Of Staying At Home: Family Friction

Wednesday 15 April 2020:

Todays marks the end of 1 week since I came back home after my quarantine in a separate apartment. Living in a familiar, comfortable, spacious area definitely has its perks – I get to move about freely and have ample space to exercise, I have a comfy bed to curl up in at the end of a long day and my own room to retreat in quiet solitude, a kitchen to cook my own meals and also the comforting background presence of my family members as they go about their own daily lives within the same space.

However, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. With everyone being at home almost all the time, there’s bound to be friction. Not to mention, since I study overseas, I’m usually away for a long period of time so the rest of my family is used to a living in the house without me. My father for instance, is used to being the only one who actually uses the kitchen to cook. Now that I’m back, I’m an extra presence that he has to take into consideration. He definitely is not used to this, which is evident from how he likes to question the way I do things when I cook – from how I arrange my cutlery to the way I clean up. We both have different ways of doing things, and I am used to living a life of independence, so from my end this sudden extra surveillance throws me off and leaves me feeling irritated.

The end result is our squabbling, which has become a daily occurence. Thankfully, they’ve never been bad – it’s just a few sentences here and there, each of us unwilling to let the other have the last say, instead feeling the need to justify our actions. I do admit, there were a few times where my temper would get the better of me and I end up snapping.

I’m not the only one doing that. My sister too, has also felt the extra nagging by my dad. Perhaps it’s because my dad is also retired, so staying at home feels even worse for him since he doesn’t really have much to occupy himself in the day while the rest of us are busy with our own agendas, which explains why he nags so much.

Tonight, my sister’s temper got the better of her too and snapped back when my dad was nagging once more about the way my sister cooks her own meals. Usually he doesn’t let our remarks get to him and he’d always have something to say back, but this time round, he fell silent. You could tell he was wounded; it seemed like he was stewing in silent anger from the way he closed the microwave door a little louder than usual. Not a slam, but definitely not the usual gingerness when he handles electrical appliances. Afterwards, he went into the living room and sat down in the dark, laying his head on the sofa’s headrest and closing his eyes. At that time, I was still finishing up my dinner but I was also paying close attention to him, and my intuition told me he was doing some inner reflecting.

Watching him from the corner of my eye, that scene made me sad and hugely remorseful of the previous times I had been quick-tempered. Much as I knew he was nagging incessantly, I realised that he did it all for our own good, and perhaps in his eyes we will always still be his children to be looked after, instead of the other way round. In that moment, I was so afraid that he would think of himself as a liability, or that he was no longer of use, which is what people tend to feel as they approach the silver years. That thought scared me – I didn’t want my dad to feel like he was unimportant, because that is the furthest thing from the truth. The only reason why I can grow to be such a independent person today, is because I stand on the shoulders of giants – my parents, grandparents, sister, relatives and friends.

I had to write this all down because my thoughts were consuming me. Even after my shower, even as I sat down to do some work, my mind would replay back to the scene from dinner. Before I forget this incident in the future, I want to put it down so that it serves as a tangible reminder – to always be kind, open-minded and respectful towards my parents. Even if I do not agree with their views, I should strive to speak to them in a calm and rational manner, instead of letting my temper get the better of me. Explain, rather than argue.

The next time my dad has something to nitpick, I’m going to try and let him finish his piece without retorting back. And then once I’m calm, approach the topic once more to explain my side of the story. I’m not sure how successful this will be, since I’m so used to shooting off my mouth but I am going to try.

Update: dad and sis are both appeased and back to normal. That is the beauty of my family’s relationships – we don’t hold grudges for long.

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