For one reason or another, I’ve been reflecting on my parents a lot lately. As a newly-minted graduate, my penetration of the proverbial real world went pretty well. 99.8% of the credit for the smooth transition goes to my mother and father (with credit for the other .2% going to $1 coronas on Thursdays). I might be slow on the draw, but here are a few things I’ve recently realized about my parents:
- They are usually right. Sure, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that having a personal liquor stash at the ripe age of 15 wasn’t a great idea. But they’re right about the more surprising things, too. Like that easy classes in college are unrewarding and a complete waste of time. And that handwritten thank you notes are definitely worth the effort. Hell, my dad was spot-on when he told me that I would feel like complete shit after quitting an activity I hated in high school. Even though I wasn’t enjoying it at the time, I lost some respect for myself when I didn’t follow through with my commitment.
- They are human. Surprising, I know. It’s alarming how long it took me to recognize that my parents are intelligent, flawed, sexual, curious human beings with needs like everyone else. It’s easy to put them in their own category–in a positive or negative way. Sometimes I was convinced my mom was the worst person alive. Other times, I thought she could do no wrong. I think I’m finally able to consider her as a whole package. As a person. As I would a friend or any other person. Most importantly, maybe, I think I learned that she is a person outside of who I am. Though I’m a really important part of her life, she has an identity outside of being my mother.
- They’re actually cool people. It’s easy to think of my dad as the dorky guy who only wanted to watch Rugrats and The Weather Channel when I was a kid. But I’ve heard enough stories recently about his fraternity, college football teammates, and even high school escapades to know better. After overcoming a rocky relationship with her in high school, my mother and I have actually become friends. Best friends. She is hilarious, charming, gracious, and great with people. I find myself wanting to skip social activities with friends in favor of shooting the shit with her on a Saturday night. I’ve realized that I’ll be good to go if I’m only half as cool and interesting as my parents are.
- They weren’t given an owner’s manual. Whenever something would go wrong in my childhood, I’d think, “Geez. Why didn’t my parents know better?” Truth is, the only thing they had to go off of was experience and a guess. They weren’t given classes or textbooks on how to raise children, how to navigate personal finances, or anything else. They had to learn through trial and error. It’s easy to place blame when you think the other person knows better. Often times, though, they don’t. They’re improvising. As I consider how I might teach, discipline, and raise my future children, I realize that I’ll mostly just be making shit up. And my kids might be a just little screwed up. But in all likelihood, they’ll turn into ethical, productive members of society.
- They put up with a lot of shit. I used to think knock-knock jokes were the funniest things in the world…they aren’t, it turns out. My parents dropped a lot of money in a time of financial hardship to buy me a secondhand piano only for me to turn around two years later and decide I didn’t want to play anymore. Several years later, I turned into the stereotypical bitchy, emotional teenager from hell; the more they loved me, the more annoyed I was at them. My younger brother can’t process the social cues required to conduct a 3-minute phone conversation. The effort he spends to avoid speaking with them is astronomical. Let’s face it: being a parent is probably the most frustrating thing one can do. But for some reason, they keep on keeping on. They love me when I’m a pain in the ass. They try to make painful conversation with my brother even when his contribution amounts to a series of grunts. They are so, incredibly patient and I have no clue how they do it.
In short, my parents are awesome and I wish it hadn’t taken me 21 years of living to realize it. Hopefully this reflection will help me laugh when my dad tells the same outdated jokes over and over again or act interested when my mom tells me about whatever new age healing technique she’s into this week. After all, me putting up with them is far less of a feat than them putting up with me.
Currently listening to: I’ll Be There for You — Bon Jovi.