"You'll understand when you've grown older."
That's a universal sentence that parents use to explain to their children their actions.
I don't always agree with them and there are behaviors that I still fail to comprehend. But there are three things they did that I have grown to be grateful for, though they upset me at the time.
#1 Intercepting my application to a gifted school
The gifted education system in Vietnam puts huge pressure on all children. There's only one school for gifted students at each level and the admission rate is low.
Being accepted into a gifted school was and still is many families' wish for their children, but not mine.
When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher suggested that I apply to the city's talented junior high school as I had a gift for English. I took her advice and asked my parents to prepare the documents with me.
My parents then told me to not worry about the application and just focus on studying. They'd take care of the rest.
By that, they meant NOT taking care of the rest. It was only until the eighth grade that I found out they had never submitted my application and brought me on a summer vacation on the exact date on which the entrance exam took place.
When I asked why they did it, they said that it'd be too much burden on my shoulders. They believed being put in a separate class would derail me from learning any other subjects and the competitiveness would break me.
I was infuriated, mostly because of arrogance and over-confidence, partly due to the need to be admired by my peers and their parents.
But as I grew older and witnessed how many of my 'gifted' friends collapsed, literally and figuratively, under the pressure of staying at the top of the class, I understood their actions.
They did not want to see me in such a merciless environment. They put my mental health above the 'gifted child' tag. They secured a worry-free childhood for me and I cannot be any more thankful.
#2 Not taking me to the amusement park one weekend
As a child from a small town, I was not exposed to many means of modern entertainment. My entire childhood was filled with reading comic books, flying kites, and riding bikes.
Naturally, I was exhilarated upon hearing that there was an amusement park opening in the city. I begged my parents to take me on the opening weekend.
I remember vividly their words: "We cannot promise anything. If we have the time, we'll take you."
I interpreted that as: "We'll definitely take you."
As doctors who were always on duty, unsurprisingly, that weekend they could not make the time. I was so upset that I accused them of not keeping their promise.
They replied: "We never promised anything. We told you that if we had the time, we'd take you."
That was a moment of revelation for me. Right then and there, I reflected and recognized I was in the wrong. I built for myself this huge expectation and blamed my parents for not meeting it.
This memorable lesson has shaped part of my personality today.
I try to lower my expectation for everything and everyone. I never make any promise I don't intend to or am unable to keep. I think about all the possible scenarios for every action to manage my expectation and reaction if one of them comes true.
While some people might find this to be a bit sad, I believe it's the right way to approach life. It has put me in the driver's seat.
No one owes me anything. I am in control of my life and it is up to me to choose how to react and to which degree to be influenced by someone else's behaviors. If I want something to happen, I have to work for it.
#3 Not intervening in my being bullied in kindergarten
I got bullied a lot around the age of six.
There were these twins living next to my house who went to the same kindergarten as me. They coincidentally were seated next to me in class and at every chance they got, they teased me, pinched my arms until they were all red and bruised, and pranked me.
I endured that for about three weeks. One afternoon, as my parents picked me up, I cried telling them about these kids.
They were visibly concerned, but they chose not to interfere. Instead, they asked me to come back the next day and do to the twins exactly what they did to me.
So I did.
Ironically, the twins told on me and our parents had to meet up after class that day. I do not know how the meeting went but from that day on, I learned to stand up for myself and no one even dared to lay their hands on me.
That's top-tier parenting, wouldn't you say?
My parents, like any other mothers and fathers, are flawed. They did say and do something that didn't sit right with me, but they have provided me with some most valuable lessons that have shaped who I am now. And for that, I am eternally grateful.