Neil Tambe

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I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Offspring Alienation Syndrome

I feel terrible.  I think I just made my mom really sad on the phone.  I don’t know why I do this, or why it continues to happen.  Naturally, I wasn’t even trying to be an jack-ass, uppity, or inconsiderate.  Is it me?  Is it pretty much everyone?  Why does this happen?  Why does this phenomenon of offspring alienation happen?

Do you know what I’m talking about?  Hopefully this doesn’t happen for everyone, but at the same time I hope I’m not alone is making my mom so flustered after most telephone calls.  Anyway, this phenomenon is the discomfort when parents/guardians call on the phone, just to check in or talk about nothing, or to nag, or to just chat because they haven’t spoken with their “baby” all day.  This occurs everyday, and it happens without fail.  If you missed the call you get the “where were you?”  If you don’t call back for a few hours then the response is: “Why didn’t you call back, I was worried,” of course in a gleeful, un-alarming tone which is so innocent it’s almost cause for skepticism.  It’s that intervention for no reason that seems like such a violation of newly discovered independence and adulthood; it’s indulgence and an easy excuse for ego-centrism it’s almost ridiculous.  It’s obviously wonderful to be cared about, but why do I feel so much irritation if it’s coming from mom and dad, and not the best buddy or the girl of my dreams?

I often wonder if it’s because our parents are overindulgent…almost as if it was an extension of their consumerism and boomer mentality.  Our parents are prone to succumb to the pressures of an uncertain world, I think, and they babied us because of it.  (Especially those of us brought up in the WASPy suburbs)  Can they help it?  Should I blame them?  Parents just want to hear our voices and be a part of our lives—make sure that they remain important and don’t get lost as time passes, their generation fades away and our reaches our prime.  Who can blame them for wanting to feel loved?  I sure can’t.  They set a good example, too.  They give love, so they can in turn receive love.

Then maybe its us too.  I like being in control of my surroundings.  I like customizing things to how I like them.  I like trickin’ out the computer with all my favorite apps, just as I like jockeying the radio when I’m driving in the car.  It’s almost compulsive how I skip over songs I don’t like or flip through TV channels that are boring.  If I create change, I can be on top of it.  If I embrace the inevitability of inconsistency I don’t have to answer to anyone else’s orders or requests.  In a nutshell, if I perceive that I’m changing my environment, nobody else can.  On top of that, there’s the unattractiveness of a constant force shaping our lives.  Our parents are always involved, challenging us, molding us.  It’s not a ‘pleasant surprise’ when they make their daily cameo appearance…in fact it’s not a cameo appearance at all.  They are part of the supporting cast, or the executive producers if anything.  When parents call, there is expectation.  When there is expectation, there’s a certain amount of control over the environment that is lost.  That makes us uncomfortable…our generation has been conditioned on ergonomics and push-button changeability.  In other words, when our parents are in our realm, we’re reminded that there are deals that we’re locked into.

But, at the same time that line of thinking seems terribly illogical.  Why shut out a close relationship, when close relationships are important and seemingly what people crave most?  Why put parents on the back burner when they’re a guaranteed ace-in-the-hole?  The only reason I can think of is because the conversation becomes terribly one-sided and the expectation is that we are children to our parents, and rightfully so.  Because…we are.  That’s unfortunate though, because as children we have this obsession with growing.  And in turn, our relationships have to grow too.

And, I think that’s the moral that I’m getting out of this.  To have truly deep relationships there is evidence of two things we must learn to do:

  1. Learn to accept and appreciate indulgence.

When close relationships arrive in life, they are bound to become more focused and intimate—I sure hope so, otherwise what’s the point of ‘settling down’?  So, to prevent the a similar Spousal Alienation I think it’s important to learn to accept that there could definitely be someone out there who is gaga over you.  Cause once ya’ have someone around that’s really great, why pull away from them?  Also, having someone who loves you unconditionally definitely seems better than the opposite.

  1. Taking relationships step by step, cherish them, and not spoil them—learning not to go overboard.

This I think, is equally important.  It takes two to tango, and learning to stop from pushing someone away is equally important is not pulling away.  I think the net effect is wonderful.  Two people, committed to a relationship, who appreciate and nurture it.  People who love unconditionally, and force themselves to love every minute and not take any second for granted.

I don’t know about ya’ll, but that sounds wonderful to me.  Next time, I should have some more patience when talking to my parents on the telephone, my sweetheart—and consequently myself—will thank me for it someday.

Please do say hello: neil.tambe[at]gmail[dot]com