Why our parents rarely show outward affection
A friend once told me that when she became a teenager, her mother refused to hold her hand unless it was absolutely necessary during times like crossing the street.
While my friend acknowledges that her parent's intention was to help her grow into the shoes of an independent adult, she felt like she was missing out on parental affection.
Bangladeshi parents are very inexpressive about their own feelings and in turn, they rarely show outward affection to their children. My mother's big on physical gestures like embraces or head pats. I have never felt like an unloved child but none of my parents has ever professed their parental love or pride out-loud.
Our parents' affection simmers within the surface but never finds direct effusion. Instead, their love language is passive gestures or acts of care.
You may smell the wafting fragrance of your favourite dish or receive a gift from your parents before you hear them utter words like "I love you" or "I'm proud of you". They will suffer an anxiety attack when you don't pick up the phone but they never initiate a hug.
Affection runs deep within everything they do for us except in the simple act of using words.
Our parents were raised during a time when filial piety and hierarchy in the family were unfailing norms. Endearments never fit in with the respectful tone they had to strictly maintain with their elders. They did not always get to be frank about their emotions with their parents. So, they show affection in their own strange ways.
Some parents are wired by their stoic upbringing to equate etiquette with affection. They believe that the best way you can love your child is by educating them to overcome the adversities of life, even if it means putting on a stern demeanour.
Some psychologists refer to this as "Tiger parenting".
But affection is the strongest catalyst during a child's formative years. Younger kids or teenagers don't have the cognitive ability to understand shrouded forms of affection. They perceive the world in a literal sense. If a parent never utters affectionate words, young children may get discouraged from sharing their distress to their parents because they may misunderstand their parents' behaviour to be dismissive of their emotions.
In a gender-biased household, young boys are misled to believe that it's "unmanly" to show their affectionate side while girls are deprived of equal affection due to gender stereotypes. Physical affection slowly wanes as religious and cultural norms begin dictating our lives once we come of age.
Moreover, most parents approach parenthood using negative assertions because it has a stronger impact on children. As a result, children might feel unheard and unloved. Some parents expect their children to naturally feel loved because they try their utmost to provide and care for them.
Some of us have gone so long without hearing utterings of doting words that we are on our way to embody our parents. We squirm at the thought of uttering sentences like "I love you" to our parents because it seems completely unnatural.
It's a cycle that's begging to be broken.
Nuzha forgives people for pronouncing her name wrong and wallows in books and anxiety. Suggest her fiction at [email protected]