Many Eastern religion’s talk about how understanding is the basis for true connection and love. Here’s proof: to parents, their children are essentially the cheapest, most egotistical, self-centred, greedy, messy, lazy, whining, lying and insulting roommates they will ever have. My Mom even had three out of four sons play drums. Forget roses and bon bons. When someone lets you constantly take and rarely give, they only do that because they understand and they are empathetic to who you are, what your context is and was, and what you are trying to accomplish. That understanding and freedom is love.
Here’s the thing I’ll often ask my college students (who are generally in their early 20’s): Do you know more than a ten year old? Of course they answer that they know a lot more than a ten year old. I agree—it’s a huge amount of growth from ten to twenty. Then I inform the students that growing at that rate is a trend that will continue throughout their life. Every ten years they’ll be able to look backward and see a very young person, who didn’t know a whole bunch of things about life, making youthful decisions that fail to take into account certainties of the future.
The reason why even short-tempered parents put up with so much from their kids is because they’ve been kids themselves. Kids can talk all they want about how the world is different—which it superficially is—but the parents have been the kids age and a bunch of other ages, so they simply have a broader perspective on things. So the greatest thing parents do, is watch their children march straight toward disaster, all while rolling their eyes and name-calling the very people who are trying to save them.
Each age carries with it a set of priorities. When you’re a kid you’re all about yourself. You don’t think about the work you’re creating for your exhausted Mom when you track dirty shoes into the house—you just think she’s being petty and mean for being angry with you when you were just ducking into your room for a second. Of course, you think you do, but in truth you have no idea what it’s like to have a job or a boss or the responsibilities of rent or a mortgage. Nor do you know how it feels to be tired at fifty versus fifteen.
Kids actually think their parents are boring. They think their parents aren’t people, with best friends and activities they like and enjoy. Parents are different creatures. Before we’re in our twenties, adults aren’t even things we even imagine we’ll ever be. Sure, we may have children in the future, but we won’t be like our parents. But of course, all of that gets said as a twenty year old, not a forty year old. The intervening twenty years teaches a lot about priorities.
Parents don’t stay in weekends because they don’t like to have fun. Your mom probably really likes dancing, and your dad surely has some activity that he enjoys as much, or maybe he’s the dancer. But they don’t have the time or money or energy for that, because they have dedicated most of their life’s waking hours to working for you. When you put a baseball through the neighbour’s window, they don’t see a broken window, they see four hours of time at work (five after taxes), just to get them back to where they were before you threw the rock at your brother.
Girls—your Mom’s are getting wrinkles just about the same time you’re getting breasts. On her more insecure days, that hurts her. She’s not mad at you—although she may appear that way. She’s mad about losing her youth, her beauty. At least that’s how she’ll perceive it. (Trust me, you’ll understand it better when you get there.) So don’t be surprised if your Mom doesn’t always love it when you look hot. She’s still a person, she’s not just your Mom. And you’re reminding her that her beauty-based days are fading. That hurts. Be compassionate.
Boys—when you break stuff your parents have to work to pay for that thing a second time. When you get out there and see how challenging or boring or agonizing that work can be, you’ll realize why your parents would get so angry about you disrespecting the hours they spent there.
Of course some parents are hurt and angry people do a lot of damage. Even at the best of times we all inadvertently do that to the people closest to us, and in some cases we’re quite extreme. But most of us grew up with parents that were doing their best. They were trying to do what they thought would help either us or themselves in a meaningful way. As they grew and aged they learned that some of those choices were naive. But as I’ve written before, you don’t know how to be 40 until you’re 50. That’s just how life works. So your parents are figuring out how to be their age just like you’re trying to figure out how to be yours.
Your parents aren’t crazy. And they get you way better than you know. Because until you’ve been forty, you can’t see all of the ways that twenty year old’s usually trap themselves. So while their advice might not always be what you want to follow, it will nevertheless usually be based on worthwhile, valuable experience. Just don’t think it’s always said to criticize you, when in fact it’s usually said to protect you from pain or suffering.
Despite the fact that they may demonstrate it in unique and even frustrating ways, most of us are lucky enough to grow up with parents that love us. So it’s worthwhile remembering that your parents sacrificed most of the foolish joys of their own lives just to raise you, and their only motivation was how much they love you. There’s no way to repay that, you’ll see. But it sure helps if you can respect it.
Thank yous and much love to all of the under-appreciated Moms and Dads (and grandparents, and step-moms and step-dads etc.) out there! Without your significant sacrifices, none of us would have gotten anywhere.
Enjoy your day!
peace and hugs. s
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.