The daughter’s letter to her perfectionist parents, who tried to mould her in their image.
You are ostensibly a respectable, likable couple. You have had successful careers and are well thought of. Your home is decorated, equipped and maintained to the highest of standards. You dine at top restaurants and cook from scratch with produce bought at a high-end supermarket. You are always immaculately presented in expensive clothing.
I never fitted into the image you created. This was a problem, from an early age, that needed to be fixed. I was too sensitive, too reticent and too unattractive, and you sought to transform me into the person you wanted me to be, while telling me you loved me. You convinced yourself it was for my benefit, your feelings of frustration and disappointment trumping any distress that you were obviously causing a young girl.
None of us could believe our luck when I married young, but physical and mental freedom is not the same thing. The feelings of inadequacy you ingrained in me lived on and I started to project outwards. Every experience, every person was lacking in some way as I swung on an emotional pendulum between stress and depression. My marriage hung by a thread, and it was only by becoming a parent myself that I realised the cycle was repeating itself. I started to deconstruct and rebuild my mental processing. I started to find my own identity and lead my own life.
You have reacted to this blossoming with a mixture of bafflement and suspicion. As I have withdrawn from your values and grown more unkempt, more solitary and more free-spirited, you have withdrawn from me and clung to my sister and her family, who defer to your ways and keep me at arm’s length like you do. Any effort I have made to forge a new relationship of equals has fallen flat because you refuse to take my contentment and good intentions at face value. The formula for happiness is, you believe, yours alone to decide.
Still, to have a daughter and grandchildren with whom you had no real relationship to speak of did not fit your image. You recently ramped up your campaign of evasion, distrust and disapproval and eventually broke me, getting the proof you needed that I was unhappy all along and therefore to blame for the distance between us. You set out your terms and conditions for the reestablishment of our relationship – a public pillory disguised as a family meeting and a schedule of visits and phone calls to be carried out on my part alone. I rejected them and we are now at a stalemate.
My door is always open to you. I have forgiven myself for my many flaws and mistakes that you insist on dwelling on. I also forgive you for yours, even though you refuse to acknowledge them. I can see that you have always been in a state of stress caused by demanding careers that left nothing for home life, depleting your energy, clouding your judgment and robbing you of wisdom, compassion and tolerance. I try to remember all those people you bring happiness and support to in the wider world, even though you bring neither to me. But I can no longer accept the brand of love you offer – controlling, condescending and cruel. You will never admit to this, you will never face up to your own unchecked deficiencies.
Your perfect world would implode.