Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cultural Differences - Parents of Adult Children

This subject is something I'd not been able to experience much until I had been in a relationship with Harmony for a while. It concerns the topic of how parents treat their adult children. My sample size is very small, one set of Korean parents and one set of American parents, so this might not apply generally.

What I have noticed is that my parents, the Asian ones, tend to treat us/me like we/I are still children. This is not to say that they ground us when we don't do as they please, or make us eat our vegetables before leaving the table (well, the last one maybe still for me sometimes). Rather, when they don't agree with us on something, I get the feeling that they think it's because we are kids who don't know anything. Sort of the "you're young, you don't know what you're doing." True as that may be, we are still adults. I think I have noticed this attitude more from my mom rather than my dad. Not coincidentally, my dad was the first one to come around regarding our decision to get married, indicating to me that he is slightly more willing to view me as an adult.

What I have noticed from my in-laws is that they treat us much more like adults than my parents do. I do not ever recall getting the "you don't know what you're doing vibe," although I'm sure it has been thought before ;) It also helps that our general parenting philosophies are fairly similar.

I have no evidence or data to tell whether or not this is the general trend among Asian and American parents of adult children. But the general feeling I get with each set of parents is that mine still view me/us as children, and my in-laws view us relatively more as adults.

Unfortunately, I cannot recall any concrete examples, so this post remains displeasingly nebulous :p I'll blame it on being out of practice due to the severe blog drought.

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3 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Sammy

    I'm white and my husband is Asian. We have been married for 6 years and we have a 2-year old and a 3-month old.

    My in-laws come visit us for long stretches at a time because they live so far away. (Generally they stay for several weeks or a month.) And they do treat us like the children, but differently than how you describe your in-laws. They take care of us in a way that my mom doesn't. They cook our meals, they clean up the house, they grocery shop, etc. If I try to help they tell me to stop, to go work or take care of the baby. My mother, on the other hand, expects us to take care of her when she is in our house. She assumes we'll take care of dinner and while she'll help clean up, she won't totally take over the way my in-laws will. It's an interesting difference and I think it ultimately goes back to what you are describing--my Asian in-laws think of us as the "kids" despite the fact that we are in our 30's. (early 30's for the record!) I don't think they assume we don't know anything and they don't try to micromanage the way we parent or the decisions we make for our family, but they definitely take care of us the way parents take care of children.

    Interesting post.

  • Headmistress, zookeeper

    Interesting. I know I felt like my parents often treated me more like a child than they did my brothers. My theory was that I lived the furthest away. They saw my brothers every day, and so were constantly confronted with the knowledge that they were adults. They saw me maybe once a year, and in the meantime were remembering me as I was the last time they'd seen me on a daily basis (which was before I left for college).

    Some of this is cultural and some is personality. and I am having an interesting time trying to let my kids be adults (the married ones with kids, especially) while also not frantically interfering when I feel strongly about their decisions.

    The issues I feel strongly about vary from whether I think their babies are warm enough (I don't know why this- I used to laugh at my mother over it, and now I do it), to financial issues. I actually, though, have an easier time keeping quiet on the really big issues. Cold baby feet, not so much.

  • JunkMale

    Sammy, you bring up a good point. When we are visiting my parents, they generally pamper a bit more than my American in-laws. That could be because we don't see them as much.

    Headmistress, I have noticed that my parents treat my sister as much more of a child than they do to me. Maybe it's a daughter thing? My parents (or my mom) stress a lot more when my sister drives long distances, while they don't bat much of an eye when I do. I guess it is a good thing you can keep quiet about larger matters, since at least we find it easier to give on the smaller things such as baby trimmings.