If someone could write a set of instructions on how to navigate your relationship with your parents through every stage of your life, that would be fantastic. The childhood and the teenage years are just a mess and very complicated and I don’t even want to get into that. These years get enough attention as it is with child psychiatry specialists and crappy daytime television talk shows.
But when the young adult years roll around, there should be more freedom and more of a benefit-of-the-doubt style guidance. Especially when the young adult is, generally, stable, healthy, and fine. I like to think I have these qualities.
Everything I do I’m figuring out for myself as I do it. I can’t give an explanation to my parents, let alone myself, as it’s happening. Generally, I’m saying “yes” to a lot of things, and I’m trying a lot of new things, because now is the time to do it. Jobs, kids, my own family – these aren’t things I have to worry about tying me down yet. I don’t know my life yet. But if it’s well enough under control, with no immediately huge, pending risks or dangers, can it just be left alone? Why is every decision that I make for me considered to be a decision made against my family? Why is it always individual vs. family? I have to make my own spot in the world. I can’t keep living up to this family version, the spot where I fit in as a child in this family unit, that my mother has in mind for me. I have to be an adult too and I have to go out there. That being said, I will always come back to my family. I will never not come back to them. They are my roots. The time that I spend away for a bit doesn’t translate to abandonment forever.
At 21, my mom was married. I think she forgets this when she looks at me, because I’m single now. But I’m also nearly 22. I think when I was in a serious relationship I was viewed as more of an adult, with a more solid future (marriage) ahead of me. It’s frustrating that my stand-alone, single self isn’t viewed with as much “adult-y ness” as my relationship-self. Additionally, there’s just always going to be a learning curve with the oldest child. Things are more lenient for my younger siblings than they were for me, and it’s frustrating to witness that at times. I imagine when my younger siblings get to be my age now, they’ll have more adult expectations and privileges than the ones I am granted now.
My mom also claims this family is falling apart, and honestly, it is. Part of that is just the nature of growing up. Everyone (all the kids, all the siblings, I mean) is going to grow into different interests and areas of expertise, so we’ll have to go where our jobs take us. It would be very rare and just weird if all our jobs were in the same place, geographically speaking.
But in other ways, we’re falling apart too. I can see it. We don’t really look out for each other. We don’t have emotional, deep communication. We don’t have kind words for each other. We’d rather fight and throw each other under the bus than stick up for each other. Maybe it’s because the issues we’re fighting over aren’t really serious yet, because we’re not old. We’re not adults (the youngest ones are high schoolers). They’re mostly over things like who ate the last ice cream sandwich, not issues of large amounts of money or disease and sickness… I think it’s also partly because we have a weak foundation with our father. And this can be traced back to his own childhood years. It’s not his fault that his upbringing was less than perfect, but it does become his fault when he refuses to now step up to the role he assumed when he got married and when he decided to have 4 kids. Like it or not, we’re here now. Just be there for us all, at least through college. Seeing mom over-supplement to make up for his lack of supplement hurts me. And there’s more I can say, but I won’t say it here. And this probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to anyone who doesn’t know me, but I had to say it nonetheless.
Moving on to the middle age years, the relationship between child and parent is not one that I am familiar with at all, so I’ll skip my questions about this for now.
And then the older adult years. I’ve seen this. In hospitals, in assisted living centers or day centers or nursing homes for the elderly, you can always tell how a parent treated their children based on how the children treat their parents later in life. There are old ladies with 11 and 12 kids in the senior center, and none of those kids come to visit. I have to believe that 1 of those 11 or 12 kids is “normal.” They can’t all be messed up… Which means if at least one of them is normal, one of them should visit. Which means if no one visits, the parent is the issue. However the parents treated their kids when they were young and in need is how they will be treated, in turn, when they are old and in need.