THE MEETING OF THE PARENTS

Meeting your partner’s parents for the first time is a daunting experience. Will they like you? Are they nice people? Will you like them?

Conversely, having your parents meet your partner for the first time is equally stressful. What if they hate him or her? What if they don’t get along?

For some people, these what-ifs have the potential to be deal breakers.

However, I’m of the opinion that having your parents meet your partner’s parents has the most potential for problems. To me, that’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Who hosts? When and where? Who pays for the meal? Who should reach out first? What if there are glaring differences or clashing personalities… quiet vs outspoken, paleo vs vegan, huggers vs non-huggers?

A poor outcome could impact on the couple’s future.

Recently, my brother and his fiancée had their parentals meet. I forewarned my brother to keep dad’s alcohol beverages to a minimum in a bid to prevent his brain-to-mouth filter from disintegrating completely. I reminded him of my experience where dad (a few beers in) thought talking about his prostate problems and cystoscopy (with detailed explanation of how the tubing goes into the penis) were good conversation starters. I suggested perhaps reminding dad about common social etiquette and avoiding controversial discussion topics.

But my brother wasn’t worried. In fact, he wanted dad to be himself… warts and all. It actually made me feel shit for being embarrassed by dad’s lack of decorum. While I worried and stressed over having the perfect meeting, my brother was self-secured and unfazed by any negative eventualities. He took things as they came. I wondered if my fixation of having my parents present a good impression made me a shallow person?

According to my brother and our parents, the meeting went well. With no language barriers, the men discovered that as young lads they were neighbours in Vietnam. They had similar tales of their refugee experience and found many commonalities. Both had no qualms pulling out their cameras, phones and tripods to record the meeting. My brother said the women got along well and my mum even invited them over for tea, which is unheard of for my extremely introverted mother.

I’m happy for my brother. Having the in-laws and our parents gets along is wonderful and I wish it were so in my case. Unfortunately, for me, there is a language and cultural barrier and both sides aren’t particularly eager to find common ground. It makes organising special occasions like the kids’ birthday parties difficult, usually with only one side invited or two events held.

Sometimes I wonder whether things could have turned out differently had I been less anxious about formalities and etiquette. I wonder whether the relationship between the parents could have taken a different route had I bridged the gap in cultural and language barriers. But ultimately, I know I am not responsible for the actions or inactions of grown adults. I had no control on the situation or situations that have occurred since.

I hope when it’s time for me to meet my children’s partner’s family, I’ll graciously set aside my ego and reserve judgements. I hope I will embrace them with open arms or at least be civil. I would do this for the sake of my children and their happiness.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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JUMPING FEET FIRST

With the easing of lockdown restrictions, I took the opportunity to catch up with a friend and meet the newest addition to her family. Unfortunately for me, I had to travel over the West Gate Bridge to get to the meet-up destination.

For those unfamiliar with Melbourne, the West Gate Bridge is the fifth-longest bridge in Australia at 2.6 kilometres, has ten lanes (5 inbound, 5 outbound) and sits 58 metres over a large river.

As I have an intense fear of heights, possibly a phobia, driving over this bridge had me shitting bricks. Instinctively, my hands were gripping the steering well for dear life. I felt nauseous and dizzy, my stomach was roiling and I was trembling in fear the whole trip across.

Rationally, I know the likelihood of unintentionally driving off a bridge is zilch. It’s even more absurd to think that a truck could bash into my car and push it over the steel safety barriers. Yet, it didn’t stop my anxiety from escalating and delusional fears from surfacing.

The drive had me thinking that perhaps I had let this phobia get a hold of me. It was a stupid bridge, albeit 58 metres above water, but it was nothing compared to some of the things I’ve pushed through before.

Some years ago, my husband and I travelled to Queenstown in New Zealand for our honeymoon, wanting to experience extreme sport and outdoor activities. Being an adrenaline junkie with little fears, Queenstown suited my husband perfectly. For me, who preferred sedate and sedentary activities, this was the jumpstart to being more active.

We did jet boating at high-speeds through rocky gorges. We went skiing on the beautiful white snow of Coronet Peak. We cruised on Milford Sound and were amazed by the majestic mountains and gorgeous natural surrounds. We zoomed down 1.6 kilometres of Skyline Luge tracks. I even sat on the bottom of a gondola that hovered 450 metres above ground… with my eyes closed the whole time. The buffet at the top was worth it!

