Logo Leo Ariel

Porcupine Parents

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Growing up, I had a rough childhood. I did things that, in hindsight, were messed up.

Until now, I hadn’t been able to connect the dots.

My parents paid for food, shelter, and after-school activities. They made sure I had everything I needed. So what was the problem?

Now I realize I had a strong material foundation, but a weak emotional one.

I realize I was so hurt by my parents that I took my anger and frustration out on myself and my siblings. I was self-destructive and hurt the people around me.

Childhood Environment

My mother was often stressed about work. When she was worried, she’d scrunch her eyebrows and summon a frown to her face. I felt I couldn’t talk to her, because I’d get dismissed or reprimanded.

My father swooped in to enforce discipline. He went berserk on certain things, like me not finishing my food. When I refused, he would force my meal down my throat, or threaten to take away my things. I was angry at him a lot.

My parents fought a lot. They’d scream at each other, often in front of us. That was the last thing I wanted. Taking a side was futile, as they would turn their anger against me. Often I got the feeling that they didn’t like each other very much.

Years later, I felt insecure about myself.

  1. I lived for my parents’ approval. I was afraid to spend my allowance, because I didn’t want to buy things they wouldn’t approve of, even though it was my own money. I felt I wasn’t allowed to be happy unless my parents were.

  2. I blamed myself for everything. I thought that every bad thought I had was my fault. For example, I could say the nicest thing to somebody, but judge myself because I didn’t think they would take it well. I beat myself up for no reason.

  3. I struggle with letting people close to me because I fear that they won’t like me for who I am.

  4. I want to feel loved but refuse to admit it. Opening my heart would put me in a position to get hurt. And I was terribly afraid of being hurt more. On one hand I wanted love, but at the same time I pushed it away.

Parents’ Background

Both my parents came from China. They immigrated to the US in the 1990s. Both my parents finished top of their class, and were accepted into an American university. Where they come from, education was the only way out.

But a hyperfocus on school came at a cost. I was constantly compared to their friends’ kids, who went to great schools. I’d hear about college rankings all the time. All of this made me feel bad. Even when I had committed to Cornell, my parents encouraged me to apply to MIT and Harvard. In their eyes, I was never good enough.

When you tell a kid something over & over again, he grows up believing it. I was constantly told I wasn’t good enough. So that’s what I believed.

Choosing Love

As I get older, I can more clearly see the truth. My parents parented me the same way they were parented. They put education on a pedestal because education was the pedestal for them.

Now I learned to treat their words as words, not gospel.

A Few Lessons I Learned

  1. How I act is usually a reflection of how I’m feeling. Without being in a good place myself, it’s hard for me to be good to others.

  2. My parents don’t have the full context on me. They can’t. Likewise, I don’t have the full context on them. Nobody has full context on anyone. Why do we judge each other so much?

  3. I spent too much time seeking the approval of others. Moving forward, I can’t live my life for somebody else.

I have a lot of wounds, and now is the time to heal.

I’m confident this is a step in the right direction.