Yesterday, after a long day at work not saying much and struggling to fill the day, I found myself ready for a normal conversation with my wife; not struggling to find the words she could understand or constantly feeling misunderstood myself. I meandered home, walking to the beat of some nice, but forgettable indie-pop. I was greeted with child-like enthusiasm from my child-like… child, a nicety rarely matched in my experience. We played for a bit while Serenity finished up the dinner we’d be sitting down to have moments later.
At the table, Serenity grumbled over the disappointing dessert she had made that day. She found the recipe on a vegan blog. There’s really nothing else to say right? Tofu, much to the chagrin of vegans worldwide, is not a superior replacement for dairy of any sort. All things considered, the lemon bars she had conjured up from the abysmal ingredients provided tasted just fine, but she revealed that the blogger had emphatically proclaimed them to be the “best lemon bars (she) had ever tasted.” I don’t mind vegans or vegan food, but I do mind when vegans pretend that their faux-food clearly tastes better than the original dishes they so poorly mimic. It struck a (petty) nerve.
My wife and I sat on the floor across from each other at opposite ends of our low-legged Korean dining table, our son picking at bits of food we had given him and minding his own business. I plummeted into a rant, raising my voice; my tone tense. I fruitlessly rambled on about the gall of vegans, hoping they would hear me the world over. It was an absurd moment that I indulged in to feel like I was the authority on something, no matter how feeble. That’s when it happened.
Joash had been facing me when I started stumping, and was sure that my spitfire speech was aimed squarely at him. A look of terror overcame him; one that I’ve never seen, and never want to see again. He was sure he had disappointed me in some way and tears apologetically fell down his face. I was horrified. He gasped for breathe in-between wailing and I picked him up, hoping he could feel assurance in my firm grip. I carried him to the mirror, nearly the length of the wall, in our entrance hallway. I saw how sorry he had been in his eyes and I wanted him to see it reflected in mine. It was an accident that could’ve been prevented had I not thought it funny to attack vegans as a whole with no representative present to provide a proper rebuttal.
This isn’t about vegans. It’s about heredity.
The whole fiasco hit me harder as the night passed. Serenity mentioned, in passing, that the episode reminded her of stories my mom had shared about me. I was (and am) an incurable crier. So paralyzing was the fear of disappointing anyone that I loved (or didn’t), I would breakdown at the slightest rise in either of my parent’s voices. I’m sure some might relate to an extent, but I was on another level. I desperately sought approval, to a fault. I needed everyone to be happy with me, each other, and life as we know it. I can vividly remember my mother giggling in disbelief at outbursts I would have, wondering if I would realize the world was, in fact, not ending. While some might still be thinking, “Yeah, I get it. Me too,” the difference may be that I am still very much like this. I stress when friendships get shaky or stagnant. I desperately need to fix my wife’s bad days, or I feel as if I’ve failed her. I need to know everyone’s okay and okay with me.
I watched myself breakdown last night. I saw the fear of one who desperately desires approval, but It’s not necessary for him or myself. I am wholeheartedly aware of the deep love and care many have for me, yet I still doubt. I want Joash to live confidently in the love that bursts forth for him from people all over the world (multiple continents, even). It pains me that my son may very well have inherited this frustrating, irrational trepidation from his father. I pray he hasn’t.