What do we expect of our grown children: That they'll return our affection; that they'll want to spend time with us; that they'll be there for us in our dotage? Hanya Yanagihara, the New York-based grown child of parents who live in Honolulu (as well as the new editor of the New York Times Style Magazine, "T"), says her parents don't see things that way. Here's what she writes about their attitude toward the duty of children.
Last July, I went to Honolulu ...to spend the summer with my parents. My parents and I have a warm relationship, even though, or perhaps because, I don’t speak to or visit them frequently; until my most recent trip there, the previous July, I hadn’t seen them in six years. I live in New York, and they live in Hawaii, and while it’s true that traveling to the islands requires a certain commitment of time, the real reason I stayed away is that there were other places I wanted to go and other things I wanted to see. Of all the gifts and advantages my parents have given me, one of the greatest is their understanding of this desire, their conviction that it is the duty of children to leave and do what they want, and the duty of parents to not just accept this but to encourage it. When I was 14 and first leaving my parents — then living in East Texas — to attend high school in Honolulu, my father told me that any parent who expected anything from his child (he was speaking of money and accomplishment, but he also meant love, devotion and caretaking) was bound to be disappointed, because it was foolish and selfish to raise children in the hope that they might someday repay the debt of their existence; he has maintained this ever since. It is, in a culture that cherishes familial proximity, a radical way of thinking by people who otherwise pride themselves on their conventionality (though, lovably, their idea of the conventional tends to not actually be so at all).