Parents of Millennials
Thanks to social media, communication has become more seamless. But in a digital world of noise, sometimes we forget to communicate with the ones we love most in real life. Cross-generational communication is more difficult than ever, and so much remains unsaid and unheard.
We asked 20 millennials the following question: What’s one thing you’ve never told your parents but wish they knew? Here’s what they said.
Names were changed to protect some identities.
When I was Primary 4, I was down with pneumonia in the middle of the night. I remember my mom carrying me on her back to my family doctor, and holding my hand tightly in the ambulance when I was rushed to the hospital. My dad, who was overseas for a business trip, caught the earliest flight back to Singapore. They were by my side throughout my hospital stay and I’m sure they cried amidst their relentless prayers for me to get well. I’d like them to know that I’ll always be grateful for their selfless care and support.
I wish they knew how grateful I am for all the ways they protect me—from struggling through our financial pain when I was younger, to giving me everything they had so I won’t miss out on what my peers enjoy. I do notice, and appreciate even the small gestures like when they pass me an extra $20 now. I know I can seem nonchalant, but I value them and everything they’ve sacrificed to raise me.
Mei Yuen, 21
That I’ve never felt ashamed to be born into a less privileged home, and they’ve taught me how a parent’s love doesn’t need to stem from the fulfilment of his/her child’s material wants.
For staying up late at night to wait for me when I spend late nights out with friends. For cooking my favourite food whenever I’m home for dinner and saving the best liao for me. For waking up early in the morning, preparing breakfast, making sure I’m never late and dealing with my grumpiness at the start of the day. For being even more kanchiong than me when packing my army stuff for book in. For boiling tonics and medicines when I’m ill, yet feigning toughness when it’s their turn. As a guy, sometimes it’s quite hard to tell my parents how thankful I am, and how much I love them. If there’s one thing I want them to know, it’s how much I dread the day they pass, and how I can never repay them for their unconditional love.
That I love them more than anything, and I worry for them as they age. That I get upset when they worry about me, because I like to take risks and the road less travelled. That I’m sorry but I can’t live with myself if I don’t stay true to what I believe in. However, at the end of the day I still love and appreciate them in my own way.
Dealing with Divorce
I wish my parents knew that I’ve never once thought that divorce was unnatural or that our family was broken; I never needed my parents to live together for my family to be perfect. I wish they knew that despite what everyone thinks and says, their divorce didn’t damage my childhood and I don’t want them to ever feel any form of regret or shame because of how society portrays families like ours.
That even though they don’t say it, I know they feel bad about their divorce and the ways it hurt my sister and I. I resented them for it when I was a kid, but I’ve come to realise there really isn’t anyone to blame when a relationship crumbles. I love them no matter what and I’m thankful they didn’t stay in the marriage for us, because growing up in such a family would probably be worse.
I wish my parents knew that I’m not on a diet and I genuinely have problems eating, not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. Mocking me or passing snide remarks during meal times doesn’t make me want to eat more —in fact, it makes it worse. I know they do it out of concern but I wish they’d stop labelling it as a ‘phase’ and start talking to me instead of talking down to me.
That although she’s been an amazing single mum who’s given me the best she could with what she had, some of her choices have greatly affected me and how I see people and relationships, even till now. I think she’s got the impression that my childhood was largely fun and carefree, but that wasn’t always the case. Nonetheless, I don’t want her to feel like she did a bad job because I do appreciate her.
Anxiety and Depression
That I’ve got social anxiety issues that affect me in my daily life, which makes things they consider easy, way more difficult. This includes making phone calls, meeting new people, ordering food at unfamiliar places etc. They’ll never understand why it’s uncomfortable and difficult for me to confidently talk to new people.
Yi Yang, 21
That I was cyber-bullied in secondary school, had bulimia in polytechnic, and struggled with anxiety and depression when I was in university. To me, mental disorders are about fighting my inner demons and I don’t see how opening up to them will solve these problems. I didn’t want to be a burden to them.
Yearning For Acceptance
That I’m capable of having a normal life anyone else has despite being gay. That I’m in a committed relationship with a man that I love wholeheartedly. That I’m able to make my own decisions regarding matters of my heart. That I’ve found a partner I love, and whom I’d love for them to meet and love.
I wish I could tell my parents that I’m gay. It sucks when I hear my mum passing remarks about how being gay is wrong when we used to watch Glee together. And as much as I’d like to think it doesn’t affect me, it does. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very close to my parents. But this is something I’m not ready to share because I’m afraid of how it’ll change my relationship with them.
I wish they knew how important it was to me for them to have been at my poly graduation. My parents are self-employed with a shop of their own, and closing for a day would cost them a whole day’s earnings and affect the business’s reputation. I don’t blame them because I know how hard it is to earn money, and I understand that they care even if they aren’t there. Still, it would have been such a great moment for them to see me strutting down the stage (with a ‘crown’ on my head) as the whole auditorium roared.
I never let my parents know how much admiration I have for their careers—they’re both lawyers, and I look up to them as my role models. However, they don’t realise that, so they don’t get how happy a simple “you made me proud” or “you did good” would make me feel. I wish they knew that I seek their validation in what I do, and that they would give it to me more willingly.
My mum doesn’t know I know this, but I caught her spying/snooping around when I had an ex-boyfriend. She didn’t approve of the relationship, because my ex was Eurasian and she couldn’t understand his family’s ‘open-mindedness’, which caused a big strain between me and her. On the day of my boy’s BMT POP, I left home early in the morning for the parade, without giving my mum much detail about where I was going. When the parade was over and we were in the car back to my ex’s place, I caught a glimpse of my mum along the row of shops near my ex’s house, obviously looking around for something/someone. She never saw me that morning, but I always felt hurt and upset with her for having gone to that extent of stalking me. As much as I want to forget about it, I still wish she knew how much her distrust and disapproval pushed me away, and made me more rebellious.
That they’re really not as liberal as they claim to be, and that I felt really trapped and alone as a child because I could never talk to them properly. That constant insistence is not going to make me accept beliefs that aren’t my own. That not talking about something isn’t going to make the issue magically go away.
I know you guys mean well, but it’s redundant to compare the problems you faced during your youth and ours, such as saying “when I was your age, I could XYZ”. Certain issues, like how to choose a partner, can be universal, but how we do business in SG etc is a different ballgame. You shouldn’t shrug off or criticise how young people feel/act without trying to understand why they do it.
My mom’s a foreigner who’s not really good at English, so she’s never attended parent-teacher meeting sessions in school. I thought it was because she was busy all the time, but once, she admitted that she was hesitant to meet my teachers in school because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to speak fluently. She didn’t want to embarrass herself in front of me. I’m not an affectionate kid so I’ve never told her this, but I wish my mom knew that she’s never been an embarrassment to me and nothing will change that.
It wasn’t the dog that ravaged all your tampons mother, I was six and thought they were delicious sweets in colourful packaging. I spent a good half an hour unwrapping them all, only to be disappointed by weird shaped cotton.
Modern Day Families
In spite of everything, your parents are still the ones who will cheer you on during your highest highs, and be there for you during your lowest lows. Through rain or shine, we’ll weather the storm together.