With my dad, I’m treated like a child, yet expected to act like an adult.
It’s a bumpy relationship between my father and I. The kind of relationship where he refers to himself in the third-person, while I have to pick my words carefully when talking to him to not risk his temper.
It’s a relationship which has gotten to the point where I call him by his name behind his back out of spite, instead of calling him ‘dad’.
Still, as I grew older, I realised that our relationship wasn’t as bad as I used to think it was. Sure it was shit, but it could’ve been worse.
But let’s go through those rough days first.
Speak when spoken to
‘Speak when spoken to” is one way to describe the conversations I have with my dad.
Like I said earlier, I am treading on eggshells with what I say. Just one wrong sentence and his loud, serious voice will admonish me and shred whatever confidence I had.
Asking for a PS4 from him became a debate. “Why would you need such a thing?”, was his default response whenever I wanted something for myself.
Even recently when I was talking with him about going to college in KL, it felt like a game of chess.
“If you can study here, why go all the way there?”
“I did the research, there are only two places which offer mass comm, and neither of them are good. In KL at least the colleges are more reliable and I can find more relevant jobs there.”
It feels as if we’re in the middle of a business negotiation.
It’s been like this for years. From experience, I’ve become sensible enough to avoid confrontation altogether.
I’ve talked to my mom about my plans, and she’s more supportive. At least she actually gives me the floor to speak.
I’m not saying my dad doesn’t do that or that I’m just looking to hear what I want to hear, but the more I talk to him, the more it feels like I’m shouting at a brick wall.
I understand his reasons and claims, but I always feel like I’m backed into a corner when talking to him. It makes me so scared to go out into the real world and talk with others.
It took me such a long time to grow big enough balls to speak my mind with my work colleagues and classmates.
I was scared to say what I felt and instead kept everything inside because of my dad. It was either acceptance or confrontation, and confrontation from my dad was never pretty.
There’s even a part of me which used to say, ”If my dad is like that, imagine how it would be like during a job interview,” and that really is the case.
Whenever the interviewer fires a hot question at me, my confidence drops and I’m scrambling for an answer.
It’s wrong to blame my dad for the confidence I lacked, but all of our life lessons do start from home.
“No, means no.”
Speaking of fighting losing battles, every confrontation with my dad has ended with both, tears and fear.
Back when I was in Form 2 I tried to convince my dad to let me quit school – I was in a different mindset and wanted to go straight to work.
He gave a clear ‘no’, and usually, I would just nod and walk away.
But that time, because I was not gonna take ‘no’ for an answer. It didn’t go well…
He got up and shouted at me, reducing me to tears in the corner of our house.
“No means no!” he said authoritatively. “I don’t want to hear about this again.”
Don’t worry, I wisened up. It took me a few years, but I realised that I was still under his roof and that I am still his son.
I’ve come to just accept his advice and wishes, even if they’re not what I want to hear. I’ve learned that what happens when I try to get what I want is worse.
And as I grew older…
Over the years, he has become a better parent
I came to the realisation that this might be the best he can do as a dad and that I should accept him for that.
He’s nowhere near the ideal father figure, but over the years he has become a better parent.
And maybe this is why – months after I tried to quit school, he had back surgery after a disc slipped while playing golf.
While he is my father, at that time our relationship had hit rock bottom. Even when I visited him in the hospital, I did it because I felt obligated to.
He must have sensed this, and it gave him some much-needed perspective. Ever since then he has taken steps to be a more supportive parental figure.
When I noticed this, it gave me some perspective as well on how neglectful I was as a son to not just him, but my whole family.
Over the years he’s opened up more about his past and calls me regularly. Of course, sometimes he is still the same old him, but I shouldn’t expect so much out of him.
He still gives me a lot of freedom to pursue what I want and live my life freely, which is something I don’t see many people having the luxury of.
Honestly, I could’ve ended up with someone way worse. So I should be thankful that in the end, he is a caring and supportive dad, parenting me in the best way he knows how.