One of the many differences between ours and South Asian families is our attitude to our children moving on. While typically an Indian or a Japanese family look at someone who leaves the family network to set up on their own as a failure, we are the opposite. If a child remains a dependent into their twenties or beyond, for us, this is not a sign of a family’s strength ,but its failure and weakness.
Elsewhere children who disobey their families over arranged marriages are treated harshly. Love matches are excommunicated. We long ago exchanged authority for intimacy.
I will never forget my dear Japanese quasi brother(he lived with my family for twenty years and was a friend for fifty) Haruo Takimoto . As his terminal cancer struck and he endured his long six month death scene not one word from his brothers. For he had left his family to come to England. And although he went home regularly he was out of sight,out of mind and out of heart. Even when, he so desperately needed a last word before he went on his way.
All this came to me as daughter Adelaide came round and discussed her plans of moving to Australia. She is thirty,has her own flat,has reached middle management at her ad agency,has come through a long relationship with a good man and is moving on. She has always wanted to live elsewhere and now she is buying the ticket and taking the ride. Of course this means seeing her less, but we cheer when our team does well.She is.
I have long seen the modern intimate relationship of parents with their children in soccer club terms. When they are born you are in the crib,nursery and play pen with them. You are there for their first word,step,go on the slide, kick of the ball. You are a player.
Then they go to school and you have to step back. They have another life. But you are still close and they are very dependent. On a whole range of matters you become the coach.
They change, Hormones kick in. Now the parent has to take off the track suit and realise that all he or she is,is the loving owner. That is the (soft touch) club director. Parents should not be heard but just seen writing cheques. You give advice, but it is often ignored ,as a director you may have financial power but you are no longer part of the playing staff.
And then the final stage, you become a mere spectator. Your senior position gives you debenture rights to the best seat in your children’s soap opera, but seat it only is. If you want, you can give money but do not give anything else. For by this stage ,if you have succeeded,you have achieved what we in the West desire our children to become, an autonomous, independent, responsible adult.
If only it was that easy.