Monday, August 15, 2011

Befriending Influence

I was in kindergarten when I began to comfortably make friends with other kids outside of my family. (Cousins within the same age range) Pre-school wasn't so friendly to me. My closer friends in kindergarten who lived nearby my childhood home was Mark Chan (of course not real name) and Trevor London. During summer break between kindergarten and 1st grade our weekday activity consisted of morning swimming lessons and stick-ball at the school yard after lunch.

Now it could be easy to state that my parents favored Mark because of the common ethnic background and surname. ("Chin" and "Chan" are actually considered "identical" surnames) That wasn't the case. It was also due to the fact that his father and my mother were themselves childhood friends. Favoring Mark and resisting Trevor's presence had to do with the overall perception of Trevor from the entire neighborhood: he was considered to be a "bad influence."

Trevor's reputation as a bad influence developed as he was the one who was kept after kindergarten class the most, and who received the most notes to take home to the parents. (I won the distinctive honor of placing 2nd on both categories) My parents received wind of our menacing reputation following an afternoon where we were both sent home from a PTA sponsored after-school event. (We both agreed at that time that no time was the better for "vengeance" against the mean, bullying 6th graders; so we pelted them with our snacks and drinks)

Any type of family get-togethers consisted of at least ONE conversation about how "Jarrett's friend Trevor, Ho Kwai Jai" ("Bad, mischievous kid") Then the discussion would shift to all the transgressions I committed since the last family get-together. Basically the message was clear from my parents to me:

My so-called "bad" behavior was a result of my friendship with Trevor

At that point in my life, my misbehaving and resulting punishment consisted of my parents attempt to disable all contact between myself and Trevor. Even when Mark transferred to a new school and was developing a new group of friends, my parents made sure I spent time with Mark. Hell, they even kept pushing me to hang out with the F.O.B. family across the street instead of Trevor much to my frustration as they didn't trust me for not knowing the Cantonese language, and I didn't think highly of them as they lacked English speaking skills.

I look forward to parenting while looking back at this situation. My parents were not aware that they were not only judging their son, but also programming their son to conclude he was a bad person. All because of a friendship with a specific friend. We all grew up with a friend who "was a bad influence." Hell, I admit I was sometimes "that friend" growing up. It's a part of the growing up process. My parents (RIP) did the best they could with the resources they had.

What bothered me the most about this situation was just the overall way it was handled. As I stated, I felt judged by my own parents because I felt incapable of picking good friends, and being a good person. If this so-called bad person was my friend, therefore (child's logic) I must be a bad person too. Secondly, I felt that my parents avoided responsibility and wanted to cast blame for my bad behavior. No child is responsible for another child's behavior. Just like no one adult could influence another adult without their permission. Granted, as a child, there's more of a vulnerable prone, and the parents to have the right to protect their child. It's just that protecting the child and casting blame on another child are as different as apples and oranges.

Trevor wasn't "bad" per se. He was simply someone who dared to take more chances and ask more questions the majority were unwilling to ask. I look back towards those days as days where I did my most growing. He introduced me to bands/musicians I never heard of, dared me to playfully harass the girls in our class, and do something anyways even if we were told not to.

What my parents viewed as "kwai" ("bad") I view as "coaching."

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