Trying to please parents as a first-generation American

While I give a more humorous tale on being an Asian female in this week’s Mouthing Off column, I also wanted to share a different perspective on parent-child relationships.

I have heard the words “that is so crazy!” or some variation with or without expletives too many times from friends and even teachers regarding my relationship with my parents.

Let me just start with this before I am written off as a whiny complainer. I am lucky. I know that without my parents I would not have a roof over my head, a car to drive, and money for school.

I also could have had to live through the Vietnam War and go through all of the struggles that my parents had to overcome in order to come to the United States and allow me to be a first-generation American.

My father and his family hectically packed during the final days of the war and were able to leave the war-torn country on one of the last U.S. helicopters headed for the island of Guam. After a brief stay at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, they began a new life in Southern California. My father was 12.

My mother was not as lucky. She was a boat person: She, along with about 80 others, left everything she had behind to leave on a small fishing boat. She luckily landed at a refugee camp in Malaysia and was able to immigrate to Canada.

You know what, though? I’m tired of that being held over my head. I know of the arduous journeys and greatly appreciate all that my parents sacrificed.

I thought things would change once I graduated high school. A year went by and then I thought things would change when I turned 18 and legally became an adult this past summer.

Things haven’t changed one bit.

I obviously live at home, which isn’t uncommon these days or at Oakland University in general. The thing that screws me over is the cultural barrier and impossible generational gap between my parents and me.

I don’t have a curfew. If you’re thinking that I’m fortunate; think again. I don’t have a curfew because I’m basically never allowed out.

I guess it could be a lot worse — but I definitely do not enjoy having to ask my parents about something as simple as going to a movie on a Saturday night. Nor do I enjoy having to build up points on a system similar to credit card rewards in order to go to said movie.

If I want to go to a party, I have to spend a minimum of two complete weekends with them. If I go for coffee to catch up with a friend coming back from school, that counts as “going out.”

Want me to fulfill another stereotype? My parents still entertain fantasies of their daughter suddenly gaining the ability to learn vast amounts of biology, chemistry, physics and calculus and deciding to go to medical school. I am majoring in journalism and political science, surely a failure.

I’ve been asking for a simple lock on my bedroom door since the fifth grade. It’s still not there. That might have been a little petty, but it’s simply to illustrate the amount of privacy I get at home.

The biggest point of contention is my future happiness. I wish I was joking when I tell people comical stories about them trying to set me up with a “nice Vietnamese boy.” Mouthing Off editor Dan Simons was right when he called me the overly-mothered girl.

I’m happily dating someone right now, but my parents (at least for the time being) don’t accept it. If they had it their way, I probably wouldn’t be moving out until a ring was on my finger and the formal exchange of a few farm animals was made.

The only way I can move out (translation: get some freedom) is if I graduate. Guess who is trying to complete an undergraduate degree in three years?

In the end, it’s a matter of this fine balance of the old and the new. As an Asian-American, I know my heritage but at the same time I know about where I am at the present.

I am completely fluent in Vietnamese and find time to appreciate the culture and history, but I am not overly consumed by living in the past the same way my parents are. It’s time they became aware of the problems I face, as well as many other first-generation Americans.

Being expected to be subservient, yet strong, independent and responsible is a difficult act to juggle.

I don’t want to be treated like a child when they feel it’s necessary, yet expected to be an adult at times that are pleasing to my parents.