GROWING up in black households we often heard the phrase “I am the parent and you are the child”.

And we immediately knew that we should remember our place, choose our words and watch our behaviour carefully. But what if phrases like these are the ones that have blurred and even completely erased the channels of communication we could have with our parents?

There was a thread on Twitter not too long ago where the main topic at hand was; “our parents really don’t know us”. Everyone was engaging and sharing their own stories and opinions on how they felt their parents really knew little if not nothing at all about them. Some would even go on to talk about how they had started their own lives completely separate from their parents and how certain parts of these lives were secret because the parents would not want to even began to understand their life choices.

Yes, our parents will probably never completely get to know all the details about the lives we live, but when marriages and children are being hidden for the sake of personal peace and happiness what message does that carry?

There is a big difference between being disrespectful to your elders and sharing your feelings; this is however often misconstrued by the older generation where their policies are “children are seen not heard”. So we often find ourselves in a predicament when sharing our feelings and opening up would be misinterpreted as being disrespectful. So how do we open the lines of communication to ensure that we are heard and not just seen? How do we then share with our parents our concerns and emotions?

I think the main problem could be that before we even begin to talk about how our parents don’t know us at all, the question is how well do we know our parents? The hardships they have faced through life, the trauma they could have possibly been through, the rejection and ridicule they themselves have had to live with. 

Before we expect them to ask us how our day was and what we got up to, do we take the time to ask about theirs? We only know the parts of them that they choose to show us and thus we have been doing the same in return. We only know of the stories they have decided to share that come up during conversations but do we ever ask deeper questions, do we take the time to even learn their personalities?

I have a vivid memory of my late father when we were in a restaurant having a random conversation and he cracked the driest joke I’ve ever heard. I completely lost it with laughter, but I turned and looked at him realising that this is probably where I got my sense of humour from.

And I saw a different side to a man that I had literally known my whole life. That was a part of him I had rarely experienced and that’s the part of him I wanted to know more and never got the chance to.

Sometimes we would just have to put the fear aside and sit them down and talk, just talk, without hesitation or second guessing. If they engage, then great. If they don’t, then we can go on about our secret lives knowing that we gave it a shot.