Opinion | How to Disobey Your Tiger Parents, in 14 Easy Steps

Opinion | How to Disobey Your Tiger Parents, in 14 Easy Steps

6. Take note of their other worries. All immigrants are afraid of not making it. They’ve washed dishes in restaurants or tended the counter of a gas station. They’ve experienced dislocation, heartsickness and uncertainty. They want to spare you that life. But remember that you can navigate the world in ways unimaginable to them.

7. If, at any moment, you feel yourself expecting understanding from them, stop. Ask yourself: Why do I need it? Accept that you may never get it. Transcendent perfect understanding, as a goal, is out of the question. Maybe you’re thinking, but I know a family like that! They’re the nicest! Consider: Doesn’t the child seem weirdly lacking in edge? A little too well adjusted and cheerful? (Note: These are the perfect people to marry; marry them.) Your parents gave you this edge. Because of your relationship, you know how to fight — you know how to articulate what you believe and withstand skepticism. You’ll thank them some day.

8. If you hope to deepen your relationship, ask them questions. What did they want to become when they were younger? What was the political situation? Was it a just world? What was hard about coming here? If you don’t know their native tongue, try to speak it, even if that means you have to fumble and be uncomfortable. (Welcome to their lives!) If your parents tell you not to bother learning their language, this should break your heart.

9. Remember that what persuades them is your stability. By definition, that takes years to prove. On some profound level, they know they can’t argue with the fact that you’re happy.

10. But you may not, in fact, find happiness. You may not like the choices you believed they failed to understand — it may be you who fails. Prepare yourself for what they will say. Thought you could change the world? Thought you could do what you love and still pay rent? We told you so!

11. Let them say it.

12. In theory, parents know you most intimately. In practice, they often have no idea how much they hurt you. They feel, rather, that it is you who have hurt them. And this impasse is painful, because in a battle where both feel betrayed, victory is Pyrrhic.

13. I wish I could say: You can disobey them and win their love. I wish I could promise you that your choices are the right ones, and that you won’t come to doubt them. But winning and certainty are actually not the point. The point is: Do you believe that failure is yours to have, rather than theirs to fear?

14. Have faith. There is a long game. They might never see things the way you do, and that’s O.K. Show them love as best you can. Show up for them, and the things that they care about, in the ways that you are able. After all, when you were a baby, they bathed you, wiped your nose, cut your food into tiny little chunks so that you wouldn’t choke and fed the stuff straight into your mouth. And someday, maybe you’ll get to do that for them.

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