As my Christmas break was ending, my father made an unceremonious and unscheduled exit from my home where he’d been living and being cared for since May. To go to the side of a friend in St. Louis on a dime before heading back home. I knew it wasn’t forever. But my role now, once more, is to wait in silence until he happens to need me again.
…Just like that.
This may not be the age to start reflecting on my parents. Their faults. Their qualities I admired. Resentment as well as Guilt. But if not now, I’m not sure when…
When you’re growing up, you take the stance that your parents are out to get you. “Ruining your life”, as it were. We tune a lot out. When you are beginning a life of your own, you maybe learn to exist alongside one another in the universe, and just “expect to be annoyed”, as my cousin has always said. We tune a lot out. When you start raising your own family, you devise the proper distance, physically and mentally, that allows you to walk your own path without percieved judgment lording over you and your new family. You learn to tune a lot out.
It often makes me stop to wonder…when are my kids actually listening to me. Hearing me. And not, in fact, tuning me out. How often do they feel I am “ruining their life”. Do they “expect to be annoyed”. Will they distance themselves one day because of me. Did I even realize when I was doing these things to my own parents. Did they know?
When we are young, we need someone to blame for things that don’t go our way. Mom and dad. It fits. It’s a rite of passage of sorts. All these stages are. Even when the eventual ‘tuning out’ becomes a mode of survival. But, later on…much later. Maybe now. We come to the realization that our parents have been in the inherent position our whole lives to be the ones able to hurt us the worst. It is a considerable power to hold. If not cared for properly.
We excuse a lot. We get excused a lot. We accuse, as well we are accused. A mutual mixture of overlooking, or magnification of faults and hurts. Parents and children.
There are intentional hurts along the way, certainly. For a long while, so much seems intentional. If not all. You go on claiming your own space. Your own identity. Growing. Gathering that mental or physical distance. Our own reasons. Our rite of passage. It may seem incredibly intentional to our parents. It is. But it’s necessary for growth. While we, as their children, remain in the inherent position our whole lives to be the ones able to hurt them the worst.
After I had my own children, I would wonder who on earth these people were who raised me. Was I only just now seeing their horrendous mistakes. How was I only just now noticing their outbursts and tantrums when I was always punished for mine. How did I not even silently question their bad decisions. And how did I think what they did was okay in the times it was not. Because I had tuned them out.
How was I just now recognizing their undeniable sacrifices. How was I not more grateful for everything I know I had. How did they willingly overlook my bad decisions. And how did I truly believe what I did was okay in the times it was not. Were they wondering who on earth they were raising. Had I tuned all of that out as well.
Were my parents having these same questions about me. Would I have the same questions about my daughters one day. Them about me…A learning curve lifelong.
Time grants us this, though. Time and maturity, both, have a way of granting us the invaluable gift of objectivity. In things I may have only recently “seen”, I am able to understand that my parents struggled greatly. With themselves. With us. As we did with them. I am able to see that they were learning right along with us. Hurting as we were. Making mistakes as we did. Overlooking our pain as we often overlooked theirs. Tuning us in and out as we did them. And forgiving us the way we forgave them. All necessary for survival and growth.
At either end, these roles give us a considerable power to hold. If not cared for properly. But the time honored truth is often, as parents and children both, we just don’t know what the hell we are doing. We shoulder our childhoods and our parenting as part of who we are alongside unending questions, doubts and realizations. When it’s time, we carry all of it into forgiveness, acceptance and understanding. I believe that gift of objectivity allows us to see all things exactly when they are ready to be seen. When the time presents itself. It is simply another rite of passage. No matter the age.