When Parents Become People

Growing up, my mom picked me up at the bus stop at 3:15pm, every day, without fail.  When we got home, she’d have a plate of Oreos and milk waiting for me.  She taught me the only right way to eat them—I’d twist, lick off the cream filling, and dunk the cookie until it nearly melted into my cool cup of milk.

My dad taught me how to rollerblade when I was young, forcing me to wear a helmet, knee pads, wrist and shin guards.  This unintentionally taught me one of my first life lessons: it is better to be safe, than cool.

My parents allowed me to keep the tadpoles I caught when I’d run off as a child to the hiking trail near our home. And they held a funeral when the one frog who made it, Fred, finally passed away.

They tearfully said goodbye to me when I went to college in Boston, and accepted me with open arms when I tearfully said I wanted to come home. And they were patient as I went to community college, always having faith I’d eventually get my degree.

They didn’t care when I said I no longer wanted to be a teacher.

“I have to write!” I said.

“It’s okay Alison,” they replied, “we’ve always known you were an artist.”

And just like that, they let me move back home for a while, to my old room, while I figured things out for myself.

Do we really appreciate the things our parents do for us? I didn’t. Not until recently.

At some point, as we enter into adulthood, we begin to see our parents as people.We begin to look at them as actual human beings, with their own stories and histories.  We begin to see them as men and women, like ourselves, with their own heartbreaks, victories, and failures. Their own pain and joy. But throughout our lives, they’ve put all that in second place, because what came first was being a parent.

Until I reached my twenties, I don’t think I ever realized my parents were actually, well…people.  I had no idea about their past.  I didn’t know where my dad went to college or graduate school.  I didn’t know about my mom’s ex boyfriends, or any of the funny jobs she had in high school.  I didn’t know if my dad went to prom, or what my mom’s favorite color was.  I didn’t know if they had taken great vacations as children, had mean elementary school teachers, or if they had ever broken bones.  I never asked them how they were feeling, or how their friends were.

What I did know is that they took care of me whenever I needed them, and that they loved me selflessly and endlessly, even when they probably should have given up.

As an adult, now more or less able to support myself, I realize it’s time to change.  It’s time, more than ever, to begin valuing my relationship with my parents, and to begin showing that appreciation through action.  It’s time to make my parents feel special and supported, the way they have made me feel for so many years.

Reader, as embarrassed as you might get of your mom or dad sometimes, let me break it to you—your parents are probably cool.  Yep, I said it.

Your parents have told funny jokes.  Your parents have worn cool clothes.  Your parents have gone to cool parties, they’ve danced, they’ve made mistakes.  Your parents are smart, but they have also made stupid mistakes.  Here’s the thing: your parents are just like you.

Cut them a break.  Be easy on them.  Because one day, you might be a parent too.

So, ask your parents about their lives, show them your interest. Let your parent’s drop you off in front of school.  Make your bed.  Do the dishes.  Start a book club with them.  Take a weekend trip with your mom.  Spend an entire day going to BBQ restaurants with your dad. Send your parents flowers, an edible arrangement, a nice note thanking them.  There’s no better time than now to tell the people you care about that you love them.

(Image via Shutterstock)

Filed Under