The Imperfect Daughter

The author's childhood photo.

My first child was born when I was age 28 — the same age that my own mother had me. I’ve been told that my parents tried for a very long time to conceive me.

I still remember the 3×5 faded black and white pictures of me as an infant being held proudly by the family, and by my dedicated nanny (my nanny was very distinct looking-she was a young albino Filipina with white hair). She was standing backdropped by the beautiful scene of Manila.

A year later, my parents had an opportunity to start a new life in the US, and left me behind to stay with my Tita Espie’s family. It wasn’t until I turned 3 years old, that I was brought to the United States to be reunited with my parents, with whom I had to be reacquainted again.

Fast forward. I had acquired a sister five years younger than me and a brother eight years my junior. Somewhere along the years, going into my seventh grade, the relationship I had with my parents became strained. Whether it was my rebellious ways to be more “white” and to have the same lax freedoms as my Caucasian friends, or maybe because I wasn’t an “A” student, or maybe because I resented my parents who did not know how to “gently” communicate to me the way I wished they would like (how my friends’ parents did), I became the black sheep. My parents favored my sister and brother, who met their high Asian expectations.

Since then, and to this day (I’m 40 years old now), I’ve never had a close loving relationship with my parents. I would say it’s more cordial (sometimes even obligatory when I’m mad at them). If  I saw a Hallmark commercial or a movie scene with a mom/daughter holding hands, giving each other loving hugs, having an intimate conversation; or a father dancing with his daughter or having a fun lunch, I would either dismiss the scene in my mind or I would cringe with regret, because that’s not an experience I’ve ever had.

My two daughters are now eight and 12 years old, and I try my hardest to keep a good balance of being flexible and strict, but, more importantly, to express my unconditional love. Though at times, I do find myself being overly critical to others and have to bite my tongue as I remember how it felt on the receiving end. Why couldn’t have I just acquired my mom’s phenomenal cooking skills instead or my dad’s corny sense of humor?

As for my parents, they are 70 years old now and their ways have slightly relaxed, most likely, due to normal aging and after raising three kids. I, along with my daughters, visit or call them weekly to stay in touch and keep the communication going. The resentment I had towards my parents diminished when I became a mother myself. How my parents interact with my daughters now is in many ways how I wished they were towards me when I was younger, but I just smile when I see how happy my daughters are when they are with them.

In my heart, I forgave them and, also, myself, because I finally understood that every parent does their best based on what they know — whether it’s the right or wrong way to parent. It’s what we take from those experiences so we may become positive role models for others. ♥

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