Filial Piety

Reading this article in the Washington Post, I am overcome with relief. I felt pressure from my parents, but it was never specifically focused on me becoming a doctor. I was expected to get good grades, and that was about it. In grade school, I would be asked questions like, “Why is this an A minus instead of an A plus?” and “If it’s a ninety-eight, then where are the other two points?”

I received nothing more than the usual academic pressure. Other pursuits were not encouraged. I had one piano lesson in grade school. I don’t know why that wasn’t continued. I played soccer for about one season around fourth grade, then never played again. I was never forced into anything other than private school.

And yet, while my school life was scrutinized, my personal life was assumed to be exemplary. As long as my grades were high enough, I could do whatever I wanted. There was the usual frowning when I went out to the movies or spent my allowance at the arcade, but as long as my grades remained stellar, I was allowed to go out. I could come back at two in the morning, and my parents would let me off with a stern, “Next time, just call us to tell us you’ll be late.”

While I was growing up, I felt that all that they cared about was my academic performance. It was like being a trophy child, something to boast about to their friends. I know better, now. They just wanted me to do well. And they continue to want me to do well. There’s nothing wrong with that.

My brother and I are blessed with good, kind, fair parents. When I think about how well I’m doing now, I can do nothing but point back to my upbringing. My parents were more than fair.

This fairness, this freedom, was completely different from other parents that I knew, and a lot of parents that I know, now. Some of them rebel. Teenage pregnancies. Gangs. Drug abuse.

Others silently resent their parents and grudgingly follow their family’s wishes.

A few move three thousand miles away from their family and find their own way.

Some Filipino parents struggle with raising American children. I’ve seen it.

Why do you want to go out? Why do you want to become an actor? Why are your grades so low? Why do you want to go to a performing arts school? Why? Why? Why?

There’s a lot of why, and when you try to explain, and there’s a curt slap across the mouth for talking back. Sometimes physically. Sometimes verbally. Always emotionally.

The worst part is, as bad as it is for the boys, it’s perhaps a hundredfold worse for the girls.