Her parents won’t let her go

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 18 years old and I’m going to be attending college in the fall. My issue is my parents. I’m pretty sure they don’t like me. They are always making me feel horrible for being who I am. My parents came from a South Asian country in the late 80s. They had me and both of my brothers here. My parents didn’t have a traditional marriage because they eloped.

Both of my parents seem to really dislike me. This started happening around the time i started junior high school. I started fighting with my mother alot more than i did with my father. My mom has some backwards idea that the people i called my friends were ‘bad’ and leaving your house EVER was something ‘bad kids’ did. Keep in mind, Ive always been an honors student since first grade and I’ve never had friends who weren’t academically accomplished. I dont do drugs, dont drink and i’m a virgin.

According to my parents I’m fat and I have a horrible personality. This is from their perspective. I’ve heard from others that Im pretty nice and fun to talk to. Im the only girl in my family. I have two brothers who seem to never have any faults with them. My older brother will be a junior in college and he seems to be their favorite. But i am and angel compared to him. He has a 1.2 GPA, a ‘slutty’ girlfriend my parents dont like and he’s rarely ever home. Not to mention he steals money from the family. My parents know all of this. I have never done any of that in my life. I just graduated from one of the best high schools in the country. But my parents are not proud of me because i didnt get accepted into an ivy league college. i was accepted into other well known colleges but because they havent heard of them the colleges arent good.

My parents always talk about how much they hate me and how they wish they never had me as a daughter. I’ve learned to not care about what they say because there really isnt any point anymore. They talk about how unattractive I am and how stupid I am. My father always talks down to me and my mother fuels the fire. When theyre talking to their friends or family they talk about all of my faults. They make me seem like a delinquent who does nothing but harass their parents. I spend most of my days out with my friends, doing school work or at home. I cant talk to them because they always talk down to me. Everytime i try to metnion to them something about their treatment of me they get very angry and talk about how they came to this country for me and how they dont have to listen to what i say ever. (i was born 3 years after they came to the US).

I like to write but whenever i write for me my mother thinks im being rude and writing is a stupid passtime. Im not religious but my mother keeps trying to force me into religion. my religion promotes free choice but my mother cant seem to grasp that concept. They think my dream of being a doctor is unrealistic now because im not attending an ivy league college. they told me to change my life goals just because they have no faith in me. they say those exact words “i have no faith in you”. I still want be a doctor and i want to go away for college. Theyve made it pretty clear that they hate seeing my face yet they wont allow me to go away to college.

I have a full ride to the college i want to go to but my mother wont let me go. She says ill become a “bad girl” and do drugs and die. My mother eloped at 16 and had a baby at 19. I’m an 18 year old virgin. Who’s the ‘bad girl’? Im set on going to this college and moving away. The college is an hour and a half away and its close. I can take a train back and forth during the weekends but my parents say that i will ruin the family if i go. My mother is threatening to leave my father if i leave. I really hate my parents for putting me in this situation. I cant live like this. I dont know what to do.

A: This sounds so painful all around. You’re an American girl living in a traditional Asian family. Your parents may have moved their bodies to the States but some of their values and ideas are still locked into a way of life and thinking that is from another place and time. Ironically, there has been a shift in at least parts of South Asian societies where girls are valued as much as boys and parents invest as much in their daughters as their sons. I suspect that part of the reason your folks haven’t caught on and caught up with that shift is due to two things: There may be unfinished issues with their own families since they eloped and left. Your mother may be projecting her own issues on you. Whatever the case, they seem to be doing everything they can to keep you at home like a traditional daughter. Lowering a kid’s self esteem and limiting her choices can have the same effect as being put on a chain. Every time you make an attempt to leave, you get jerked back. Even if such a chain is made of gold, it’s still a chain.

As an American girl of your own generation, you have some hard, hard choices in front of you. There is a way out. You earned the scholarship and have a way to cut the chain. Being a good daughter, you keep trying to find ways to make it okay with your parents for you to go. For reasons you may never understand, they simply can’t do it. Ironically, the only way they have given you to follow your dreams is to do as they did: “Elope.” Cut the chain yourself and go.

But — and here’s the big “But” — you can improve on the family pattern. Your parents had to go halfway around the world to follow their hearts. You didn’t say, but I have a guess they haven’t reconciled with their families since. You don’t have to do that. You can simply make your arrangements to go to school and continue to love your parents and communicate with them. They didn’t raise a dummy. They didn’t raise an uncaring daughter. In spite of all this current stress, they did do some things right. Honor them for that and then make a clear, calm statement that you need to go and will but that you will always love them. There’s no need for angry words. There’s no reason to shout angry things or slam the door behind you. You can tell yourself that their objections are based in their fears and aren’t relevant to you. You could listen to all their objections, nod, and state again that you are leaving for school, with or without their blessing but that you really, really would like to not be cut off as they have been.

Ultimately, this decision is only yours to make. It’s not my place to tell you what to do. For one very big thing, I might not understand the entire situation. But I at least want to tell you that sometimes leaving home is painful, even when it is to follow dreams. But the pain doesn’t have to be forever. Often such rifts in a family can be healed with time and efforts to stay in touch.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Sep 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Her parents won’t let her go. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/09/06/her-parents-wont-let-her-go/

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