings can help each other out. I always feel ten times better when my brother is around.

I really admire your strength. Your situation is much harder than mine, and you're facing it head-on with optimism and working toward love. "Triumph through adversity". :)

I wish you the best through all the ups and downs.

Niniane said...

To Anonymous @ 11:52am:

> You might find that trying to remain calm and reasoned is a better approach to deal with your parents.

Oh, I try. It's just that often I fail.

Hasan said...

Niniane, I emailed you a personal story -- hope you feel better!

KE Liew said...

Running away is being ignorant to a problem. That's never a good thing.

I have the same problem, I think everyone does, except orphans. Why can't we figure out a way to bring reconciliation and harmony rather than distress and separation? Why make matters worst when a family is supposed to be helping/supporting one another?

We can crack our brains for material benefits, at work place, or for gettin' a night out with someone. But we can't crack our brains for the purpose of a harmonious family? What the heck?? Sure it takes time, just like how Google took years to build an empire. It all starts when one puts effort to change and make it happen.

Henry's said...

1. 看来很多人都遇到这样的问题,不过程度不一样而已。if one encounter such problem from time to time, it's like your parents is pushing you away further and further.

2. If you can understand, you can forgive. I used to hate, but as I grow and see parents getting older, I know it does not help, although I cannot fix the 'parents problem'. Maybe best strategy is to focus on ourselves so that we can do better when becoming parents.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, hitting yourself in the head with a book is a great way to transfer information from the book to your head. For example, last night I hit myself over the head with a "Literary American" article on beginning sentences with adverbial conjunctions. To my surprise, I not only messed up my sweet hairdo, I also messed up my ability to write coherently. To summarize, next time try hitting your mother over the head with a good Jane Austin novel.

PS. My parents argued until they divorced two years ago. Now my Dad at least is happy, and has found someone he doesn't argue with. I wonder what would have happened had he found that person 28 years ago. Good luck and have fun!

Anonymous said...

Hello, such things may be quite common with Indian families too. Only that the husband would beat the wife to end the argument.

DLee said...

Wow - Happened to stumble upon your blog. I wouldn't say my parents just argued. However, my mom and dad are BOTH stubborn like mules. My dad does something and my mom will not complain to him but to ME. I'm like her sounding board and I'm pretty much sick of it.

So, thanks for the story. I know I'm not the only one. I wish parents in general would realize that their crap should remain "their crap."

Anonymous said...

Also happen to stumbled upon your blog -- was searching about working in Google.

When my parents argue and mom calls me to complain I'd just agree with her on everything evil about my dad and exaggerate it to a point that she starts feeling sorry for my dad that I feel this way about him and then all the good things about my dad would start to come out from her mouth.

The side effect though, I would feel guilty about saying all those things afterwards even though I know I did not mean any of it.


OctaVentiConPanna said...

You hit yoself on da head? Sorry, but I laughed when I read dat.

You're parents are totally fucked up. I got parents like that too,but its all good cuz I do my own thing.

Bascule said...


Anonymous said...

I am at my wits end with my parents fighting and picking at each other, that I was looking for some help. I found your blog here and I just had to comment.

God you are not alone. Wow! I'm not alone! My dad is very abusive to my mom, snide comments and picks on her, really treats her like she is stupid. She is not! She took care of me and my brother while he went off and did what HE wanted to do in the Corps. She ran the house and all the finances. Yet now he is semi-retired and home more, he seems to think she is stupid and can't think for her self.

So my mom lets it roll off, takes some depression drugs so she really doesn't care, but I got her into counseling, so at least she is not using me as a sounding board any more. I don't want to here her complain about my dad.

I just went through a divorce myself and during this transition they have allowed my daughter and I to stay with them. I don't think I want my daughter exposed to my father any more than I want her spending time with my ex. (Who cheated on us with a woman he works with).

I really understand what your going through with the arguing and the picking at each other, picking fights and needling the other person until they blow up. Only my dad is the one to go stomping off and throwing around furniture and chairs on the way out. Then he punishes us for the next week by not eating anything we cook. It is his way to get the control back. I know counseling is out for them, they don't think they have a problem. But you do, I do. And as soon as I can, I am getting into counseling to deal with this.

Anonymous said...

I 'm currently going through the same situation my parents are consistently arguing, sometimes I wonder if they ever even loved eachother,my dad always picks on my mum and treats her like she doesnt know anything. She took care of me and my brother when we young whilst working. Yet there's one side of me that blames them for the way I am today, is this normal for chinese parents?

Anonymous said...

I hate my parents. They have no respect for me ; however they want me to respect them. They talk about me and my mistakes to my son , from birth to 21. My son plays and listen to them by not listening to me when he has serious run in with law, not doing his college work. Now he has been in jail 6 times and trying to get into school. Because he has a felony he must get letters from judges, probation officers and people of the court. Do you know the people that produced me say I am hard on him because of my failures and I need to be happy. I will be really happy never to hear their voices or see them ever again

Anonymous said...

im shit scared of my mum since my dad and her broke up, we always have arguments, when i got home from school i said can you drive me to school tommorow morning and she said no,, i said wy she pinned me up against the wall and i pushed her away from me and she hit me,, i dont no what to do, im 15,, i want to live in a childrens home place thingy,, away from my mum for ever,, can anybody help me? find a place