Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Competitive Filipino Parent

For a while when I first started my job, my dad told everyone that I worked for Microsoft. Well, he would tell people I worked for Bill Gates, and people would exclaim Huh...  Microsopt?!? as Microsoft is generally the first thing that people think of when they think 'Bill Gates'. My Dad never bothered to tell them otherwise. When asked what exactly I did, he would respond with oh... I don't know. 

Thanks Dad.

I would try to correct him, saying Dad! Why do you tell people that?!? I work for an imaging company owned by Bill Gates, not Microsoft!!!

Dad: Oh.....

But he would continue to tell people I worked for Microsoft anyway.

All my life, I feel like this was the case with my dad: every achievement, whatever educational milestone us kids had accomplished, even things that weren't really accomplishments, he would proudly exaggerate and boast to his friends. It was kind of annoying and embarrassing because I always felt that whatever it was he bragged about was never really a big deal.

Dad: My kid goes to UW
Me: Dad, everyone I know goes to UW... 

Dad: My son is a concert pianist
Me: Dad, sure Scotty is good, but he's never played a concert in his life. 
Dad:  but he could play in a concert... 

Dad: My son graduated valedictorian
Me: Dad, I think it was sumo cum laude.. that's like 4th place

The thing is, it wasn't just him who exaggerated and boasted, other Filipino parents did so as well. It's like there was an unsaid competition between Filipino parents and their kids; the 'whose child is better than the other' competition.

My child is a nurse. (Oh that's nice, mine is is doctor). My child plays concert piano pieces. (Wow, so does mine - but she also singe opera. Does your child sing opera? No? That's too bad, maybe they can learn, but my child is very advanced  ... but I'm sure your child would be able to learn the basics) 

Even when a Filipino parent responds nicely to another parent's prideful boasting, shit talking goes down after the conversation ends.

Bright! she said that her child is bright and wants to be a nurse.  I don't think their child will make it in life.

It is seriously that vicious.

I cannot think of any psychological reasoning behind the competitiveness that exists between Filipino parents. Is it a cultural thing? It is because Filipinos, as a people, are a poor people that many of them feel this need to be exceptionally better than everyone else within society?  Do they have this need to have something to be proud of? To be able to hold their head up and be looked up to by their countrymen? Perhaps it is the idea that if children are a reflection of the parents, those exceptional children equate to exceptional parents who by being exceptional, have helped to elevate the Filipino people. 

I'm pulling these these ideas out of my butt, but really, I don't know the answer to this.

I guess the issue that I have with all of this is that I'm thrown off by the boastful pride of Filipino parents.  Why be competitive at all and gloat to your neighbor on how much better your child is? I understand that it's in a parent's right to be proud about an accomplishment, but there's something to be said about being humbly proud. Ultimately, when this competitiveness kicks in, it is the relationship with the parent and child that can end up strained. Filipino parents will never admit that this occurs, but it does.

I don't think that Filipino parents don't love their children, they do as much as any other parent. However, I do think personal ambition has the tendency to blindsight love and thwart the reasoning for the competitiveness as being an act of love.  But at the end of the day, they do love their children. It just may take a bit for some parents to set aside their ambition and realize that their children themselves are more important, even if they do become other than what a parent envisioned they would be. 

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