Child’s Guilt

I usually avoid writing too private things on my blog or FB page. I see my blog mainly as a service to others, a means to share knowledge and thoughts, not a place where I just talk about myself. But today I really have to write something about myself, because if I don’t do it I won’t be able to write a single line for weeks.

I visited my father in hospital today. He’s had a really hard time, after a critical operation (which is the reason why I had to come back to Europe suddenly). He is not lucid, with all the medicine he’s taken, the frustration for his health condition that’s not improving fast, and the pain he feels. Sometimes he gets angry easily, and sometimes he’s sweet like a baby. 

Today, he said to me that it was my fault that he got ill. “It was your absence”, he said. He never forgave me for staying abroad for so long. ‘My new life in Asia’ – this is something my father never liked. 

The relationship between parents and children is never easy. Perhaps, in Europe it is particularly difficult, because neither parents nor children have a clear guidance. As our society becomes more and more equal, parental authority weakens, and individual character and mutual understanding are all the more important. 

In Sicily, where I was born, the old family structure has survived longer than in other places in Europe and the West. The family is still very important, solidarity among family members is seen as a fundamental moral obligation. One may think this sounds like an Asian-style family. But that would be misleading.

I explained many times in this blog that hierarchy and social roles are fundamental in understanding East Asian families. The influence of parents in their children’s mate selection, the pressure to study and achieve material success, and the communication strategies based on ritualism and respect for social roles, are all things which do not seem to me to exist in families in the Mediterranean area. Rather, children in Southern Europe enjoy a high amount of personal freedom. 

Perhaps I am generalising too much, and I hope that some people from Southern Europe may find this post and tell me what they think. In my opinion, most parents in Southern Europe flood their children with unconditional love, spoil them, and make them emotionally dependent on them, in a way that is not aggressive, but it is extremely powerful, because it is based on a strong emotional bond between individuals. 

Whether this kind of upbringing is responsible for the bad economic performance of this geographical area, is a matter of debate. But in my case, it has created in me a huge sense of guilt. Guilt for my curiosity and thirst for knowledge about other countries, which have brought me far away from my birthplace. And today, it hit me really hard when I heard my father’s words. I don’t know if I should take them too seriously, since he can’t think clearly now, he is in an almost half-asleep state. But it did sound serious to me.

Of course, this makes me wonder what I should do next. Whether I should give up my selfish independence, or pursue my own plans to know more about and see more of the world. These doubts in my mind, about which I can’t talk with either relatives or friends, suddenly make me feel very lonely.   

But I know I shouldn’t turn this blog into a place where I vent my frustration. People already have their own problems, and burdening them will solve either theirs nor mine. 

Categories: Uncategorized

5 replies »

  1. Don't give up Aris! I however do encourage you to spend some quality time with your dad for the time being though. This is your priority right now. Your dreams and objectives should always be your main focus in your life! Cheer up!


  2. I don't doubt he was telling the truth to some extent, although probably the truth when you're highly emotional isn't the same as normal. He's not said this before as he has decided it's important for you to follow you're own life and career. It feels horrible but what choice do you really have? It's almost inconceivable to me that you could leave your career choice and growing expertise out of guilt. In fact you would probably grow bitter quite soon and then your father would grow guilty because you would be staying for him – and not the real him but an illucid version of him. There's never an option you can choose which would make both him and you happy but you think about what you could do to make him more comfortable with your decision. It might mean more frequent communication/visits home etc. Or even consider inviting your parents to Asia – after I did that before marrying in Taiwan, my parents were much more understanding of my life situation.

    No family situation is ever perfect but this is a very important point in your life (and you're obviously very good at making sense of Chinese society) and your shouldn't waste your future out of guilt. Just try to find a balance that you're comfortable with.

    Sorry for being preachy – I do hope your father gets well soon.


  3. Hi David,

    don't worry, you're not preachy at all : ) I appreciate your opinion and advice.

    Perhaps I've spent too much time reading books about filial piety, and now I want to be a filial son. No, just kidding. I agree with your point of view, I was just wondering if I am too selfish or if what I think is reasonable. At least, now I know there are other people who have the same perception : )


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