Dec 30, 2015

Hold Dear

 "Hold dear to your parents for it is a scary and confusing world without them." 

Remember that far back? When you were only 5 or 10? Your parents were still all-knowing, mostly without flaws, and you were pretty sure they didn't actually exist as people until you arrived- the thought of them having any other roles besides Mom and Dad was such a strange concept that it never crossed your mind. God put the two of them on this earth for the sole purpose of raising you, and maybe a sibling or two down the road, inconsequentially. You relied on them for everything you wanted or needed, but you dreamed of future independence.

You knew adulthood would be glorious. So much freedom. No answering to anyone. You'd have a fun job, a cool car, and spend your time eating ice cream at 2 am, staying up to watch David Letterman, or whatever it is parents do after your 8 o'clock bedtime. But you would never do things like them, or utter the words "because I said so", or even be corny enough to be a parent in the first place. You'd be your own person.

And then it happens. Parenthood lands in your lap with a thud, a wide-eyed, cooing baby looking at you the way you must have looked at your parents. Suddenly, you feel smaller, and maybe even more childish than before you met your own child. How is it that you are supposed to raise this little one for the next eighteen years and not make a complete mess of it all? Almost instantly, you understand your parents- everything they said to you, you want to repeat to this little child. Be careful driving in the rain- it's slick out. You're gorgeous on the inside, and that's the most important thing. Don't date that boy. Don't do something you'll regret. Clean your room.

Then you make phone calls for that Christmas cookie recipe, for ideas to soothe that baby crying in the middle of the night, for questions about your childhood. You realize that they really do know everything, or nearly, and that they are flawed because they're real people with deeply interesting stories- some that you've heard fifty times over, and some you've never heard in all your 31 years. You want them to tell about your story, but even more, you want to hear their own.

You realize they parented without Google and feel amazed that they were so capable, that they planned vacations with brochures and phone books, that you're actually jealous of that Pontiac station wagon with the faux wood paneling, and that, somehow, they didn't poison you even though they couldn't grab their phone and look up the correct dosage for children's Tylenol at 4 o'clock in the morning.

And if they don't live in the house next door, you miss them, though you tell them this about once for every thousand times the feeling passes through you, or maybe you never tell them at all. After all, you still put on a show about being an adult, when all along, you know that you may be able to fool some people, but never them.

We always think we'll outgrow our need for the people who brought us into the world. But the secret truth is that we need them always, and in some ways, even more than we did when we were 5.

Or maybe it's just me.
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