27 Apr Humanizing our Parents
Growing up is an incremental scaffolding of moments of insight. As we get older, we start to see the world in different ways. We realize that nap time is actually incredible, and that boy bands are not invincible – thanks, Zayn. We learn that it’s probably a good idea to wear a jacket to the party, that honesty is the best policy, and when pursuing a love interest, it’s better to be the tequila than the lime, because you should be chased, not the chaser.
As a 13-year-old with a growing understanding of power structures and a burgeoning sense of self, I began to resent the authority that my parents tried to establish. I rejected the notion that it was my parents’ word over mine – that I had to follow their rules and trust their advice without any skepticism. I’ve come to understand that all the do’s and don’ts that I learned about the world were just my parents’ opinions, and that my opinions were just as important and as valid as theirs. I began to conceptualize my parents as these oppressors who could never understand me. I saw myself as the black sheep of this familial bunch.
Looking back, I know now that I was no angel in the matter. I was not an easy kid to raise. I made my parents’ job pretty difficult. I epitomized the prototype of the hot-headed, unyielding, opinionated teenaged girl. I demanded righteousness, constantly waving my mood-ring-clad fist in the air in defiance.
My 13-year-old perception of my parents as tyrannous know-it-alls wasn’t necessarily accurate or fair. As a 21-year-old, I still believe that my opinion is just as important as my parents’, but I don’t blame or judge them for their opinions anymore. This change of heart came from gaining the insight that my parents – and all parents, for that matter – are fundamentally human. Parents do the best they can with the resources they have to understand us, raise us with the right values, and – in my case – reign in our insubordination.
Being a parent doesn’t automatically make you a perfect person. Our moms and dads have the same capacity to make mistakes – to be stubborn, to feel insecure – as we do. They have their own set of psychological tendencies that were ingrained in them way before we came into the picture. It was only when I came to this realization that I began to foster a real forgiveness for the “injustices” that I faced. This incremental undoing of blame has allowed me to forge a connection with my parents that’s authentic, loving, patient, and forgiving.
In recent years, in addition to realizing that parenthood does not make superheroes of us, I’ve learned that: cowboy boots are good for any occasion; one should never grocery shop when hungry; and the best relationships are the ones which don’t involve chasing of any kind. I never want to stop learning, and I never will. If/when I become a parent, I will raise my kids to the best of my ability, and I’ll know to be forgiving about the mistakes that I will most definitely make. I’ll explain to my kids that this is my first rodeo, too, and that even though I’m a mom, I’m still fundamentally human. Most importantly, though, I’ll tell them that whatever comes our way, we’ll figure it out together… eventually.