In honor of Kim Jong-Il’s death, we’re dedicating this post to Persian dads.
OK I am by no means saying an evil dictator who oppressed his people and wore platform shoes is ANY analogy for Iranian fathers– its just that Dictator and Dad both start with a D :)
Now, we’re gonna start with a little activity here:
Imagine the day you were born. Tehran-LA-Vancouver-Wherever– imagine that wonderful day your parents rushed to a hospital to have you delivered. Now, I know you don’t want to picture everything but I swear I have a point– just go with it—
You come out of your mommy’s womb (cue: EW); and your mom & dad can’t believe their eyes! Its YOU (and you’re def not cute at this point sorryboutit). Your mom’s excited to meet who she’s been housing for months, and your dad stares at you with tear glazed eyes (or in my case, faints).
All he can think about is:
This is my child. I will love them forever, and they are going to make me proud.
I will give them everything they want, all that I can provide, they will be my prince/princess…and they will make me proud.
BAM!! There it is: the contract you signed when you were only a few minutes old. And guess what? You’re bound for LIFE. You didn’t even read the fine print:
The contractor defines ‘proud‘ for the contractee. It is open ended and up to his discretion at any given point in time. It is the contractee’s sole responsibility to determine whether his actions fall under ‘PROUD’ or ‘UNPROUD’.
Yep, you just signed your life away. It is a given that you will forever be your father’s child, and you’re forever bound to his expectations, hopes, and dreams for you. You are obligated to live up to them, because you must make him proud. If you don’t, you’re in violation of the contract. And what happens then?
There’s his disapproval, the ‘shame you bring the family’, the revocation of certain privileges…oh and the GUILT YOU IMPOSE ON YOURSELF.
That is the craziest part of this whole ordeal: the more time passes by, it becomes less about the pressure your father puts on you to make him proud, but more about the pressure you put on yourself. By a certain age, the contract is so second-nature, you are living to make your father proud–and guess what, you don’t even know it!
So back to the delivery room, your dad’s drawn up the contract, and you consent to it just by breathing. He’s staring at you imagining how you’re going to be the best surgeon/lawyer/engineer in the whole world, he sees your life before his eyes– from your first walk, bike ride, college graduation, PhD, job, retirement.
He sees you happy, he sees himself proud.
That’s another fine print on the contract: your father begins to see his happiness contingent upon your proud-making abilities. This is what you understand when you get older– and this is where you learn guilt. You realize getting an A+ in Math may have gotten you the car for the weekend when you were 16, but by the time you’re 20+, there are certain choices you can make that can really determine how proud/happy you make your dad.
And sometimes, you end up making life choices, that were for you and you alone, based on him and his approval.
Your dad has protected you from a lot, since you were too young to remember, and now its your turn. You decide you’re going to protect your dad from all the things you think will make him disappointed and unhappy.
Now here’ s something scary to think about: that contract was made to be broken. Your dad broke the one he had with his parents, the day he married your mom or went for that job across the world or did something rebellious. And your grandparents broke theirs too. That’s life.
My father and I have always had a very rocky relationship, probably because we’re both the same astrological sign (in all seriousness). Yet, even though I act like Idontgiveafcuk I still really care about my father’s expectations, and seeking his approval.
I remember the first time my dad caught me using a certain drug when I was in high school — damn that peer pressure!- the look on his face, the did I really raise you to be like this? helpless stare. For the first time my dad didn’t yell. He just took me on a car ride. We sat in silence, and I MELTED in my guilt. Staring out the window, ALL I could think about was the ways I would make it up to him– the A’s I’d get, the Lawyer I’d become, The shooar (husband) I’d find— I was naive, but I was ready to give my whole life up three times over so my dad would not be disappointed in me.
When he parked, he just asked me why I did what I did, and if I knew how much pain I caused him. Yeah I did. And from then on I made a promise:
Either I would HIDE the stupid sh!t I did BETTER, OR I’d do whatever the fuck he wanted me to do.
Being punished/grounded/spanked sucks. GUILT will ruin you.
Some dad’s might be easier in giving their approval, but it is the fact that we seek it out nonetheless that is the problem. At some point, you learn, no matter how hard you try you will NOT get the approval you’re looking for without sacrificing your OWN approval. Your dad dreamed up this life for you in his head, in the delivery room, that does not mean you have to star in this film. At some point (waaayy after the drug incident) I had to have my father deal with having a daughter who wasn’t so perfect, who didn’t have a starring role in his dream, and I HAD to deal with the guilt and disapproval that came my way– (and boy do Persians know how to lay it on). But dealing with it, and giving into it are two different things.
Dads love their children more than they love their STANDARDS, EXPECTATIONS, RULES, etc– even though it doesn’t seem like it. And once you defy them on what’s important (dont break curfew and expect them to say I LOVE YOU ANYWAY) I mean on real life decisions, “No sorry dad, I don’t want to be a doctor“… your dad may not like hearing it– but if it means you’re happier that way, he’ll deal with it.
He’s Dad, not Dictator.
Am I right? Or are you more down with the Rules of Dad?
I’M NOT A DRUG ADDICT I SWEAR,