The shackles of parental pressure

Photo by Lily Bonadies


How can the academic record of a son or daughter decide the honor of the whole family? The austerity, sacrifices and hard work of parents all express love and selfless dedication for their children. However, they can become a deadly weapon, aimed at their children, putting pressure on them. These children who should feel a deep love from their parents’ efforts instead feel kidnapped by a sense of loss. They feel hanged on the supreme cross, beaten by the tears of their mother.
My family is not a wealthy family. When my parents told me that they would send me to study abroad in 2012, I was pretty happy. I also received a lot of envious glances from other children.
Six months later, I left for high school in the U.S.. Although I was afraid of studying abroad for the first time, every time I tried to give up in the first two months, my parents would encourage me to stick to it. With the encouragement and love of my parents, I successfully integrated into a completely new environment.
For a long time, I didn’t get any pressure from my parents. Then they saw my academic report in the first semester. That Christmas break I went back home for a visit and it was the first time my mother put pressure on me, telling me how hard they saved money for me to study abroad.
Pressure drove impetus, so I was determined to study hard in the future. In the next two years, I was as dumb as an oyster, even though I got an honor to speak at the high school graduation ceremony as a junior student.
That summer, my mother would tell everyone she met in the street, “Since my boy studies abroad, we only eat green vegetables or pickles [because it is too expensive to buy meat]. We only buy meat when he comes back home, and tell him to study harder. See, my boy spoke at the graduation ceremony as a junior student.”
I didn’t know whether my mother knew that behind her successful education concept, was a heavy debt I carried on my back every day. It was a kind of poison, eroding my self-confidence and optimism.
In my last year of high school, I failed the SAT, with only an 1800+. I cried in front of my parents on a video call. I asked them, “Did you know how upset and stressful I am when you told me you only ate pickle every meal?”
I am not the only one who has suffered from the pressure. Too many “Chinese-type parents” have given their children just such a heavy mental shackle in the name of self-sacrifice.
For other children, they might stop buying new clothes and only eat pickles. They make money like they are all possessed when they are young; they save money like they are beggars when they are old. Since when did love and dedication become a winning chip that children have to obey?
“My life is all for you, so you can’t take any wrong steps, and you can’t have the slightest deviation,” my mom said. My parents make their lives “bitter,” as if they only could have a better life after my successes: such as my scholastic achievement, my career, and my marriage.
Suddenly, I wished my parents could wear new clothes, and show off smugly in front of me, “My son, am I beautiful?” I wished my mom told me, “My son, only when you have a successful scholastic achievement, you can do what you like and pursue the girl that you love,” instead of, “You have to study hard because we did everything for you.”
We understand the high expectation of parents. However, they shouldn’t buckle the heavy mental shackles on us while making their lives bitter at the same time.
I want to say to my parents, “Mom and Dad, I really love you, and I will study hard. However, I also hope you can live a better life — a real good life that does not depend upon my scholastic achievement, my career, and my marriage.”

Sixiang Chen ’19, grew up in Wenzhou, China. He studied in the U.S. for six years, and is a MJD major and a psychology minor.