21. Describe your relationship with your parents.
If I were asked to describe my relationship with my parents at this moment, I would use words such as “loving,” “respectful,” “real friends” and “close-knit.” I would tell you that I look up to them and am so thankful God chose them to be my parents. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t talk at least once, if not two or three times. They come to the house on the weekends to see you girls, but I am just as excited to see them drive up as you are.
Their opinions are important to me, and at 38 years old, I still look to them for advice. When I have a problem, I’m quite certain they will have an answer. I seek their approval and am giddy like a child riding a bike without training wheels for the first time every time they praise something I’ve done.
Your Nana and Papa are among my best friends, and I am so blessedly thankful to have been raised by them. They taught me to respect myself and others, to study hard and to never let anything or anyone keep me down. They showed me what it meant to be part of a loving family, and they made me believe that nothing on Earth was more important than those family bonds.
But don’t be fooled. Our relationship wasn’t always so Pollyanna perfect.
Just as you girls will surely do some day, I reached an age where I thought I knew everything. With one roll of my eyes, I could dismiss Mom and Dad’s advice and put the room on notice that I couldn’t care any less about what they thought. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it, how I wanted and why I wanted it, and their disapproval was infuriating.
Was I a bad kid? No.
I was far more respectful of my parents than most kids I knew, but most kids I knew didn’t grow up in Neil Young’s house. Doing what you were told and not talking back weren’t just things I did when I was in a good enough mood to do them. They were behavioral expectations that came without ifs, buts or maybes. You were told to do something. You did it. End of story.
You didn’t have to like it, but you did have to do it.
And Heaven knows I didn’t like it 99.9% of the time, but I did it, whatever “it” was. It might be not getting to go somewhere my friends were going or being told I had waited too late to ask to do something on a Friday night. It might be wanting to talk on the phone for a long time with my friends and knowing that I had about a five- to 10-minute window of talk time before my parents told me to hang up. It might be having to sit quietly in a group while my friends ran around laughing and cutting up.
I thought your Nana and Papa were so unbelievably mean, but as a parent now, I can 100% say without any hesitation that they were right.
I didn’t need to go half the places my friends were going without adult supervision, and running up and down the roads on Friday nights wasn’t really where I needed to be either. As a kid, I thought I could handle anything, but as an adult, I realize I had no business being part of most of the things that were going on in that small town.
I had no reason to talk on the phone more than five or 10 minutes. I saw my friends all day at school. When I was home, I needed to be with my family. My friends saw me far more waking hours of the day than anyone else. At home, I needed to be an active part of the family and forget my friends for a while.
When everyone was running around being loud and getting into trouble, there was no reason for me to part of that. I felt like I was missing out on something, but the truth is that I was doing exactly what I needed to do – learning respect and courtesy.
Hard-learned lessons weren’t the only rough patch between us, though. In my senior year, I met someone I thought I needed to be with, and Dad told me I was “nothing but jail bait to him” and forbid me to see him. I listened (for a while) but eventually got over that and started seeing him secretly. I won’t even go into the details of that whole debacle other than to say that my parents were right, I was wrong, and it took me a very long time to see that.
Do I regret that relationship or the fact that I stood up to my parents? Not at all.
Every glass-shard-strewn path we have painfully marched down has been part of what makes us so close today. We butted heads and fought it out through all the teen troubles and early-20s ridiculousness, and we came out on the other side of it all with mutual respect and love for each other not only as a child and parents but as adults who know where each stands in the relationship.
I respect my parents. I thought they were so tough on me, but now I see that they weren’t tough on me at all. They hugged me and loved me no matter how unlovable I acted, and they only wanted good things for me. They raised me to have high expectations from myself and those around me, to live a good Life and to always do the best I can at everything I do. It took many years for me to see that they only had the best of intentions, but I get it now.
Maybe someday each of you girls will see that your mean old Mama isn’t asking perfection from you either. I don’t expect you to never make mistakes or to silently agree with everything I say. I only want you to grow up to be the best version of you that you can be, and it’s my job to arm you with the skills of compassion, faith, respect, honesty, integrity, intelligence and good manners you will need to make your way through this world.
Each of you is your own person. You will make your own mistakes. I will make mistakes, too. I can’t promise it won’t be a rough road from time to time, but I can promise we will get through this thing called Life even if we have to drag each other mentally kicking and screaming through the rough parts.
When you think those rough parts are too much to handle and you think your Mama couldn’t get any meaner, just remember that I thought the same thing about Nana and Papa. I understand. That won’t change how I choose to raise you, but I do at least understand.
Someday you will, too, and when you have kids of your own, I am certain you will look back and think (just as I do now), “Dang. My parents were pretty smart.”