Kids (we) are the worst. By far they are the very worst. You (parents) stress out if you accidentally make one. You probably faint when they enter the world breathing on their own. You definitely laugh at how they don’t know how to keep their heads up or use spoons for an embarrassingly long time. You guide them through some awkward periods: low-self esteem, unexpected boners, and significant others in their youth that will never last and really should never have been in the first place. Annoyingly, every 4 years or so in May/June kids require you lose your voice, void your tear ducts and embarrass them because you love ’em so much. Dreadful. But perhaps the worst thing that kids do is grow up and try to fix their parents.
Although my mother never thought I was the worst all that often, I am showing her that late 20s children are actually the worst. She enjoyed teaching me how to brush my teeth and even voluntarily attends my graduations. But what she wasn’t ready for — despite all her insistence that I live at home to save money — is how much times have changed all of us. Now that I’ve left grad school, I’m home and playing the role of child who is adult enough to know which squabbles are petty and which are worthwhile. Or so I thought. I came home for the summer, having been in a 1–2 meaningful relationships and believing I am an expert on how relationships ought to be. It seems that I’m entitled to think this, but my mother knows that her close to 50 years of living trumps entitlement every time.
“I just think that if you two trusted each other…” “Why do you two argue about everything all the time?” “What do you like about each other?”
These are the questions I came home asking about a dynamic that had been formed while I was growing up, but had changed when I left home for nearly 10 years. Yet, here I was back at home asking why the relationship they had developed in my absence looked different from what I remembered. It didn’t make any sense. I wouldn’t stand for those things in my own relationships. I assured myself that that’s not what I plan to be like after being with someone for 30 years. Nope. Not me.
“No, mom, the tv remote doesn’t have to be in that exact location every morning, it can take a vacation for days at a time.”
And then I realized after trying to insert myself into their relationship to “fix” things that I actually wasn’t helping. I talked to friends who described similar frustrations transitioning from unknowing child to a somewhat informed adult. We all shared feelings of awkwardness at this strange inflection point. We can see the bad behavior, destructive patterns and dynamic our parents have found themselves in. We think “the parents that raised me would never allow me to be in a relationship like this” and become that much more confident we can help. A few days in to living at home, I inquired as a good friend “Just tell me how I can help. Everything I suggest seems to make things worse or upset you.”
It’s a strange feeling to think of your parents as being immature or petty. But our parents are human despite how much of superheroes they have been throughout our lives. Finally, I gave up. I amended my good friend and told my parents “It’s not my place to be in your business. I’m sorry. I try to fix things and this isn’t my thing to “fix” because 90% of the time I’m not here, whatever this is works for you two.”
However, I did caveat this confession with a warning I think is worth discussing with your parents should you move home for good or briefly. Our parents put us into difficult a position when they share certain information with us. We are so conditioned to be supportive to our peer-aged friends that we think about how we can help and what the call to action is. I asked that they also consider what they shared with me that might unexpectedly put me in their relationship in a way that kid-me should not be involved even if friend-me would be able to assist. Ultimately, you and your parents can be friends, but they are still your parents and you their kid. Navigating this dynamic and setting boundaries is necessary and difficult. But remember this: your parents potty trained you, be patient.
So maybe the worst part about kids is that they grow up and aren’t kids forever.