Friday, March 12, 2010

Parents Are People Too

I have this theory that children who grow up with parents who remain together, see them differently than children who grow up with single parents, be it due to divorce or death, or whatever. Allow me to elaborate.

Children who grow up with their family intact tend to never see their parents as people. They are always Mom and Dad, and they are always viewed through rose colored glasses as individuals who are all knowing and can do no wrong. Don't get me wrong, as a child, I think that is the ideal way to view your parents, but as an adult, I'm not sure how realistic and healthy it is.

On the other hand, children who grow up with a single parent are more likely to see their parents as human beings, adults with needs and wants...and even faults. Here's why I think it's so different - single parents DATE.

When parents remain together all of their needs for companionship and romance, etc. are being met without the children really being aware of it. Mom and Dad are one unit, they take care of the kids as well as each other. I was raised by a single mom, and I remember being a teenager when she started dating again. I hated it. This guy she was seeing wasn't a part of our family and I wasn't prepared to make room for him in our lives. Eventually I realized that by fighting this battle against my mother's love life, I was denying her the same basic things I hoped to find in my own life as I grew up. Love, partnership, support, etc. and in order to see that she needed and wanted those things the same way I did, I had to see her not just as my mom , but as a woman.

As an adult I have enjoyed knowing my mother as a real person. It has allowed to me to build a relationship with her, not only as her daughter, but also as her friend.

In recent years these differences have become more and more clear to me, as my husband grew up in a happy home of two parents and 4 siblings. He sees his parents very differently than I do mine. For instance, he had a natural expectation that I would like his parents and be close to them. While I had certainly hoped for a good relationship with my In Laws, it has been somewhat of a challenge. Myself on the other hand, I had no such expectations. In general, I imagine most people get along with my mother, just because she is an easy going and open person. My step father however, is the opposite. He is a military man and he is not about to go soft on you, when it's so much easier to put the fear of GOD in you to insure that you are treating the people he cares about right. So, when my husband came along, I figured everyone would be polite, but I expected little beyond that. As luck would have it, he fit in quite well with everyone and has become rather close to both of my parents. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't elated, but had things turned out differently I would have been fine with that too. Because the bottom line is that my parents are just people and sometimes in spite of all the best intentions, people just don't like each other. And that's OK.

Getting to know your parents can be a real eye opener. In addition to all the positive qualities they may have, that you didn't see from the child's perspective, it can also allow you to let go of things that may have been holding you back. Parents do the best that they can in teaching their children and molding them into adults, but they're not perfect and they make mistakes. Something they taught you twenty years ago may no longer apply to your life today and recognizing that will allow you to let go of those beliefs that may be hurting you.

I'm not going to lie, at twenty-eight, I still think my Mom is Wonder Woman, but I base that not on my experience as her daughter, I base it on the woman I have known her to be and the things I've seen her accomplish in her life. Maybe you're worried that changing your perspective on your parents could take away from how you feel about them or how much you respect them...maybe it can, sometimes we don't like what we see when we take a closer look and you can't unsee what you've seen, but maybe it can become something even better and more honest than you could have possibly imagined. Getting to know your parent as a person also gives them an opportunity to get to know you as someone other than their child.
And what could be better than having the people who created you and molded you, see you in your truest and most beautiful form.

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