When I was 25 I made an announcement to my friends. “I’m moving to New York.” I said proudly. I remember sitting around a table, eating tater-tots on a Saturday night, drinking beer and margaritas and having zero responsibility to deal with. My friends congratulated me and we lamented how our fun times would end but got excited about the idea of them coming to visit.
After being in New York for a few years, I was making great money, having a fabulous time, living in my own apartment, running around with friends, sitting at VIP tables, getting into exclusive nightclubs and – you know, being a 30-something in New York.
I often think about my parents in a context, what were their lives like when they were my age? What were they doing when they were 25, 28, 35 years old? What were their lives like? Quite different from mine, I can tell you that. At 25 my mom was raising two children in a country where she was learning the language. She was thousands of miles away from her friends and her family, her sisters and her known way of life. My dad was with her, a young groom and also thousands of miles away from his family and friends and figuring out how to be a doctor in the US. Together they navigated Oklahoma while they wrestled with the mysteries of the washing machine (“The clothes are GONE!”), tornadoes, and doing their best to make their lives work with what they knew from growing up. When my mom turned 30, she had 2 children and a 1 week old baby. Her and my father were then living in Florida where my dad was working his ass off, opening his practice and doing what he could to make things work for him and his family. By the time she was 35 and he was 41, they were in the process of separating. A few years later they would be divorced.
Quite a different experience from my life I would say.
I hear a lot, and have heard a lot, of people talking about their parents and the ways that they were raised. Some people lament the things they wish their parents had done or said. Some wish their parents had never said that one thing that still pisses them off today. Some people do not even speak to their parents. The relationship itself is so complicated that I can’t even sit here and tell you the nuances of parent to child. I just can’t. But a majority of people feel or have felt that one of both of their parents failed them in some way, big or small. As kids we have an ideal of our parents. We expect them to be super parents. We expect their unconditional love, their wisdom to be imparted on us at a moments notice, their unwavering support, their praises of us sung to us at just the right times. And why wouldn’t they do those things – they’re our PARENTS! Right!? But oftentimes, this doesn’t happen the way we expect. Sometimes parents don’t live up to our ideals of them, whether in a big way or a small way. And when we see that they don’t live up to our ideals we begin to wonder – and resent. Why didn’t they do this for me, why didn’t they tell me this when I needed to hear it, why did they make me do that, why did they say that, didn’t they know how it made me feel? How dare they treat me that way! How could my mom/dad do that to me – I’m their CHILD! We are appalled to see them for who they are – normal, everyday people.
When you were born your parents were not handed a book titled “PARENTS – DO THIS, NOT THAT”. I think about my parents lives a lot and the choices that they had to make, the way they must have felt at different times in their lives when big changes were happening. And I wonder – what would I have done if I was in their shoes? What choices would I make when I was 23 about getting married and moving to another country, what would I decide when I was 29 about having a 3rd baby, what would I have felt if I was in the middle of a divorce, right now, with 3 kids? What decisions would I make? How would I feel? I mean, I don’t know anything. I’m just winging it over here myself except I don’t have children depending on me to keep it together, depending on me to be an amazing support system, earth mother, all-knowing father, always saying the right thing, never be mad, to be understanding at all times. The amount of patience one has to have must be crippling. I mean, I get annoyed when our cats wake us up every morning to feed them. I can’t even IMAGINE what it would be like being a parent. I have to laugh out loud just thinking about that comparison! And what about THEIR parents? What did our grandparents teach them about raising children? Nothing. They did the best they could too. And from what you hear, they were strict you better believe it! Our grandparents were some serious people to contend with, weren’t they. Can you imagine growing up with your grandparents? Our parents can. Sure they are awesome and wonderful now but as emotional adults well – who knows what they had to contend with. We can only imagine.
I think that seeing our parents as ordinary people is one of the most important steps to take on the road to being an adult. Seeing them as mere mortals instead of super-parents can be a huge relief. You can lose any expectations you have on them to be Super-Mom or Super-Dad. You can let go of any resentments you had about what they did or didn’t do because really, they were just doing the best they could with what they knew. The same way you do every day in your own life. And you can stop thinking of yourself as that little kid, that child who was hurt or surprised or sad for any reason. Because you are not a child anymore. Your parents work is done. Finished. You are an adult now. You don’t have to expect anything from them. You can be grateful for the wonderful things they did for you. You can say, “I am so lucky for what I had.” Or you can say, “This was what I had – and it shaped me as an adult.” You can let go of anything that holds you back from feeling like the adult you are. You can hope for a wonderful new friendship between lifelong friends because its pretty likely they will be around for a while. If you have kids now, you can appreciate what it must have been like for your parents in an entirely new way. But there is no reason to not finally step back, take a look at the big picture and say to yourself, “Thanks mom and dad, for what you did. I am who I am because of it.”
Please bless my parents.
Thank You, thank them for the life they gave me.
For the ways they helped me and made me strong, I give thanks.
For the ways they stumbled and held me back, please help me to forgive them and receive Your compensation.
May their spirits be blessed, their roads forward made easy.
Please release them, and release me, from my childhood now gone by.
Release us also from any bitterness I still hold.
They paved the way, in all that they did, for where I have been has led me here.
I surrender my parents to the arms of God.
Thank you, dear ones, for your service to me.
Bless your souls.
May your spirits fly free.
May we enter into the relationship God wills for us.
Thank You, Lord, for I am free now.
-M. Williamson, Illuminata