Thursday, May 3, 2012

I'm a Grown-Up Now. Really.

There's a funny thing about parents (being one, having them...). When I was growing up--especially during my teen years--I couldn't wait to get out of the house and away from my parents. Then I went to college (Yay, adulthood!), only to find out that while they couldn't enforce a curfew anymore, my parents still had control over a lot of things.

It took me a lot of years before I came to realize a simple, disturbing truth.

Your parents are never out of your life.

There's a window where their influence is small-ish. It comes between college graduation and having children. During that window, it's rather easy to only deal with them when you want (and/or for special occasions. Note: the fewer siblings you have, the fewer special occasions there will be.)

But once you have kids, all bets are off. Not only will your parents likely want a relationship with their grandkids, but your kids will want one as well. And you--in your attempts to be the Best. Parent. EVER!--will want that for them too. So, you'll visit more. And you'll visit longer.

And suddenly, that nice bubble you had carved out to be parent-free will get smaller and smaller. At first, you won't notice, and you'll probably even appreciate it. (Hell, there are some parts you'll appreciate even when the tiny-bubble panic hits.) But then the dreaded moment comes when you do something for you--like get a tattoo--and there's no bubble left at all. That look your mother perfected when you were growing up? The one that lets you know in no uncertain terms that you have disappointed her? Yeah. She hasn't forgotten that one, and now that she has wrinkles it is even more extreme.

But you get over that because it's your life and you like your tattoo. And for a while you think you're building your bubble up again. Not a big one, just big enough to breathe.

And then one day, you're talking to her all happy about the fact that your kid is gobbling up The Hunger Games like it's the best thing ever (seriously, the little man is skipping TV to read), and she responds with something along the lines of "Oh really. And now the eleven year old is reading the same books as the nineteen year old." Uh... yes? But it smashes the bubble all over again and you question your fitness as a parent. (This one took less time to get over than the tattoo. I will ALWAYS encourage my kids to read books that challenge them and their views of the world.)

So, yeah. Unless you cut all ties with your family, your parents are going to be a major factor in your life forever. Even if they aren't physically around, they color the choices you make. So, dear readers, a few pieces of unsolicited advice from me to you. 1) Come to grips with your parents sooner rather than later. 2) Savor those years where you have the nice bubble going on. Use it to learn to love yourself so you can withstand the bubble-shrinking assault. 3)Try to be the kind of parent that respects your kids' bubbles from early on.

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