This past weekend my father stayed at my house while he was in town visiting. For those who know me well, this is an odd scenario, because I sadly didn’t have a relationship with my dad for the better part of my twenties. I don’t know if it was a byproduct of being a kid of divorced parents who witnessed ugly exchanges between adults or plain old immaturity, but I dismissed him from my life and judged him very harshly, and now I see that it was unfair of me to do that.

At some point, probably around the time I was ready to start my own family, I decided that I wanted to let go of the baggage/drama and set a good example for my children so they could have a relationship with their grandfather. If I had to pinpoint what about our relationship I was hung up on, it was that I had unrealistic expectations of what our relationship should be like, particularly as an adult. As a child, you are essentially dependent on your parents for everything: food, safety, shelter, emotional stability, etc. Everything. As a teen, you are less and less dependent on them, but they still have a huge amount of influence in your life. Up until this point, you have little input into the relationship, you see them as belonging to you, and you have little accountability for your actions. You can kick and scream and act like the child you are and your parents excuse most of it because of your age. Once you are living on your own, you have to calibrate to a new normal of being independent, which includes being responsible for your actions and words, recognizing your place in the world and reflecting back on how you got there, and defining this new relationship with your parents as equals. It took me quite some time to get there.

Having an adult relationship with your parents is just as much your responsibility as it is theirs. Yes, it’s true, there will be a point in your life when you don’t *need* your parents anymore, and you can set out on a 10 year experiment to prove that to yourself, like I did, but it’s a waste of time. What I learned and I hope my children learn too, is that when it gets hard to navigate those waters, you can’t give up. On the other side of that transition is when you learn to see your parents as the world sees them, in all their glory and imperfections. And it is beautiful. Being your parent is just one aspect of their being. They are so much more than that. It’s a magical discovery of life that nobody ever told me about. I hope my children get to experience that as well. I want them to see me as I am to the world, who just happens to be their parent. I very much look forward to that.

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