But it wasn’t until we did the bungy jumping and swings that my fear of heights swallowed me whole. My legs were shaking before I even set foot on Kawarau Bridge. I remember it vividly; the chokehold of fear, looking down at the waters below. I remember the man telling me to dive and just feel the moment. I also remember wanting to back out but my ego not letting me.

So I jump. Yeah, you read correctly. I didn’t dive. I cannonballed off the ledge. Can you guess what happened? It was a bungy jumping fail of spectacular proportions. As the cord recoiled, I ended up pinging up and down like a pogo stick for what seemed like forever. I felt sorry for the dudes given the task to reign me in. I kept missing the stick that one of the guys held out for me to grab and more than once, he overbalanced trying in vain to end our collective misery.

There were many MANY people on the sidelines that video recorded my epic bungy jumping fail. It probably went viral – look up ‘crazy Asian girl does epic bungy fail’ or something like that. My husband was so amused that he insisted we pay the exorbitant fees for the video and photos. In fact, he purchased the most expensive package so we would have digital evidence for our grandkids and their grandkids to have for laughs.

So really, what’s one small bridge when I’ve conquered that, right? Next time I drive over the West Gate Bridge, I need to remind myself that I’ve faced worse and survived. I even have video evidence if I ever need a reminder.

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DEALING WITH FEAR OF FAILURE

Violence is never the way but sometimes I want to throttle my husband for his unwavering ‘look on the bright side’ attitude at life’s setbacks and disappointments. Sometimes I just wanna wallow in self-pity, you know? Like throw myself one big pity party where I can mooch around in my comfy pyjamas and eat a ton of salted caramel ice-cream. Maybe while watching trashy reality TV so I can laugh at those poor suckers and their life choices. You know, the usual way people deal with these things. But my husband’s eternal optimism and blunt honesty has a way of making me feel guilty for wasting energy on emotional angst and despondency.

“Go for a walk for school pickup. You’ll feel better with fresh air and exercise.”

I would but you know, I have that thing, with my shoulders and my ankle. Also my hip. Most importantly, I have an allergic reaction thing to sweating. It’s just out of my control. Exercise is not meant for me.

“Drink more water. You shouldn’t be drinking alcohol.”

This statement certainly has merit. I don’t drink enough water. Last time I drank a glass of wine, my daughter made an observation. Pointing to the wine label, she exclaimed “Mummy, it says here that women with big tummies should NOT drink this!”

“I don’t think you need to eat that bag of chips.”

I feel it should be a major faux pas for partners to comment on snack habits. I’ve heard the late-night pantry door opening and the sound of bag crinkling. Pot calling the kettle black much?

Recently, an editor from an overseas online literary magazine commented on one of my blog posts and suggested I consider submitting my work for publication. At the time, I was hesitant to send anything. My last attempt at literary publication saw the obliteration of my confidence in writing due to the callous way in which one of the editors ripped my work to shreds. But my husband encouraged me to follow through with this submission.

“What have you got to lose?”

When the blog post was accepted for publication, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe that someone from around the world would come across my work and actually seek me out for publication. I didn’t think my writing was good enough. Instantly, I commented that perhaps they were short on submissions and I only got in to make up the numbers. My husband reprimanded me for such negativity.

“What does it matter how you got accepted? It’s pointless to ponder. You know you have gotten better each time you write.”

I let myself feel a little proud of the achievement. Unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding with requirements on work previously published on blogs and so the accepted blog post I submitted was withdrawn. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

“What are you going to do about it?”

What can I do? It is what it is, right? Surely, now is the time I reach for the ice-cream tub and tuck in.

“Write another piece. Don’t sabotage yourself because you are afraid of failure and rejection.”

For someone who grew up feeling deep shame when I failed at something, it’s a difficult task to realign my thinking. The intensity of negative feelings like frustration, insecurities, defeat, anger, remorse and disappointment are unappealing to cope with, let alone shame thrown into the mix. But at some point in life, you have to make changes if you want to improve your quality of life and grow as a person.

So what can I do? Own my fear. Be conscious of my actions and efforts so not to sabotage myself. Believe in my self-worth and build a resilient me. Put my best foot foward and write a piece for submission! What have I got to lose?

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