I remember getting a letter in the post from the Norwegian association for the blind one day. Not an unusual occurrence since I’m a member. But I remember this one well because of what happened after I opened it. It was in Braille, and mum, being curious as always, asked me to read it out loud.
The letter was about the setting up of a Goalball team. Goalball is a ball game played completely in the dark which means that if you have any level of sight, however little, you have to wear blindfolds. You have to wear them anyway though, because you throw yourself after the ball on the floor and it can get tough, so the shades which are huge protect your face. You need a lot of other protective wear too. The ball has a bell in it, so the players can hear where it is. It needs to be completely silent during a match which lasts seven minutes in total.
When I was done reading the letter, mum commented sarcastically that I seemed so very interested in joining. She was right though. I couldn’t care less about Goalball. I preferred sprinting and swimming. The thought of squatting on the floor to wait for a rolling ball with a bell wasn’t my idea of fun. But I went to the practice, I joined the team, became Norwegian champion and I played for three years. Why? To please my parents.
All parents have certain expectations when it comes to their children. In fact, we all have some degree of expectation for everyone we interact with. But there are healthy expectations and unhealthy expectations. As much as my parents loved me, they’d tried to decide my path from when I was a baby and continued to change their desires for what they wanted my life to be as I grew up. This was especially true for my dad. When I was very young, he told me that I was going to become a world champion in short distance running. When it was discovered that I could sing, I was going to become a pop ballad singer with dad as my manager. I thank God that never happened. Then, he wanted me to become a teacher like my mum. He traveled a lot with his job and was absent for large parts of my growing up, so he couldn’t understand how teaching children to me sounded like Hell on earth when mum loved it so much. He didn’t know me at all, but he wanted a safe steady job for me. The opposite of what I wanted which was travel and excitement.
I was often told how disappointed my parents were when I didn’t prioritize to socialize in the very small blind community and I felt guilty about it. They only wanted me to be around people they thought I could relate to, so it came from a good place. But as a teenager that wasn’t quite my perspective on the situation. Since I’ve always been as stubborn as a donkey, I went my own way. However, only recently am I feeling truly not guilty about my choices though I have made mistakes along the way.
Every child should respect their parent, even as grown-ups. But every parent also needs to respect their child. I am not yet a parent, but I am a human and I know that the children I will have will be individuals with their own personality and mind from before they’re able to communicate verbally. I have also been a child with a lot of expectations placed on me as to what is the right life for me. And it feels very suffocating. When I look at me and my parents and other people I know and their parents, it seems to me that where the relationships have soured is because the respect between the child and the parent isn’t mutual. Not that there’s always disrespect and total disregard for all feelings, but often the parents are so set in what they want that they forget that their child has their own mind. I’m by no means saying that a five-year-old should decide their bedtime, diet and if they feel like going to school, but it’s important that as children grow up, they should be free to make their own choices and live the life they want. A parent might want their child to become a lawyer or a doctor. But do they want their children to be unhappy if they hate law and medicine?
And it’s not just parents that can shape your life in a different direction to how you want it. There are times in most people lives where following friends and peers are important too. Meaning they take up a study because their best friend does it, or join a football club to please a sibling.
But the truth is, that you can’t happily live your life according to others expectations. And you know what they say. The truth shall set you free. Do what’s right for you, even if it may not go down well with parents or friends. As long as it doesn’t harm you or them, you should have the last say. You only have a shot at this life once, so make the best out of it.